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Bipolar Disorder and Anger: Why It Happens and How to Cope

How is anger linked to bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder (BP) is a brain disorder that causes unexpected and often dramatic shifts in your mood. These moods can be intense and euphoric. This is called a manic period. Or they may leave you feeling sad and despairing. This is called a depressive period. That’s why BP is also sometimes called manic-depressive disorder.

The changes in mood associated with BP cause changes in energy too. People experiencing a BP episode often exhibit different behaviors, activity levels, and more.

Irritability is an emotion people with BP experience often. This emotion is common during manic episodes, but it can occur at other times too. A person who is irritable is easily upset and often bristles at others’ attempts to help them. They may be easily annoyed or aggravated with someone’s requests to talk. If the requests become persistent or other factors come into play, the person with BP may anger easily and often.

Anger isn’t a symptom of BP, but many people who have the disorder as well as their family and friends may report frequent bouts with the emotion. For some people with BP, irritability is perceived as anger, and may become as severe as rage.

A 2012 study found that people with BP exhibit greater episodes of aggression than people without the mood disorder. People with BP who aren’t being treated or those experiencing a severe mood swing or rapid cycling between moods are more likely to experience periods of irritability too. These emotions may be followed by anger and rage.

Keep reading to learn more about what may be behind this emotion and what you can do about it.


Is anger a side effect of medication used to treat bipolar disorder?


Prescription medicine is one of the primary ways doctors treat BP. Doctors often prescribe a variety of medicines for the disorder, and mood stabilizers like lithium are usually part of the mix.

Lithium can treat symptoms of BP and help correct the chemical imbalance that led to the disorder in the first place. Although some people who take lithium report increased episodes of irritability and anger, this isn’t considered a side effect of the medication.

Side effects of mood stabilizers like lithium do include:

  • restlessness
  • constipation
  • loss of appetite
  • dry mouth

Changes in emotions are often the result of your body learning to adjust to the new chemicals. That’s why it’s important that you continue to take your medicine as prescribed by your doctor. Even if new symptoms crop up, you shouldn’t stop taking your medicine without first discussing it with your doctor. If you do, it may cause an unexpected swing in your emotions and increase your risk of side effects.


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