4 Strategies for Managing Bipolar Anger and Irritability

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Bipolar causes extreme emotions, which are detrimental to our relationships and ourselves. But we can manage our irritability and anger, even when they seem uncontrollable.


I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder for the last 17 years. It’s been so long that I often forget that I have a mental illness. I have a successful job, a loving relationship, and a seemingly fully functioning “normal” life. I do have a beautiful life, but I fear my mood fluctuations will detrimentally affect it, particularly regarding my partner. I’m deeply and madly in love my boyfriend, but I finally realized it must shock him when I sob and bang my fists in frustration. Often, I feel like I am bursting with uncontrollable anger and sadness when circumstances throw my life into perceived chaos. Some days, it is difficult to see through the tears and to accept that it is okay to feel overwhelmed.

I have not always managed my irritable angry mood well. While I’d never harm anyone while angry, the thought of acting out in frustration is just damned shameful. So, I considered ways to deal with my extreme emotions. I brainstormed some useful strategies to manage my feelings of irritability and anger, and am sharing them to help others.

Take a Breather

One of the most difficult things to do when I am angry is disengaging and stopping what I am doing in the moment. I’ve yelled so loudly before (but only when alone) that I feel dizzy and experience sharp pains in my neck and skull. I have often told myself in these situations that I just have to stop! It is best to step back—maybe take a brisk walk, or even a run. I have also learned not to stay in one confined place when I am extremely anxious or angry.

Communicate your Needs

While I often don’t care about what others think about me, I also don’t want to make a fool of myself. If I do, I’ll later regret how I reacted in a difficult situation. The other day, I was on the phone, and started banging on the desk and crying out of frustration. My partner simply came into the room and held me as I cried. It’s what I needed. Be sure to communicate with your loved ones, and let them know what you need when you’re feeling uncontrollably frustrated. If you prefer a listening ear, a big hug, or just being left alone, then make your needs clear.

Take Care of your Mind and Body

There are many things that we can do to positively contribute to our mental and physical well-being. I steer clear of coffee and energy drinks because they are far too stimulating and may trigger an irritable mood. I enjoy stretching as often as possible. I”ll lay on the yoga mat, and take just 15 minutes to pull my body in all directions while practicing deep breathing. It is also imperative to adhere to a balanced diet. This enhances the “feel good” chemicals in our brains that combat feelings of irritability.

Take Medication to Calm Down

As I mentioned, I often forget that I have bipolar disorder, and I also sometimes fail to remember that I have effective prescribed anti-anxiety medications. These pills are not part of my daily dose of medications. However, I take them when I need additional help getting through difficult episodes. There is nothing wrong with taking prescription medication when anger feels unmanageable! Remember to follow the guidance of your doctor.

Having bipolar disorder makes us feel emotions so strongly and we can only do our best to manage them. However, we are all responsible for our actions. Having bipolar is no excuse for letting your anger get out of control. There may be some unavoidable incidents throughout our lives, but we are culpable in our approach to our emotions. At times, I simply have to be mindful and ask myself, “How would I do that differently next time?” While we often hope our loves ones are forgiving of our mishaps, we also have to learn to forgive ourselves.

About the author
Andrea Paquette is founder and Executive Director of the Stigma-Free Society, formerly the Bipolar Disorder Society of BC, and she is also known as the Bipolar Babe. She is a mental health speaker, published author, advocate and above all a Stigma Stomper. She created the Bipolar Babe Project with the introduction of bipolarbabe.com in May 2009. Andrea has reached over thousands with her message of hope and resiliency in schools, workplaces, and throughout various community organizations and events. Her Bipolar Babe persona has reached great heights locally and internationally as she is a 2016 Bell Let's Talk Face for the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH). Andrea is the B.C. Provincial 2015 Courage To Come Back Recipient in the Mental Health category, the winner of Victoria’s 2013 CFAX Mel Cooper Citizen of the Year Award and the 2013 Winner for Mental Health Mentorship given by the National Council for Behavioral Health, Washington, D.C. Andrea has also received the prestigious Top 20 Under 40 Award for Vancouver Island's Business and Community Awards. She is grateful for having the opportunity to share her personal message that “No matter what our challenges, we can all live extraordinary lives.” Feel free to visit her website: www.stigmafreezone.com Twitter: @Stigma_FreeZone

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