4 Strategies for Managing Bipolar Anger and Irritability

Last Updated: 16 Jul 2019

I’ve lived with bipolar for most of my life, but I have not always managed my irritable angry moods well. But the thought of hurting loved ones in a fit of frustration pushes me to better manage my anger.

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.

#1 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.

#2 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.

#3 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.

#4 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 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: Bipolar Babe. Connect with Andrea on Twitter @Bipolar__Babe and Instagram @bipolarbabe
  1. Thanks to the “Bipolar Babe” and all commenters on this page for coping strategies, stories, and viewpoints. Y’all are appreciated. Keep finding ways to be your best self, even and especially when the stuff hits the fan. Hang tough, people.

  2. Maisie – I was diagnosed with bipolar I in 2005 and to me – that does not sound like “normal” bipolar I behavior. Before my diagnosis and finally reached combination of medication – I was angry at times and spoke horribly to people close to me when very manic but I never attacked anyone and wished them to die – that sounds like extreme psychosis – he needs good psychological guidance from professionals and hopefully can get the right combination of medication to lessen that type of behavior – I’m no psychiatrist but it actually sound more like Schizophrenia to me than bipolar. I’ll pray he gets better but for sure needs professionals to get a proper diagnosis and medication routine.

  3. Thanks for a very wonderful article on these extreme bipolar emotions. I have had bipolar I for 10 years and also am functioning pretty well as a full time worker and mom. However, I am going through a divorce and I am pretty sure it’s because I have not been able to control my anger and irritability around my husband. I finally wore him down after twelve years. It will be okay. I have learned so much since he told me he was leaving late last year. I am taking much more medicine and looking inward. I don’t want to contribute to any more emotional pain to my son.

  4. Is it normal for a man with Bi Polar to be so angry that he tells his mother its all her fault and wants her Dead and to die a horrible death and has attacked her twice i think , He has just returned from 4 months in hospital but is still Very disturbed . His parents have had to put a restraining order on him .They are very alarmed and think he is getting worse .and now his father is very ill with all the stress and sadness . what can they do need some advice to help .

  5. I have major irritability issues. I’m not one to use profanity, but my mom was very surprised at my potty mouth throughout the school year. I’m a teacher and I feel it very difficult to not be irritable when the kids don’t listen. I have reacted by my throwing my iPad at my desk because a kid told me to shut the F up because I gave him an A for something. I just want to be calmer and have fun with my students. I’m not a threat to them, but I let them get under my skin. Been trying to read books on remaining calm. It’s such a stressful job and the stress brings out the worst in me. I have to resort to anxiety medicine to calm me. I do lots of deep breathing, and I’ve started listening to calming music. I’m going to try some new strategies to cope with my irritability this next school year. I hope I can be consistent with it and it helps me and my students who fight their own battles.

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