Bipolar: Anger is a Common Symptom
According to Dr. Charles Spielberger in a publication of the American Psychological Association, anger is “an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury”. Everyone experiences some form of anger throughout their lives, but for those diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the anger which occurs as a symptom in 40% to 60% of this population combines with episodes of mania and depression to cause further problems. Sufferers may feel as if their life is spiralling out of control, which amplifies feelings of anger and creates a vicious cycle of destructive emotion.
Particularly in people who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the tendency is strong to consider normal, everyday events as extremely stressful. Even the smallest things can cause an angry reaction far out of line with how most people would react in similar circumstances.
Physical and Psychological Components of Anger
In the psychological community, the DSM-IV designates “intermittent explosive disorder” as a separate illness but some research suggests it may be related to bipolar disorder. Unfortunately, there have been no studies as of yet to create an undisputed link between the two and anger is not listed as a symptom of either mania or depression. Too often, angry episodes are simply viewed as “normal”.
Anger is a stress reaction. Physical responses to stress invoke the fight or flight response as a result of adrenaline and cortisol flowing through the body’s system. In prehistoric days, this response was a lifesaver; in modern society the response has been adapted to occur in conjunction with stressors such as business or relationship problems. In other words, anger has adapted in response to new threats by arousing aggressive behaviour and feelings unrelated to survival. As stress escalates, so does anger, and the two emotions feed off each other. In terms of physical processes, the presence of excessive amounts of cortisol and adrenaline trigger cellular reactions destructive to the brain’s ability to cope.
As some have stated, depression is anger turned inward. For the person suffering from bipolar disorder, it is easy to see how anger could partner with depression, or even mania, and culminate in a very destructive phase of the illness.
Self-treatment methods which enable bipolar patients to identify the triggers to their mood swings and become better equipped to handle anger are the best defence. Education and self realization are important tools in controlling the alternate phases of bipolar disorder.Learn how I beat Depression