Angry, frustrated, irritated and anxious – did I ever mention that bipolar mania, hypomania and depression are not the only mood/emotional states of my bipolar disorder? While most of these aren’t, technically, symptoms of bipolar disorder, they are common expressions of, or occur with, bipolar disorder. So, sometimes, instead of being “simply” depressed or hypomanic, I also feel dramatically anxious, frustrated, angry or irritated.
How Common Are Anger, Frustration, Irritation and Anxiety in Bipolar Disorder?
Irritation – or, rather, irritability – is actually a symptom of bipolar mania/hypomania. So if one is experiencing mania, hypomania or a bipolar mixed state, irritability is actually very common. And, of course, if the world is irritating you frustration would seem to be a natural offshoot as well.
Additionally, while I’ve described before that anger is not a diagnostic symptom of bipolar disorder, it does seem to be a common expression of the illness. Even when bipolar disorder is in remission, anger levels in those with bipolar disorder are elevated. For me, it just feels like the world is grating on me like sandpaper on raw nerves so I feel like getting angry – at everything.
And as far as anxiety goes, it, too, is common in bipolar disorder. When an anxiety disorder is present with bipolar disorder it’s known as being comorbid. According to a 2015 meta-analysis of 52 studies, 42.7% of people with bipolar disorder have experienced a comorbid anxiety disorder. The most prevalent were panic disorder (16.6%), generalized anxiety disorder (14.4%) and social anxiety disorder (13.3%). (Keep in mind some people have experienced more than one anxiety disorder.)
Handling Emotional Symptoms in Bipolar Like Anxiety, Frustration, Irritation and Anxiety
While these emotional states suck – like, really suck – they are possible to deal with.
Therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can teach you how to better deal with dramatic emotional states whether they are outside of depression mania/hypomania or not. Learning to spot the emotion and deal with it in a healthy way before it spills over into the outside world is critical. While I feel, right now, like strangling a person you’ll notice that I’m not up on assault charges because while I feel these things deeply, I don’t let them alter my behavior is extreme ways.
Therapy can also help you deal with other things in your life that may be worsening your anxiety, frustration, irritation or anxiety. We all have stressors and sometimes therapy is the best place to explore those and to find new ways of coping with them.
And while it sounds simplistic, deep breathing is something that I find critical when experiencing these types of strong emotions. Really. I feel this immense frustration with everything and everything in me tightens. To fight back, I very purposefully take deep, slow breaths and the oxygen does release the stress slightly. This is a biological reaction that you can use to your advantage. Sure, I have to do it over and over again every few minutes, but it still works.
Additionally, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor about these types of emotional states as they could be helped with a medication change or they could even be a medication side effect (some of my anger I attribute to one of my medications but the benefits outweigh that side effect).
You Are Not Your Frustration, Anxiety, Irritability and Anger
People always say, “You are not your illness.” This is true. It is also true that your frustration, anxiety, irritability and anger are also not you and likely bipolar-related. If this is the case, then, it’s important to treat these things like what they are – symptoms of a medical illness. They are not character flaws nor are they personality traits. They are traits brought on by a miswired brain.
This doesn’t mean you don’t have to take responsibility for them or your actions related to them – actually just the opposite; a proactive stance is critical – but it means that these emotional states can be helped and you can start to deal with them better and let them affect you less.
Check out Natasha Tracy’s book: Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar and connect with her on Facebook, Google+ or Twitter or at Bipolar Burble, her blog.