When a Sufferer of Bipolar Depression Lashes Out at You in Anger: Personalizing Intermittent Explosive Disorder

Joel Eisenberg

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Stress and AngerAarón Blanco Tejedor, Unsplash

Author’s Note

The words that follow are written in part from the perspective of a former mental health professional. I was a licensed special education teacher for ten years with a substantial course load in the field of Abnormal Psychology. Personal anecdotes are shared below, and attributions from medical professionals are listed supporting all conclusions.

Introduction

According to the Mayo Clinic, IED, or intermittent explosive disorder, involves the following: Repeated, sudden episodes of impulsive, aggressive, violent behavior or angry verbal outbursts in which you react grossly out of proportion to the situation. Road rage, domestic abuse, throwing or breaking objects, or other temper tantrums may be signs. See here for article from MayoClinic.org.

To this point, I once dated a woman for a year who admitted to me early in our relationship she suffered from bipolar disorder. I will refer to her here as N, and it should be noted throughout the duration of our relationship she was on prescription medication.

N also had a tendency to lash out, targeting individuals in both her immediate vicinity and those outside with minutes, sometimes hours, of invective before entering an empty room and locking the door behind her. She would then typically and repeatedly apologize, until the following morning when she would begin her new day as if nothing had happened.

My experience is not unusual. Sufferers from bipolar disorder or depression frequently exhibit uncontrollable anger as a symptom. See here for article from Healthline.com: “Bipolar Disorder and Anger: Why It Happens and How to Cope,” which has been peer reviewed most recently in January of 2021 and for which said peer attributions are listed in the article’s conclusion.

If you believe you are the target of unreasonable anger on the part of a friend, associate, or significant other, read on. There is help.

Symptoms of Bipolar Depression

Medical News Today differentiates between bipolar disorder and bipolar depression. You can find that article and those distinctions here. For regularly updated articles on both bipolar depression and bipolar disorder, the National Institute of Mental Health website can be accessed here.

Simply, depression itself is unipolar, representing a downtrodden frame of mind. Bipolar disorder fluctuates between periods of depression and mania, while bipolar depression represents the depressed state of bipolar disorder. Hence the term, bipolar depression.

If you are associated with sufferers of bipolar depression, possible recurrent relationship issues can include: a) being targeted with swearing or other forms of emotional attack, b) physical attacks or long-term abuse, c) ongoing grudges, d) anger that you believe is out of proportion to the problem, if you perceive a problem at all, e) bringing up difficult emotions from past experiences, and f) an inability to engage in relaxed conversation.

Having experienced first-hand the above bipolar depression symptoms in exchanges with former students and interpersonal relations, each example listed can also be fairly considered a result of co-symptomatic IED.

Coping Strategies

On behalf of those who believe they are targeted for these behaviors on the part of an interpersonal relation, the following are common strategies to deflect the temptation to retaliate with your own anger:

  • Do not take the outburst personally. Regardless of if a situation escalates to abuse, you must remove yourself from it immediately. Attempting to reason with a sufferer in these moments may only make the situation worse.
  • Try to remember such IED-related outbursts are not the fault of the sufferer. If said suffer has been diagnosed with a related disorder, the underlying reasons are chemical in nature and cannot be controlled without proper medication and therapy.
  • Hold your own temper. If no physical attacks appear imminent, listen, accept the moment as a target, listen to what the other party has to say, and then leave the scene. Do not retaliate in any way if you do not approve of what you hear or see, as incidents of IED tend to feed on the anger of others.
  • If you suspect the person unfairly targeting you does suffer from a medical disorder of the nature of bipolar disorder with an IED component, without ever having been diagnosed, contact a medical professional as to most effectively find help for the sufferer based on their personal situation.

Conclusion

Whether your relationship with a sufferer is personal or professional, help is out there. See this October, 2021 article on WebMD.com, “How to Help a Loved One With Bipolar Disorder,” medically reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD.

Productive relationships are very possible when one party suffers from bipolar depression-related IED. The other party, however, must be smart and prudent in their discourse and actions.

I hope this helps. Thank you for reading.

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I am an award-winning author, screenwriter for film and television, and producer. My mission on News Break is to share socially important perspectives on both culture and pop-culture. Member of PEN America, and the WGA.

Northridge, CA
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