Is it Mania or Just Anger?

I’ve been struggling with some emotions that are too raw and close to the surface lately and I’m worried about my reactions to things. I seem to be on a hair thin trigger these days and my anger levels are right below the surface. I know that the current political landscape, in particular the race for president, is affecting me greatly. But it’s more that that, and I wonder whats going on? It seems worse since I got on this current regimen of Wellbutrin and I wonder if this is one of the subtle hints of fracturing that I’ve experienced before on it, but in more obvious degrees. It’s confusing.

I read an interesting article on mania and anger the other day. A leading psychiatrist here in Seattle said that it was wise to beware of labeling anger as mania in Bipolar disorder because it was more often caused by substance abuse. It’s an interesting theory. I’ve not been diagnosed with substance abuse, but I’ve smoked pot since I was in high school – some 50 years now- so obviously some would say that’s my issue. But I’ve always used it carefully and now it’s strictly medical and I smoke it sparingly. My psychiatrist doesn’t mind and my counselor and ND both suggested I use it. So I don’t put much stock into this notion myself. Denial? Maybe, but I think not…

I believe that it’s more than just that. It’s dreadfully close to wrecking me. It Feels like mania, not just anger. And it’s too sharp and too intense and takes me over so much that even little bits of angst can throw me into a fit of rage where I seriously want to hurt someone or myself or destroy the world. Typical, I guess, but it’s no fun at all. Not like the bright sparkly hypo-manias I’ve had so often in life that inspire me to do good work in the world. This is a destructive mania and I’m afraid of it.

I haven’t had a lot of florid manias in my life. Mostly they’ve been long term experiences where I entered into lands uncharted and tried new things that haven’t been done before. Like creating an innovative non-profit healing arts center with my credit cards, working myself to the bone and finally ending up in bankruptcy and disability. I had a Vision you see but I couldn’t see the whole picture and I ended up in disgrace and struggling with it’s futility. It hurt me badly. It was a 4 year manic episode. And no one even noticed, because I hadn’t been diagnosed yet.

Most of my manias haven’t been that obvious to other people. But they have still been filled with lots of anger and rage, thru my whole life. I can remember times when I was a kid that I would explode in rages that terrified my little brother and caused my parents to label me with ADD as an adult. They told me my anger was palpable and horrible when I was young and had those fits of rage. Sounds like the beginnings of Manic Depression to me, eh? I was a horrible little child I think, tho no one in my family is alive to tell me how bad it really was. I can’t remember much about it but I know I wasn’t a bad kid per se, just angry and unpredictable.

So back to my proposal here. Given my experiences in my life I can’t say what is causing me to be so angry these days. I know I can’t discount the situation in the world. It really does affect me. I’m super empathic and I feel the suffering of others deeply. It hurts me. It also makes me mad. This is a problem and I haven’t figured out what to do about it yet. I hope I can keep it under control but I dunno. I haven’t broken anything or slit my wrists, which I’ve wanted to do many times. I haven’t exploded at Louie or any of my friends. And I actually haven’t hurt myself, except with my thinking, which is bad enough.

I try to calm myself down when I feel this anger growing but it’s very hard to do. I often have to resort to drugs and take some Klonopin, or when it’s really bad, some Abilify, that will knock me on my ass and put me totally out of it. At least it’s better than the rage but it wastes me and I don’t  really like that. But it’s better than the anger for sure. If I don’t know where it comes from and what to do to stop it I can at least alleviate it some and that’s good for me. I also use CBT to tell myself to Stop It! But that doesn’t always work out too well. I’m often too far gone, unless I catch it early. Sometime I can, but not always.

I think this is a bit of a manic response to situations that I can’t control and that cause me distress to the point where I crack up and lose it. Or is it just anger? I’m still confused. It’s been there so long, but then maybe I’m just an angry person. I don’t think so tho. No one I know would ever call me that. But I would. I feel it so much. Sometimes I know that my anger is invigorating and it helps me come out of my depressions really well. But this stuff is out of bounds and isn’t connected to reality. It’s troubling. I’m at a loss as to what to do besides trying to just live with it and try my best to deal with it safely for myself and others. So far, so good. Maybe it doesn’t matter what it is, maybe what counts is dealing with it well. Sounds good to me…

How’s Your anger level?


6 comments on “Is it Mania or Just Anger?

  1. I could recommend taking the summer off from politics…… I know it is only a little thing but you would not be alone!
    Creating kindness and peace around yourself as much as possible can’t hurt. I appreciate your emphasis on calm instead of trying to make a happy life like you wrote about last post. Ideals are useful for the mind but practically what is real and what works can be more encouraging, it seems to me. You are in my thoughts…,..


  2. Yeah, it’d be nice to take a break from politics. But then what would I have to complain about? 🙂
    Thanks for your wise comments. I’m working on calm. Sometimes I even find it… 🙂


  3. I know this rage. It’s always there, below the surface. Feels like a separate “thing” in my head sometimes. When I’m manic, it’s like nitro-glycerin. I was raised by a family of stoics, so I rarely explode- but sometimes I crack, and a moment of something vile comes out of me, and the effects to my life have been… sub-optimal. I call it the “rage” because that’s the easiest analogue to a non-bipolar emotion- but it isn’t actually anger, in my opinion. It’s like seething energy that I can reach into- sometimes intentionally, and temporarily become stronger, or more determined, or more resistant to pain. It is connected to anger- and anger can tap into it, causing an explosion- but when I’m manic I seem to be able to channel it sometimes- particularly into carrying out an intense physical task. (I once set about a hundred and fifty meters of fence posts in about 45 minutes with a sledgehammer while riding a rage wave.) I think the rage is at least partially correlated to blood pressure. Caffeine tends to exacerbate the severity of a wave of rage. Sometimes I wonder if it’s all just an excuse for me to feel angry and violent. But when the rage is near the surface it feels like there’s a monster in my head where I’m supposed to be. I feel inhuman and alien.

    I used to be able to keep it entirely under control. But being a black man in America, the last two years have only exacerbated the problem. Constant stress means that the rage is a lot more present than it was before- even when I’m not manic, sometimes even when I’m depressed. I don’t think I’ll lose it- not out of the blue- but I worry that a significant stressful event or enraging experience will awaken the monster inside me and I will do something violent before I know what’s happening and can calm myself down. I do not want to harm myself. I do not want to harm other people. But sometimes I worry that the monster in my head isn’t on the same page as me.



    • Charles – Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and your pain. I can relate all too well. It’s fascinating to me that you can “reach into” your “rage waves” and are able to do some positive things with it. I certainly won’t say you’re fortunate in that, but for me the rages are Always destructive, and I fear them greatly. I also tend to feel like it’s a separate “thing” in my head, in my whole being in fact, but of course it’s just me. I’m know I’m not possessed by a demon, but it sure does feels that way. It hurts me. I don’t like that I carry this rage within myself, ready to explode at the slightest provocation, whether in words or actions that I perceive to be slights.

      I also experience these rages whether I’m manic or depressed. Or sometimes when I’m just “normal”, which happens often enough to scare me. I too feel the same monster in my head that might break free at any moment to destroy my too-fragile life. My monster and I are not always on the same page either, especially the last few years – that’s so terrifying I won’t even go there….. You obviously get it.

      You’re very good at putting your thoughts and emotions into language. I appreciate your giving voice to these difficult things that so many of us feel and experience. I hope that you’re able to keep a lid on the rages as best you can. I know that many of us share your fears and concerns.

      Be well, Steve


  4. These rages are so familiar and just as you describe. It feels as if something takes over and everything I’m feeling comes out through my hands and at the same time I feel no pain, physically or emotionally. I become extremely violent. This happened once a month and my doctor correlates it with my hormonal cycle and is trying to help me manage it but no luck so far. If I say I don’t want to do something or talk about something and my husband doesn’t listen, game over. I lose control. I didn’t know until reading today that 95% of marriages where one spouse is bipolar don’t survive. This breaks my heart. I love my husband but know if this part of me, this monster inside of me, doesn’t become manageable he will leave. He makes me feel so selfish because I’m always talking about what I need and time I need alone but it’s the only way I know to live right now. I feel like I constantly have to be thinking about and focusing on my moods and triggers. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 36 which is when my life finally slowed down and I asked for help. Was I manic for 15 years throughout my fast paced career? It kind of seems like it. Then when I left my career I crashed. And when I got married I tried to tell my husband that one day it would get ugly again but he said it would be okay, that he would help me. I realize now he had no idea what he was saying.


  5. Hi CAB. Seems like you’ve been having a real rough time of it. I’m so sorry to hear it. Your descriptions are visceral in their intensity and to live with them must be much harder. You know, I seriously question that statistic that 95% of couples where one is BP break up. I really doubt it’s that high, and besides it totally depends on the couple involved. I’ve been with my partner for over 10 years now and we don’t even fight let alone freak out at my episodes. And I do still have episodes. I’m lucky with my lover, who is understanding – as much as he can be. You sound like you tried to warn your husband of your potential episodes but he didn’t get it, obviously. It’s not surprising. Until you’ve been there you can’t understand, but you can be supportive. He needs to be educated. Do you see a counselor? I’d think that a combined visit with the two of you could perhaps help resolve some of these issues, or at least get them out in the open where you can deal with them. You’re absolutely right to be taking care of yourself with your needs for alone time and that you need to be OK. You Have to do that or you’ll just get sicker. He needs to be more understanding, and no, you’re not selfish despite what he may think! You Must be careful of your emotions or you’ll lose it. I have to be just as careful all the time. I wasn’t diagnosed til I was 45 and I can definitely say that my manias affected my work most of the time. It made for some wild rides and I got a lot accomplished, but it took a huge toll on my life, as it has yours. I’ve been disabled since I was diagnosed (I’m 67 now) and only got relatively stable a couple of years ago. I assume you’re on meds, but are they helping you? Maybe you need a med consult to see if you need to change them. I do hope you can find some help with this. You need to ask for it because no one knows you like you do. Be true to yourself and give yourself the permission to be just as you are. You’re OK, you’re just sick. It’s possible to get better in time but you must get help and support.
    I’ll be rooting for you!
    All the best, Steve


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