Violence and rage are unfortunate symptoms of bipolar disorder. Many people who commit violent and rage filled acts are often punished or incarcerated without getting a much needed bipolar diagnosis. The behavior is often seen as an anger management problem and proper treatment is not initiated.
During a mood swing, a person can think, say and do things they would never even contemplate when not ill. And though it’s easy to assume that violent and rage symptoms only happen to men, this is simply not true. Women experience these symptoms as well. I have had mood swings where I have chased down a car when a driver flipped me off and almost had a fight with a woman on a bicycle who went through a red light in front of me. I held myself back because I realized that bipolar was thinking for me. But I really wanted to make someone hurt.
Violence and Rage Symptoms
- Want to hurt someone- fighting in public
- Have violent thoughts that are scary and not the norm
- Road rage (so common!)
- Kick and punch things really hard to the point of breaking a bone
- Yell and hit loved ones
- Unable to control feelings or behavior
- Out of proportion reactions to normal events
- Unable to see consequences of actions
- Lose contact with reality
Please, please remember: The above actions happen when the person is in a mood swing- it’s usually a dysphoric (agitated, upset and negative ) manic episode- often with psychosis. These are not in any way their normal behaviors, nor are they a part of a person’s personality.
When the mood swing ends, the person is often mortified, ashamed and truly repentant regarding what happened. I’ve heard so many stories where gentle and kind people do something violent while manic and have no idea what happened. A friend of mine beat up a man on a train platform in Japan. He just did it out of nowhere. The mania was that strong.
People who do something violent and very out of character when ill need a lot of compassion.
How Can this be Prevented?
Violent mania often starts with irritation- if a person knows their irritation signs and immediately gets help with medications and a management plan, these destructive mood swings can be prevented. This is good news! Even if someone is refusing treatment now, I’ve seen plenty of people change and accept help eventually.
No one wants to be in constant fights. Ultimately, managing bipolar is better than waking up in jail.