When Anxiety Manifests as Anger—Taming Your Temper

Last Updated: 28 Feb 2022

While they are two different emotions, anxiety can present itself as intense anger. Recognizing this is important, so I can prevent taking these feelings out on others.

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Discerning Anxiety from Anger with Bipolar

I’ve been thinking about anxiety and anger, and, specifically, whether anxiety can manifest as anger.

Right now I’m having problems with anxiety. This has to do with a medication side effect and my own underlying condition. What I find is that sometimes I walk around my apartment with my fists balled, and I feel really angry.

I feel angry at everything. I feel angry at nothing. It’s a feeling of anger that is being induced by nothing at all.

And what I think it is, for me, is that this anger is actually my anxiety.

The Negative Energy of Anxiety

Anxiety comes with a certain amount of “scratchy energy.” It’s a horrible, negative energy. It’s not useful; it’s not productive; it’s the kind of energy that makes you want to wring your hands or pace—so, it’s quite useless.

I find that my anxiety is very difficult to deal with and harms my productivity. I really don’t like it.

So, what I think happens is that my feeling of anxiety turns into anger. It actually transforms into the energy that balls my fists and makes me feel very mad.

Accepting My Brain’s Way of Handling Tension

I know this is really unhealthy, but I also know it’s my brain’s way of dealing with this symptom right now. It’s the coping skill that my brain is using. I might not think that coping skill is the best, but it’s a coping skill nonetheless.

What I understand is that, for me, anxiety is really painful and my brain is trying to avoid it. I get this.

But the important thing to recognize is that the anxiety and the anger are actually coming from the illness and not from anything or anyone around me. It’s important for me to remember this so I don’t take that anger out on anyone else.

When Anxiety & Anger Stem from Bipolar

Anxiety can be extremely difficult to deal with, and so can anger, but the important thing is to remember is that these emotions are the fault of the illness, of bipolar disorder, and not the fault of the things and people around us.

Learn more:
VIDEO: No excuses—Own Your Anger and Frustration
VIDEO: Bipolar Disorder and the Fear of Wearing out Friendships

Originally posted June 4, 2018

About the author
Natasha Tracy is an award-winning mental health writer, keynote speaker, and consultant; she also lives with bipolar disorder. She has written the acclaimed book, Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar and writes frequently on her own blog, Bipolar Burble, and at HealthyPlace and elsewhere. She was the proud recipient of the Erasing the Stigma Leadership Award in 2014 and a Health Activist Award in 2019. Natasha is considered a subject matter expert in bipolar disorder, and she works to bring quality, insightful, and trusted information to the public. Connect with Natasha on her website, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
  1. I wish I could control my anger, it just wells up in my chest like a tornado and then there is no stopping it. An erupting volcano of angry words explode from my mouth. I do not even know exactly what I am saying.

  2. I was diagnosed as a child with bipolar 2 and having manic depression. This site is VERY informative and has really helped me to understand myself. Thank you

  3. Over the past five years or so, I have unleashed powerful anger and unfortunately I often took aim at my sister. We have been close–truly best friends–most of our adult lives. In my early 50s, my newly diagnosed bi-polar gave me an answer to the whys behind my outbursts–which included hysterical bouts of crying. At one point I managed to criticize my sister’s eldest daughter asking whether she was getting a bit old for partying all of the time at age 28. Now, of course, I see how much that hurt my sister. That led to a decade of on and off painful times together. I’ve tried to explain how my BP contributes to how I express myself. She says she just doesn’t get BP, despite the fact that both my brother and his son passed away as a result of the disease. Anyway, all of this is to say that our relationship is completely broken despite my many apologies and recognitions that I hurt her so deeply. We’ve been through a lot together, to include taking care together of our last brother as he battled cancer, until the end. That’s 3 years ago. There was so many times when I cried during his care while she remained rock steady. We just couldn’t be there for one another. We’ve not really spoken since. Yes, BP can destroy relationships. In my case it destroyed her trust in me. I have to live with that and have lost my best friend.

  4. Try a ptsd specific counselor. Thats what I have been trying and it seems to be helping. I can relate on many aspects.know that you are not alone and there are people out there to help..its just finding the right ones ..as much as I dont like to take meds… I’m trying Lamotrigine and It’s helping to stabilize my moods swings. I know meds work differently on everyone. Please dont give up and remember your kids love you and want you around. Hugs

  5. The article AND the comments hit home. Finally some validation and answers to my own daily struggles

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