Mental Illness and Rage: How to Confront the Anger Dragon

April 22, 2013 Natalie Jeanne Champagne

Mental illness and rage are often connected. Rage can be scary and stems from anger. What is rage and how can we confront it?

Mental illness and rage often go hand in hand---primarily when the illness is not yet treated. Rage is scary and stems from irritability and anger. It represents, and feels like, complete loss of control. What is rage and how can we confront it when living with mental illness?

Rage and Undiagnosed Mental Illness

When I think of the word "rage" I immediately picture myself as a child, twelve-years-old and recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I see myself, in a frenzy, ripping up pages from the phone book. I can see myself screaming into pillows and grabbing anything within arm's reach and throwing it, just to watch and hear it shatter. My parents were baffled and so was I. I wanted the rage to stop, to tame the dragon breathing fire inside of me, but I could not. Years would pass before this would change.

Even now, twenty-eight-years-old and usually stable save for some rough winters, rage creeps up on me. It's different now, but it still feels awful. I have broken more cordless phones than I can recall. I have thrown them into walls; the phone breaking and the wall dented. This happens less and less, but when I am depressed, I am extremely angry. Many people living with mental illness understand rage, but I want to utilize language to define it further.

Defining Rage Outside of Mental Illness

I am going to take this out of the realm of mental health and provide a general definition. Rage, according to Wikipedia, is defined as:

Rage (often called fury or frenzy) is a feeling of intense or growing anger. It is associated with the Fight-or-flight response . . . . The phrase, 'thrown into a fit of rage,' expresses the immediate nature of rage that . . . if left unchecked may lead to violence. Depression and anxiety lead to an increased susceptibility to rage and there are modern treatments for this emotional pattern.

I have to say that my immediate reaction to this explanation is, well, exceptionally impressed. This makes sense. Rage is immediate and can be violent and feels intense. Further, depression and anxiety--and everything in between--does lead to a susceptibility in rage.

Wikipedia has rarely impressed nor enlightened me, but this--this--is accurate. I cannot even spew some sarcasm as I usually do.

How to Tame Rage When Living With Mental Illness

First, I would be amiss if I did not state that rage can lead to dangerous actions to one's self or someone else. That can be the nature of it. If you feel out of control, and unable to control these feelings, share this with a loved one and your mental health team. ASAP.

That said, there are different approaches we can take if rage affects our lives:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy has been used with success. Among many things, CBT teaches a person to regulate emotion. Ask your mental health team about CBT.
  • Write down what makes you feel anger. Anger is the precursor to rage and being able to figure out what causes feelings of anger allows you to deal with them before they spiral out of control.
  • Make a plan of attack! If you have a plan you can put into action when you start to feel angry you can often calm yourself down before it escalates.
  • Analyze feelings of anger and rage. Ask yourself: "Why am I feeling this way?" and "What can I do about it?" Taking personal inventory is an invaluable tool when working to stabilize ourselves.
  • Remind yourself that rage, although intense and scary, will pass.

Rage is a frightening emotion and it's worth it to share these feelings with loved ones and your mental health team regardless of how often they occur or the severity.

Understanding the underlying issues can help us move past these feelings and tame the dragon. Or, perhaps, kick it out of our lives completely.

APA Reference
Jeanne, N. (2013, April 22). Mental Illness and Rage: How to Confront the Anger Dragon, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne

John Presti
April, 26 2018 at 4:21 am

I also have controlled the Rage with meditation, but also I knew for years that I had to move forward in life. I also took steps by cutting down on my sugar consumption and, caffeine which helped me a great deal in life.

John Presti
April, 26 2018 at 4:17 am

I think that Rage develops in childhood but also my Rage was not only bad then, but also now. I also know that I can action and, I also focus on what I do to calm down, and, I have not exercised but also I eat the wrong foods but also what one does or helps themselves to calm down is crucial in life. I am an Addict but also I am an advocate and, I am a firm believer in what I do and, preach which is having a healthy mind and, body, and spirit.

October, 5 2015 at 8:35 am

I have episodic rage that sends me spiraling. I get violent, abusive and mean. I say and do AWFUL things that make me want to to die. These are usually sparked if I drink. But there is often an internal sense of "bubbling" I notice - drinking or not. Stayed off the juice for about 8 and a half years - fell off the wagon - got back on, drank this weekend. Hope my wife comes back home. And I spend the time self-loathing after these episodes. So, what can I do to get help? Meds? Suggestions. Thanks

June, 15 2014 at 2:33 pm

I'm pretty much in a state of rage all the time it leaves me alone at home wishing I was dead.

October, 2 2013 at 5:44 pm

Rage can be a normal reaction to insensitivity, cruelty and injustice, but in the midst of it, you can't take any useful action. Also, rage associated with bipolar is a bit extreme - SEEING RED. I have been called all sorts of things, pre-bipolar, er, pre-horrible-mixed-episode - awful things, rascist, plain MEAN. But when I'm not driven by my symptoms, I can look at the offensive person and conclude that they are simply sad, ignorant people. When I am manic, this ability to deal with things in a rational manner goes out the window.

April, 28 2013 at 5:11 am

I never saw myself as angry. I did see myself as an intense person. I never saw myself as depressed even though that was my doctors diagnosis. I have always had feelings that were intense. I remember getting into trouble and throwing my cousin off a porch. Don't know why. I just had feelings balled up in a knot and needed to express something. It seems that these intense feelings are so strong and overpowering. I have learned that these are not appropriate feelings to display but do need expressed in conversation.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
April, 29 2013 at 3:44 am

Hi, Lisa:
What a great comment. The words "angry" and "intense" I feel are connected but, of course, it depends on the person. It took me a long time to learn to talk about feelings before acting on them. I still struggle with this.
Thanks for reading,

April, 24 2013 at 8:06 am

That is a very good question I will try to answer sadness to me is more of an emotion or an event that has happen which cause sadness and depression is more of feeling a way when you feel there is no way out of a particular situation you feels depress about the situation.

Kathleen Brannon
April, 24 2013 at 8:00 am

This is a fine and useful article. The one thing I want to point out though is that rage, like anger, is often a "normal" reaction to real experiences like injustice, insensitivity, cruelty, ignorance, prejudice. It is not only a matter of one person's unregulated emotions. Addressing those issues in a way that validates the anger is important, for one's own mental health and for the greater community. One thing that helps me with these feelings of hurt and anger (that can consume me for years) is to share them with others in the same boat -- I have a blog for that purpose that takes submissions from anybody who's been on the receiving end of thoughtless remarks about their mental illness. I tend to internalize these things, so seeing them in print and recognizing their ignorance and insensitivity as having nothing to do with me but with the speaker -- and having people "get it" has helped me "get them off my chest and out of my head."

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

May, 9 2018 at 9:33 pm

Rage is a disassociated state of pure hatred.
Those who have any experience with charming psychopaths understavd that rage is not anger the healthy response to injustice trauma. Rage is repressed until it’s safe.
A psychopath has absolute control of choices & the rage episodes, the pathology dictates that unless affective empathy exists rage is the motivator in life, a target is found, groomed,, a shock and awe tactic will be created. Predators hide in plain sight waiting for the opportunity to rage, those closest will fall victim to the Jeckll and hyde character.
Rage can never be rational or logical that is why it is not anger, the psychotic nature of rage coupled with deliberate execution paralyses victims. Note Ted Bundy and his rages nothing triggered his crimes, he just enjoyed the endorphins high of plotting & completing his crimes.
Rage is the drug of choice in cluster B personalities with a huge release of endorphins four times higher than a non disordered person, it’s the risk & then rush through deliberate cruelty’s that differentiate rage and hot anger, sone people can disassociate from their behaviours and lack a moral compass.
Rage is a pathological controlled -. Anger is a loss of control, immaturity behaviour is in the moment not a premeditated action.

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