How can I calm down a person who has bipolar and is throwing a fit?

She is 15 years old and when you ask a her a question or answer her she sometimes replies by shouting while being angry.

While I’m not going to claim to be an expert on this subject, I can’t say I haven’t had experience. My children haven’t hit adolescence quite yet, but they are well on their way. Still, minus size and strength, my 9 yr old can throw just as ridiculous a fit as any teenager.

The thing we often forget about children with bipolar disorder is, most are highly intelligent. Being that of higher intelligence and greater emotional awareness, PDog HATES to be talked to like a child. If you talk to him like a child, he’s going to intentionally give you a childlike reaction (AKA a fit, blast of anger, loud obnoxious outburst … you name it!).

When most bipolar children (adolescent or not), depending on HOW the question is asked or answered, will be reading into it, over analyzing it, trying to figure out the truth and feelings behind the question, especially girls. Their reaction will depend completely on your presentation. Talk to them like an adult and they will react like an adult.

Now to contradict my previous statement … (cuz I’m fun like that) … if in a depressive or manic state, it’s not nearly that easy. Anything can set them off, especially if they’re a teen. Hormones plus Bipolar Disorder equal the moods of a 10 month overdue pregnant lady whose been in labor for 5 hours. It’s not a pretty site.

They key way to calm someone down who is in the midst of a fit or a rage is to remain calm yourself. ALWAYS keep your voice low and even. LISTEN to what they are saying, yet try your best to understand what those words actually mean.

Example …

15 year old Penelope and her mother are at the store shopping for school clothes. Money is tight for her mom as it’s back to school season, but Penelope is 15, everything depends on self image. Her mom holds up two sweaters, one is blue and one is purple, both of which are on sale. Wanting to save money, Mom asks, “Which of these sweaters would you prefer?”

Simple question. Straight forward. Non obtrusive even. But that is most likely NOT what Penelope is thinking/feeling.

Penelope grabs the sweaters from her mother and throws them back on the display rack with little to no care as to where they land.¬† She screams, “Why do you always have to pick out things like that? Do you think I want to look like an idiot? You might as well just put a sign on me that says, ‘Reject’.”

Now the sweaters, mind you, are being picked up by many other girls Penelope’s age and seem to be the trend this year. In fact, her mom could have sworn she saw Penelope wearing that same sweater in pink only weeks ago.

Natural reaction of the mother, “Don’t you dare take that tone of voice with me, especially in public. How dare you be so disrespectful and ungrateful. I saw you wearing a sweater just like that last week. You’re just trying to be difficult!” Then mom grabs her daughter by the arm and pulls her out of the store without buying a thing.

Penelope’s mom heard what her daughter was saying and assumed she was just being an ungrateful brat who throws tantrums for no reason. But what her mom did not do was listen. What Penelope was really saying was, “I already have a sweater like that, Mom. And last week I told you how those other girls laughed at me about it because my chest didn’t fill it out. Why would I want another one?”

Penelope is angry with her mother for things that have NOTHING to do with the sweaters. She’s upset because her mother hasn’t been listening to her when she needed the comfort. She’s upset because her mother clearly does not care about what her daughter looks like or how others treat her. If she did, she’d have never even picked up the damn sweater in the first place.

Here’s the thing, Penelope’s mom reacted in such a typical way. She was upset by her daughters words and actions. She was hurt. But what she didn’t take a moment to think about was, they are not in a typical situation. Penelope has Bipolar. Penelope has Hormones. Penelope is confused because she doesn’t know up from down or happy from sad. When her mother returned with anger, this only upset her more and I can guarantee by the end of the argument both were hurt, either emotionally or physically, or possibly both. Because when a child with Bipolar rages, they loose all control over their actions an emotions. The render themselves irrational and unable to reason with reality.

In an ideal world, Penelope’s mom would have calmly laughed it off and told Penelope she was just teasing her then steered her to a different side of the store and asked her to pick out a few articles of clothing and they could both decide together. Penelope would still have been bitter, but she would blow it off for a better moment to blow up.

That’s an ideal world, but we rarely encounter that kind of rational in a moment like that.

So what should her mom do now? That’s really the question here, right?

There is only one way a parent/teacher/peer can act in such a situation as this, Calmly. NOT to be confused with sympathetic or pleading. Calm and rational. I need you to remember a key word:


Penelope is looking to get a rise out of her mother because of how she feels her mother has invalidated her feelings. The only way she can feel better is by punishing her mother or anything near. She needs to get out that frustration and with her mother yelling back at her it feeds the high of her anger. She’s not getting exactly what she wants but she is getting something that will ease her pain and at that point she’ll continue to draw that anger out of her mother until they are both exhausted and inevitably torn down and bitter towards each other.

Penelope’s mom needs to VALIDATE¬† her daughters anger. Not try to hush her and act embarrassed that her daughter is acting out. She needs to ask her in a calm, even voice why she doesn’t like the sweater, and if she remembers, add in asking if it is because of what the girls said. If she responds negatively, her mom needs to ignore it and counteract it with something positive. Her mother would be better off suggesting they walk out of the store to catch her breath. She should not scold Penelope about disturbing the customers. She already knows she is, she may even be happy about it. And if her mom makes a fuss about it she’ll only get louder. The less affected her mom acts about this outburst the less likely it will get much better. Penelope’s mother should make stepping out something good and for Penelope, something that only affects her, not her mom.

At first this will piss Penelope off, but in the end, as she calms down she will be able to rationalize a bit as well as feel like her mom actually cares. She will know her mother was embarrassed, but be happy that she didn’t show that embarrassment.

Keep in mind this is a hypothetical situation. It may not be that easy. The key points to take out of this long drawn out novel of a post are …









and most importantly


Please let me know if this did not answer the question. I know it’s hard to answer because your situation might be different. If you can provide an example situation, I can probably be more specific about how you may have handled it.


5 thoughts on “How can I calm down a person who has bipolar and is throwing a fit?

  1. How do you control temper/behaviors in a 10yr old diagnosed with severe autism(nonverbal) and bipolar??? He is currently not on meds because Depakote(sp) gave him some very strange allergic reaction and risperdol made the anxiety and behaviors worse!!!

  2. Hi there” while I understand where you are coming from with the answer you have given… I cant help feeling that the answer would probably be suited to an adult anyway. Basically what it sounds like is that if the child has bipolar you have to become the child and the child the adult… In other words respect the child and stay calm as though you were speaking to your parent??? How do you teach the child respect at the same time?

    I have a Wife who has Bipolar disorder and find that what you have mentioned in your answer has always worked with her and I find it easy to stay calm as it is an adult I am dealing with…
    But, as far as a child is concerned I feel that by pussy footing around them will only make it worse and let them feel like they ultimately have the upper hand.

    There must be another way..

    Kindest regards


  3. hi and thanks for the tips my girlfriend means the world to me and she hasnt had a major episode yet and I hope to keep it that way because shes very nice and sweet…just wanted to know if meds run out and emotions become a problem I need help to know how to deal with it like the do’s and donts and how to calm her down in an episode as well as a way to not trigger her emotions although I’m who she wants to be around if they run out cause I can help but the problem is that I am most of her emotions as she said so i need a way to keep her safe and be with her as well as not make things worse with any excess emotions much love thanks

  4. Hi Willem. I apologize for the late response to this. Since I have not dealt with a child with bipolar (I was diagnosed when I was an adult), I can refer this question to the author of this post and see if she can give you some more insight on this.


  5. Thanks for reading our post and commenting. As far as your concern about meds running out, if your girlfriend is being seen regularly by her therapist and her treatment team, running out of medication should not be an issue. When someone who has bipolar disorder is prescribed medication by their doctor, the medication can only work if they are taking it regularly or as directed by them (which is usually a regular basis). If she continues to take her medications, and they seem to not work as effectively, or are causing some side effects that she did not have before, she must speak with her doctor directly right away as a medication adjustment may be in order. Only her doctor can decide that though. As far as the do’s and don’ts on how to calm her down, it varies for every person. Some people like having a “go-to” person, others like to be left alone as they can experience a lot of agitation. The best way to establish what your girlfriend would like and would help her the best is to find a time (NOT during an episode, since that will be a bit difficult) to talk with her about setting up a plan on what is most helpful to her and what is most harmful to her when she is feeling at her worst. If you establish the plan ahead of time, then, going into an episode, you will have an idea of what steps to take and what things to steer clear of. I wish I could give a better answer, but aside from staying calm and understanding that at the moment she is having an episode, her feelings and emotions may not be her true feelings, but are enhanced by the illness, the only way to find out what works best for her is to have a one on one conversation with her and establish a “go-to” plan.

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