For the Anger, Rage and Emotional Volatility of Bipolar Disorder, Type II Patients & Their Families

Are We Missing the Signs that Allow Dangerous Offenders to Continue to Walk the Streets, Rage and Kill?

By Mary Nelson-Haffner

The headlines in the news this past year that involved the suspected murder of a young 21 year-old Peruvian woman by Joran van der Sloot feels like a collective universal déjà vu that the world was first alerted to with the disappearance of popular, young, intelligent American high school senior, Natalee Holloway. For five years, readers have followed in disbelief the legal wrangling, interviews, hidden camera profiles and international spotlight on Dutch student, Van der Sloot, a young, educated, and some would say privileged and entitled young man. Like a psychological thriller you can’t put down, people were immersed in the real life story, many expressing condemnation, others asking questions, because Van der Sloot didn’t fit the expected profile of what we think a killer would look like.

In five years, to the day, between Natalie’s disappearance, and now Stephany Flores death in Peru, criminal profilers, psychiatrists, and psychologists have all weighed in their analysis of what psychological disorders were to blame. We’ve heard everything from Van der Sloot being a narcissist, having antisocial personality disorder; a sociopath and some refer to him as a psychopath. A psychological profile released to the media this past summer, stated that Van der Sloot “at the time of the evaluation, does not show pathological disorders that prevent [him] from perceiving and evaluating reality.” It also says that he “presents traces of an antisocial personality,” and “is indifferent when it comes to the welfare of others.”

It is certainly apparent that Van der Sloot’s behavior throughout his life was reckless, impulsive, and lacked empathy. He used manipulation, exploitation, admits he is a pathological liar, and with his recent imprisonment in Peru for the murder of Stephany Flores, the world can now see he was a ticking time bomb of rage, that was set off in an instance, with no ability for restraint or consciousnesses.

The story raises many issues regarding whether our global community’s collective judicial, medical, and mental health community are doing enough to diagnosis these ticking time bombs earlier. Even in his own self-published book Van der Sloot wrote called, “The Natalee Holloway Case: My Own Story about her Disappearance on Aruba,” he openly admits that he was in need of psychiatric help at a very young age. His mother also revealed in media interviews that doctors believe he was suffering from a mood disorder for years and was ironically, scheduled to be evaluated by a psychiatric hospital in Holland before he flew to Peru.

Dr. Michael J. Woulas, Ph.D., a Southwest Florida psychotherapist has been treating patients with mental and mood disorders for over thirty years. His research on Bipolar Disorder Type II, its symptoms and effects has him also weighing in on this story, as well as whether family, school officials, and maybe doctors missed some early telling signs. “Whenever I see someone who appears on the outside to be an ordinary functional person and then when provoked, turns into a raging, violent or abusive person, I suspect the existence of a Bipolar Disorder Type II. Both Type I and Type II bipolar mood disorders are serious behavioral conditions. Type I is often referred to as ‘manic depression’.

People with Bipolar disorder, Type I have very high and low moods, which are obvious to most clinicians and to those individuals who are close to them. In their high moods, they tend to be overly talkative, hyper; as well as reckless with money, impulsive and they require very little sleep. This mood state will then eventually turn into a deep depression. Generally, people with Type I do not display the anger and rage, which is typical of Type II,” Woulas explained.

But, what are these “missing signs” that parents, educators, the medical and mental health community are missing? Woulas details, “Parents who observe their child is easily angered with a bad temper should consider this a major indicator. Now I am not referring to the ‘terrible twos’ or the ‘trying threes’. At theses ages it is common to see a tantrum when the child gets frustrated. It’s when these tantrums turn into rages and continues well past the ages of four. The young child will appear moody, cry easily at times and becomes easily agitated or angered when ordinary limits and discipline are imposed. But it always goes back to the rages and potentially violent or abusive behaviors, which are the hallmarks of Bipolar Disorder Type II.”

It has only been recent that the psychiatric community started recognizing Bipolar as a spectrum-disorder, but there is still a lack of awareness among medical and mental health professionals. Woulas explains that several different conditions could exist simultaneously with Bipolar Disorder Type II, such as substance abuse and attention deficit disorder. Or in Van der Sloot’s case, the mood disorder could be discovered along with antisocial behaviors. The key behavior, in this case that was not addressed, was emerging volatility. “The anger and rage can become a steady emotional state which remains just under the surface. Many externalize the rage through violence; others internalize the rage or take it out on themselves. They generally engage in very self-destructive behaviors as a way of dealing with the anger and rage,” says Woulas.

Because there are so many misdiagnoses that exist, Woulas has stepped up his advocacy to help educate people about the differences between the two types of bipolar disorders. “The biggest misconception is that these violent acts against families and society are not considered to be part of Type II bipolar disorder. It is misdiagnosed because there is often too much focus on the detection of mania symptoms by clinicians. Patients with type II have, as a rule, very low manic traits. The cycling of mood is more associated with anger, rage and depression than those with mania and depression. So the whole issue of a person’s volatility being a bipolar problem is many times mistakenly removed from the equation. Thus, all the rage and violence continues against innocent people including close associates, family members and the final act of violence which becomes suicide,” stressed Woulas.

As a psychotherapist, Woulas has witnessed first hand how patients with the correct diagnosis, medication, and therapy have learned to regulate their moods, contain and redirect their rage and anger in more positive ways. It is also possible that someone, even like Van der Sloot, with correct early intervention may not have spiraled out of control. There is no guarantee, but for many families that deal with violence and abuse, education and more understanding about Bipolar Disorder Type II may save lives. “I use the phrase anger, rage and emotional volatility as a subtitle to my new book, ‘The Ticking Time Bomb,’ which offers an excellent description of all the signs, symptoms and family experiences associated with Bipolar Disorder Type II. Individuals and loved ones can also go to our website www.HereIsHelp.net, which has been created specifically to help those with Bipolar Disorder Type II and their families,” exclaims Woulas. Those interested in purchasing Woulas’s new book can find a link to the publisher on his website.

1 Comment »

  1. David Collier Said,

    February 4, 2014 @ 5:22 pm

    Is ‘Bipolar disorder type II’ not a label for part of the wide spectrum of illness derived from unresolved childhood abuse/trauma; this last only now beginning to be recognized and admitted to?

Leave a Comment