Anger Management: Why Do People Rage?
No-one is the same and we all have our own triggers for what makes us angry. Some common situations that most people will or have experienced though are in situations which we feel: threatened or attacked and frustrated or powerless. Like we’re being invalidated or treated unfairly. Many things can trigger anger, including stress, family problems, and financial issues.
For some people, anger is caused by an underlying disorder such as a medical condition or may be alcohol or substance affected. Anger itself isn’t considered a disorder, but anger is a known symptom of several mental health conditions.
These are sudden, out-of-control bursts of anger. These explosive outbursts can start without warning. They may also seem to be out of proportion to what triggered the episode. Rage attacks are different than tantrums.
These can be attacks can be precipitated by stress, financial issues, work, and social pressures, family or relationship troubles, lack of sleep, and even frustration over having panic disorder, agoraphobia, or another type of anxiety disorder. Those who think other people don’t like them may quickly blame others for their problems and are therefore more likely to get angry with others. Many people are easily angered when they’re already experiencing negative feelings caused by hunger, stress, nervousness, sadness, fatigue, illness, or boredom.
There are three types of anger which help shape how we react in a situation that makes us angry. These are: Passive Aggression, Open Aggression, and Assertive Anger. According to psychologists, rage is an in-born behavior that every person exhibits in some form. Rage is often used to denote hostile/affective/reactive aggression. This suggests that rage, in relation to religious ideas, may stem from an inability to manage feelings of terror.
Feeling irritable or short-tempered can be signs of depression. So can feelings of boredom or hopelessness. Many people think of depression as feeling sad, but depression also can bring feelings of moodiness, impatience, anger, or even just not caring. Frustration originates from feelings of uncertainty and insecurity which stems from a sense of inability to fulfill needs. If the needs of an individual are blocked, uneasiness and frustration are more likely to occur.
There is no clear diagnosis of an anger disorder, but the psychiatric diagnostic manual does include “intermittent explosive disorder”, which is characterised by recurrent behavioural outbursts representing a failure to control aggressive impulses. This affects 7.3% of the population at some point in their life and 3.9% in the past 12 months.
When can a rage occur?
Let’s just say you’re at the park with the kids, everyone’s having fun, and then a strange dog appears. There’s no owner around. It’s eyeballing the kids. Immediately your threat system becomes activated.
You stand alert, fully focused on the dog; heart racing, fists clenched. The dog bolts in, baring its teeth, and you pounce. You’re in survival mode, full of rage and violence. You yell fiercely, and you kick and hit, or grab the dog by the scruff of the neck, not caring if you are harming the animal.
The dog yelps its surrender and flees, while you stand guard in front of your children.
This type of anger and aggression is the “fight” side of the “fight or flight response”. This physiological response, according to evolutionary psychology, prepares our bodies to fight off a threat or to flee, which isn’t such a bad thing, you are your children’s protector.
It’s such an important part of human survival, and yet it can come at a cost for modern humans. Anger, and aggression in particular, can have serious consequences when it manifests in violence on the streets on the road, in the home and elsewhere in the community.
Anger is one of the seven universal emotions that are common across gender, ages and cultures, and it can be the result of something interfering with us achieving a goal we care about, or when we experience or perceive something threatening to us, either physically or psychologically.
Anger is quick (think of the term “short-tempered”), it focuses all of our attention on the threat, and it manifests in our bodies, usually starting in the pit of our stomach, rising up to our face and causing us to grimace and clench our fists. When anger builds, it’s expressed physically with a yell, punch or kick.
In the short term, anger can be powerful and rewarding; the person who is angry typically gets what they want.
But do you like being in the company of an angry person? Most people say no, and that is one of the chief consequences of anger: it is often damaging to relationships and isolating for the angry person.
So, anger itself is not the problem, it’s how we manage it and express it.
Getting help and knowing when to?
If you begin to notice that you are on edge quite a lot, do things that you later regret, are quick to react instead of respond, and that you have people in your life who have told you that you tend to get angry, it might be helpful to do something about it.
You can begin by speaking to your general practitioner and, if needed you could see a counsellor.
Group and individual anger-management programs, run by qualified therapists, have good success rates. A meta-analysis examining anger-management programs across 92 studies found that cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) strategies helped to significantly reduce anger and aggressiveness, and also to increase positive behaviors.
Tips to manage your anger
- Identify the triggers for your anger, such as environments and people.
- Notice the bodily warning signs of anger: tightness in shoulders, increased heart rate, hot face.
- Draw on a strategy that works for you. This could include slowing down your breathing, imagery, evaluating your thoughts, taking time out and changing your environment, or using relaxation skills.
- Rehearse your anger strategies. Imagine being in a situation that makes you angry and draw upon one of your skills.
Remember, anger in itself is not the problem. The problem lies in how we manage and express it. The Dalai Lama may have said it best: “The true hero is one who conquers his own anger.”
Speak to your GP if you feel anxious, depressed, angry.
Also, get some anger management counselling from an experienced counsellor today. Call 0418 720 176