Anger Issues

What is anger?

Anger is an emotion encompassing irritability, resentment, frustration and agitation. Anger is usually a response to underlying feelings like hurt, fear, sense of unfairness or disrespect. These feelings trigger sympathetic nervous system arousal, the “fight or flight response”.  Therefore, the physiological processes of anxiety and anger are basically the same:  amygdala and limbic system activation in the brain, flooding adrenal and cortisol into the system activating the body to flee or fight.

Anger can have a positive role in physically or emotionally protecting ourselves or moving us to fight against injustice. However, in modern society expressions of anger whether verbal or physical, are most often at best counterproductive and at worst violent and destructive.  Anger is a normal part of life and is not necessarily pathological but it can be problematic when not controlled or expressed inappropriately.

What is the cause of Anger?

Anger, irritability and aggression symptoms are part of the symptomology of many different mental disorders listed in the DSM V including but not limited to the following: People suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) can experience irritability along with other symptoms of GAD. Individuals with Antisocial Personality Disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder often display recurrent impulsive, aggressive outbursts. Individuals with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may be quick tempered and may even engage in aggressive verbal and/or physical behavior with little or no provocation (e.g. yelling at people, getting into fights, destroying objects). Anger and aggression can be associated with Head Trauma, Alzheimer’s disease and Drug Abuse. With Major Depressive Disorder many individuals report or exhibit increased irritability (e.g. persistent anger, a tendency to respond to events with angry outbursts or blaming others, an exaggerated sense of frustration over minor matters). Manic episodes in Bipolar Disorder are characterized by a distinct period during which there is an abnormally, persistently elevated, expansive or irritable mood.  Adjustment Disorders are unusually severe reactions to an identifiable stressor that can include anxiety, depressed mood and disturbance of conduct.  This mood disturbance can include irritability, frustration and angry outbursts. The stressor may be a single event, for example, a termination of a romantic relationship, or there may be multiple stressors, like marked business difficulties and marital problems or recurrent stressors such as a seasonal business crisis, unfulfilling sexual relationships or continuous stressors like a persistent painful illness or living in a crime ridden neighborhood. Some stressors may accompany specific events such as going to college, reentering a parental home, getting married, becoming a parent, failing to attain occupational goals or retirement.

Intermittent Explosive Disorder, the core feature of which is failure to control impulsive aggressive behavior in response to provocation that would not normally result in an aggressive outburst.

What are the symptoms of Intermittent Explosive Disorder?

  1. Recurrent behavioral outbursts representing a failure to control aggressive impulses as manifested by either of the following:
    • Verbal aggression like temper outbursts, tirades, verbal arguments or fights, or physical aggression toward property, animal or other individuals, occurring an average of twice weekly or more, for a period of 3 months. The physical aggression does not have to result in damage to property or physical injury to animals or other individuals.
    • Three behavioral outbursts involving damage or destruction of property and/or physical assault involving physical injury against animals other people occurring within a 12 month period.
  2. The magnitude of aggressiveness expressed during the recurrent outbursts is grossly out of proportion to the provocation or to any precipitating psychosocial stressors.
  3. The recurrent aggressive outbursts are not premeditated. They are impulsive and /or   anger based. They are not committed to achieve some tangible objective like money, power, or intimidation.
  4. The recurrent aggressive outbursts cause either marked distress in the individual or impairment in occupational or interpersonal functioning or are associated with financial or legal consequences.
  5. A diagnosis of Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder may be given if the onset of recurrent, impulsive aggressive outbursts is before the age of ten years old.

How can you treat Anger Issues?

Dr. Dufford and Anxiety Treatment Services provide integrative and comprehensive therapy for anger issues including individual therapy and group support.  Modalities include Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Hypnotherapy, EMDR and Meditation/Mindfulness. We facilitate releasing anger by identifying and healing underlying emotional issues and negative beliefs that unconsciously fuel anger. We also teach practical tools and techniques to relieve stress and calm the nervous system in any situation.


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