Anger is a normal and very powerful emotion, but when it gets out of control, it can cause long-lasting physical and psychological problems for women, not to mention conflicts in interpersonal relationships family, work and school.
What Are Anger Disorders?
Anger disorders are aggressive, violent or self-destructive behaviors that are both symptoms of and driven by an underlying, chronically repressed anger or rage. It is thought that anger disorders result from long-term mismanagement of anger. Over time, normal anger grows into bitterness, resentment, hatred, and destructive rage.
Anger disorders can be exacerbated or caused by neurological impairment and substance abuse. Both inhibit a person’s ability to resist angry, aggressive, or violent impulses.
The most commonly used psychiatric diagnoses for angry, violent, and aggressive behavior are: Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Conduct Disorder (in children and adolescents), Psychotic Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Antisocial, Borderline, Paranoid and Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Adjustment Disorder with Disturbance of Conduct, and Intermittent Explosive Disorder.
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Intermittent Explosive Disorder
Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) involves repeated incidents of explosive, aggressive, violent behavior or angry outbursts that are grossly out of proportion to the situation. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that more than 16 million Americans may suffer from IED.
Women with IED may attack others, causing bodily harm and property damage or harm themselves during an outburst. Later, they may express feelings of regret, remorse, and embarrassment.
Symptoms of Anger Problems
Women with anger problems may experience a variety of symptoms, including:
- Disproportionate anger – Reacting to certain circumstances with more anger than most other people would in similar situations
- Intense memory-related anger – Getting angry about past events or people from the past
- Anger without cause – Feeling angry without a particular reason
- Guarded interactions with others – Being cautious and guarded when interacting with others
- Others notice and comment – Several other people give feedback that you have difficulty managing your anger
For those with IED, explosive reactions usually last less than 30 minutes and occur in clusters or are separated by weeks and months. In between IED episodes, the person may be irritable, impulsive, aggressive, or angry.
Prior to or following an IED episode, the woman may show:
- Chest tightness
- Feeling of pressure in the head
- Increased energy
- Heart palpitations
- Racing thoughts
After the episode, fatigue, relief, or depression may occur.
What Causes Anger Problems?
Women who exhibit anger problems may have been abused by an intimate partner (domestic abuse), or the victim of violent behavior. A woman with suicidal thoughts may be filled with anger and contemplate self-harm as a way out. Women’s anger or hostility may also be related to their use of alcohol and drugs.
Aggressive behaviors may be displayed in people with other forms of mental illness, such as anxiety, personality disorders, or mood disorders, along with some medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or traumatic brain injury.
In the case of IED, although the exact cause remains unknown, suspected causes include environmental factors as well as genetics and brain chemistry.
Who’s at Risk?
There are a number of factors that increase the risk of developing anger problems, including:
- History of substance abuse – Drug and alcohol abuse increases the risk of IED.
- History of physical abuse – Those who were physically abused as children or experienced multiple traumatic events are at increased risk for IED.
- Age – IED most commonly begins during the teens and 20s.
- Gender – Men are more likely to experience IED than women.
Treatment for Anger Problems
While there is no single treatment that works for everyone with anger problems, treatment generally includes psychotherapy and medication.
At Malibu Vista, women with anger problems participate in individual and small group therapy sessions. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps clients identify situations or behaviors that may trigger a hostile, aggressive response. Women also learn how to manage their anger and control inappropriate responses using techniques such as relaxation therapy, cognitive restructuring (thinking differently about situations), and learning coping skills.
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