Why Teens Are Addicted To Anger & How Parents Can Help

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Why Teens Are Addicted To Anger & How Parents Can Help [EXPERT]
Anger often becomes an addiction for adolescents. Learn to help them quell this fiery emotion.

A recent Harvard Medical School study found that nearly 8% of adolescents experienced bouts of extreme anger, sufficient to be diagnosed as "intermittent explosive disorder" — a form of mental illness. I'm surprised the number isn't higher.

Over the past 20-plus years, I've worked as a self-esteem elevation coach and have witnessed a growing addiction among the majority of people to three primary emotions: anger, sadness and fear. While all people display all three of these emotions during upsetting situations, adolescent males are most addicted to anger.

Early on in life, typically before the age of six, children experience some significant event that causes them to doubt themselves and/or their self-worth. Someone says or does something that causes the child to believe that he/she is flawed, unlovable, unworthy and imperfect, marking the child's first true realization that he/she is not perfect and fails to measure up to society's standards in some important way.

The initial upset can be one of two types. It can be an unkind word from a peer or authority figure; a spanking, an insult, an argument or a bullying/name calling episode. It could occur as a direct result of something the child said or did that provoked an attack on his or her sense of worthiness or ability to fit in. 5 Ways To Treat Depression Without Meds

The second type of self-esteem diminishing episode can be a result of the child misinterpreting someone's words or actions to mean that the child is flawed, unlovable or defective in some way. In such a case, no insult or demeaning connotation was intended. Rather, someone said or did something and the child mistakenly understood it to mean that there was something wrong with him/her as a result. That interpretation "made" the child angry (or sad/afraid, to a lesser extent).

From that point onward, the child begins to scan for events, people and interpretations that evoke that same familiar response of anger. The more he or she becomes conditioned to "getting mad," the easier it becomes to lose control and feed that addiction to anger. Over the course of several years, the child grows into an adult who has conditioned himself to find countless reasons to react to the world in anger. (The same is true for those who suppress their anger and become addicted to either sadness or fear and thus, attract people and events into their lives that "cause" them to become sad or afraid.)

Daily, there are hundreds of opportunities for a child to misinterpret life in a way that gives him his "fix" of anger; this eventually compounds to tarnish his self-image over the long term, as the anger ruins relationships and kills personal effectiveness. The process of diminishing self-esteem, fueled by an emotional addiction to the resulting predominance of anger (or sadness/fear) that began early in life continues throughout life, as the person becomes accustomed to scan for additional situations that may serve as more evidence to reinforce this thought of being flawed.

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