It is a fact of life that we all have bad days. We all lose our tempers from time to time and I’d venture to guess that most of us have screamed at an inanimate object or two (or three).
Some lose their tempers more than others (especially during periods of extended stress) but for others, excessive anger is the norm and not the exception. When we experience disproportionate anger (or the people closest to us notice we do) it often triggers I red flag in our minds: Do I have a problem with anger?
Or we may not notice a problem and instead attribute our aggressive state of mind to the world around us. Either way, excessive anger is widely considered to be toxic so it is worth pausing to examine its cause, extent, severity, and explore methods to diffuse it.
One copywriter (who prefers to remain anonymous) said they experienced anger several times a day for a long time. “People were afraid to be around me and were walking on egg shells. I kept reading spiritual books that said ‘do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?’ and tried to control the anger that way but it didn't work for long. My anger was just like a knee jerk reaction I had no control over. I would regret it later and be bewildered by where it had come from so vociferously.”
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Dr. Joseph Shrand, Instructor of Psychiatry and Medical Director at CASTLE (Clean and Sober Teens Living Empowered), describes this knee jerk reaction as a defining component of feeling anger. “Anger is an approach emotion designed to protect you from a predator. As such, the fight branch of the fight-flight mechanism gets activated: heart rate can increase, blood pressure increases, tension in large muscles of arms, legs, neck, face reddens in a threat display, an adrenaline rush that interferes with your logical brain. And yes, it can get worse over time, with less and less provocation triggering anger. Ii fact, the brain begins to anticipate conflict and see these dangers in the surrounding world even if they are not really there!”
Since all human beings experience anger, where do we draw the line between normal and the possibility of an anger disorder? Dr. Tina B. Tessina, PhD, (aka "Dr. Romance") psychotherapist and author of It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction, draws this line where a person’s excessive anger begins to impact their daily life in negative ways.