Anger and rage: A search for solutions

by Aug 19, 2012Anger Management Counseling, Depression Treatment, Rage

Photo by Ian Kahn

Here are some ways to begin the search for answers if you are experiencing overwhelming feelings of anger and rage.

  1. Blood work.  If you haven’t had a physical in a while, make an appointment.  Make sure that your doctor knows that you are feeling irritable.  There are a variety of medical conditions that manifest with irritability, and you need to know that your predisposition to blow up is not due to a medical problem.
  2. Mood.  Are you down?  Are you glad to get out of bed in the morning?  Are there things in your life that matter to you?  Sometimes depression comes with sadness and tears and sometimes it comes with numbness and a lack of good feelings.
  3. Anxiety level.   Are your nerves shot?  Has it been forever since you felt calm and peaceful?
  4. Family tree.  Take a look at your family of origin if you have access to that information.  Look for substance abuse, anxiety, depression, social phobias, shut-ins.

Gather this information and then do a deep dive into your history.  It’s likely that if you are losing your temper, you learned it somewhere.  Did you witness fighting as a child?  Were you bullied?  Were you the victim of a crime? Verbal abuse?  Physical abuse?  Did you have one or more operations as a child?  What about accidents?

What I usually find when I work with people who have outbursts is trauma, depression and anxiety.  Anger and rage spark fear and defensiveness in others.  If you were bursting into tears, it would be different.  Tears evoke empathy and a wish to help.

What we aim for is anger as an internal signal that someone is trespassing on our boundaries, that something is unjust, that we are hurt.  Whether you express it or not at that moment is your choice.  This is what I call anger management.  The anger registers in your mind, and you are in charge of what happens next.

Rage is a different beast.  It has more in common with panic than anger.  It is a whole body experience that overwhelms the part of you that makes decisions and likes to be in charge.  It is frightening to others and to you.   Rage episodes are a cause for real concern and a sign that something desperately needs attention.   This something is usually early on in your childhood, before you had a chance to grow up.  It’s not your fault, but it’s your responsibility to pursue answers.

Elizabeth Singer is a therapist and anger management specialist in New York City

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The Difference Between Anger and Rage