Disrupting the Cycle of Anger & Explosive Behavior

I can never figure out why people choose to be angry. It is a choice.

As a therapist, I diagnose people with Intermittent Explosive disorder from the DSM 5. I also provide treatment for the person carrying the diagnosis, help in terms of psychoeducation for the person diagnosed and for their families. I even weigh in on medication related issues with prescribers.

None of this unhinges my professional belief that angry people choose to be angry. While there are certain personality features which can contribute to a person’s volatility or lability, nevertheless, people make a conscious decision to explode or “loose it” on their friends, family, & neighbors.

After working with so many angry people, I find that it is the most soft spoken, seemingly calm, and level-headed individuals, primarily whom are diagnosed with IED or are outrageously explosive and quick to anger. Why is this? I have a few suspicions.

People already high-strung, “Type-A”, or just plain loud are usually not the primary culprits for creating large displays and scenes in stores and public venues. These are the people you are already expecting to have a voice and use it whenever they are in a situation in which they feel silenced or mistreated.

Conversely, it is the soft-spoken and extremely calm people that even have the potential for such polarities in their demeanor. These are the people that go from zero to one hundred in less than a minute, sometimes less than a few seconds.

As a family member of a person whom struggled with anger issues, I can tell you all again, first hand, that the clinical picture I established earlier holds true on a personal level when I was exposed to the anger of relatives and even friends.

Unless your six or seven years old, and still haven’t grown out of our childhood temper tantrums, you have learned coping skills from either life experience or a therapist which has offered additional insight into mal adaptive ways of expressing your dissatisfaction, however extreme the feelings.

Adults, however, choose to be angry. Primarily, the choice and success of a person whom chooses to enact anger or explosive features is due to external reasons or the absence of environmental pushback on the behavior.

Very few people struggling with psychosis have the energy or the concerted mental coordination to carry out acts of extreme violence. As a person who experienced a psychotic episode, I spent most of time disordered living in fear, extreme paranoia, and disorganization. Only in my most angry confused psychosis did I throw a chair at wall and disturb my neighbor whom was living in an adjacent room.

I am suggesting that without external negative consequences to the extreme behavior, people will go on exploding on friends, neighbors and family for just about anything. If you are interested in living in a slightly more predictable world with less volatility and exposure to anger, I suggest we all start pushing back when we see people living their lives without consequences or negative reinforcement.

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