woman talking in therapy with others about anger management, impulsive aggression and anger disorders

Anger Management: Exploring Impulsive Aggression and Anger Disorders

It’s entirely natural to experience anger. In the same way that your immune system handles disease with unpleasant side effects, anger works in response to unsafe or enraging situations. Many people experience anger as a byproduct of the stressors of daily life, grief over past losses, or frustrations over health issues. They may have occasional angry outbursts that help them blow off steam but remain within a normal emotional framework and don’t stem from any underlying mental health disorder—they may just be feeling angry.

The question arises as to what exactly constitutes extreme anger: is it a condition, a threshold, or both? For starters, some key factors that distinguish people with anger disorders from those who are just plain angry include the issue of self-control, the intensity of the anger, and whether it is persistent or prolonged. People who have trouble controlling their temper and frequently experience intense bursts of rage may suffer from one of many anger disorders.

At Promises Behavioral Health, we use cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) as well as other methods to get to the root of the issue. CBT works best in cases where patients can rationalize their own thought processes. If you are interested in learning about our anger management therapy, reach us at 844.875.5609 for more information.

At What Point Does Extreme Anger Begin?

This emotion is complex because it can be expressed in different ways, including:

  • Chronic anger
  • Passive anger
  • Overwhelmed anger
  • Self-directed anger
  • Judgmental anger
  • Volatile anger
  • Impulsive aggression

“Anger can be expressed outwardly, looking like a person being argumentative, being physically aggressive, or attacking another person’s character,” says Frank Sanchez, Ph.D., LMFT, program director of the Young Adult Program at Promises. “Anger can also be turned inward, usually because the person is afraid of what their anger will do to someone else. An internal expression of anger could involve self-harm, such as cutting or burning themselves, putting themselves down silently, or sabotaging things like work or relationships.”

Extreme anger can be inward or outward, but ultimately, it’s determined by the degree of anger exhibited in pairing with its frequency. Those with extreme anger will regularly go beyond the usual “vocal dissatisfaction” stage and well into violent outbursts (physical or verbal). Anger disorders like impulsive aggression also fall under “extreme anger” even if the ensuing anger isn’t necessarily violent—high aggression swings can occur especially easily in smaller thresholds. For many reasons, this can be extremely dangerous to more than the one exhibiting the anger. Poor anger management can and often does lead to collateral damage to people and property alike.

Those with Uncontrollable Anger May Suffer from an Impulse-Control Disorder

If there is someone in your life that you tip-toe around for fear they might fly into a rage, spewing verbal vitriol and slamming doors or breaking the furniture, they may suffer from an impulse-control disorder. Characterized by sudden, uncontrollable bursts of anger that are usually disproportionate to the situation, these outbursts often point to impulsive aggression, which is categorized among “Disruptive, Impulse-Control and Conduct Disorders” in the DSM-5.

It is estimated that nearly 16 million Americans suffer from impulsive aggression, a condition known in psychiatry as intermittent explosive disorder (IED). This disorder, sometimes referred to as an anger-management disorder, can appear in childhood. A study from Harvard Medical School determined that nearly one in 12 Americans aged 13 to 17, or 6 million adolescents and teens, are affected by IEDs. IED often co-occurs with mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders. In the Harvard study of adolescents with IED, nearly 64% of the study participants who reported lifelong fits of uncontrollable anger also met the criteria for having another disorder such as ADHD, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, conduct disorder or personality disorder, among others.

Anger Management Therapy at Promises Behavioral Health

When anger is chronic and outbursts frequent, getting in the way of relationships at home and at work, anger management treatment is usually warranted. Anger issues are often the underlying cause of substance abuse, so treatment can be tailored to address both problems simultaneously—providing the individual with tools and therapies that help keep emotions under control and also for overcoming addiction and avoiding relapse.

At Promises Behavioral Health, therapy is our preferred approach for treating anger problems unless there is a co-occurring disorder that would benefit from medication. Anger management therapy can help people with IED and other anger conditions recognize the early signs of an impending outburst so they can prevent themselves from reaching the explosion phase. We utilize cognitive-behavioral therapy in anger management to help patients learn to recognize triggers without responding with anger. If you want to live free of explosive, angry outbursts, call us at 844.875.5609 today and speak to a professional about what plan might suit your individual needs.

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