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Unable to control the feeling of anger. How to get it controlled?

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Practicing since : 2003
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Over the past year or so my feelings of anger have steadily increased. I used to be someone who rarely got angry and never confronted anyone. Over the last few months this has escalated. At work I can keep it under control. Outside I can be a bit short or a bit rude with people but I don't pick arguments. At home and with the family it is a different story. I regularly shout and scream at my children and my husband. It happens mainly when the children don't listen to me or do things the way I want. With my husband it's similar in that it's when things don't go the way I planned or he criticizes the way I do something.
I feel this is something I should be able to get under control myself but everytime I vow to turn over a new leaf it will go wrong within a few hours. I never feel like I am going to hurt myself or anyone although I may hit a pillow or two in frustration.
Posted Thu, 28 Feb 2013 in Mental Health
Answered by Dr. Jonas Sundarakumar 1 hour later
Hello and welcome to Healthcare Magic. Thanks for your query.

A recent onset of escalating anger or irritability can often be an indicator of increasing stress levels. Though it can sometimes be an indicator of an underlying depression (atypical depression), in your case, this possibility seems unlikely.

Now, the basic or root cause of your problems seems to be a low level of "frustration tolerance" - this is what may be causing you to become easily upset, irritated and have anger outbursts, whenever something doesn't happen according to your expectations (in other words things which can cause you "frustration"). There also appears to be some degree of emotional dysregulation, where you find it difficult to control your anger impulses and end up acting out them.

Though I don't think that your symptoms are indicative of any psychiatric disorder as such, still it may be necessary to find out why your levels of frustration tolerance and emotional regulation have decreased so much. So, in my opinion, I think it would be worthwhile to have a detailed psychological assessment to try and figure out what is going wrong. Sometimes, a brief course of an anti-anxiety medication can help you relax your mind and allow you time to regain your original composture. A few personalized counselling sessions can also teach you about stress and anger management and to better your coping skills.

I would also like to give you the following suggestions:

1) Start make a daily diary record of the major instances where you had become impulsive and lost your temper. Now, there should be three columns in this diary: A-B-C...
A for "Antecedant" i.e., what issue or problem anteceeded or preceeded your impulsivity
B for "Behaviour" i.e., what was your behavioural response or reaction
C for "Consequence" i.e., what was the consequence of your behaviour
Now, when you start making a regular record of the A-B-Cs, you will very soon be able to find patterns or similarities in your behavioural responses. As this gives you an better insight, you should slowly try to figure out how the "B" (behaviour) could have been modified in order to avoid a bad "C" (consequence).

2) Practice relaxation techniques like XXXXXXX breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, etc. Often underlying anxiety and tension are major precipitants for emotional dysregulation. So, maybe, if can dedicate 10 minutes of your time every morning to frist bring your mind to a relaxed state, it will go a long way in helping you handle the pressures of the day better.

3) Stress-management and coping skills are something you have to master. If you do this, then situations or problems will not seem that 'irritating' or 'frustrating'. Stress is one of the major contributors for a variety of psychological problems. So, don't take too much which you cannot handle. Periodically take breaks to de-stress or recuperate yourself. There are also CDs or downloadable material available on the internet on stress management which can be beneficial to you.

4) Avoid substances like alcohol, tobacco, coffee, caffeinated drinks or energy drinks, etc. as these can all worsen anxiety and worsen emotional dysregulation. -

5) Follow a healthy lifestyle - with adequate physical exercise and a nutritious and balanced diet. This not only keeps your body healthy, but also helps your mind.

6) Finally, practice, practice practice. Set small and realistic goals for yourself. Work slowly and set gradual targets. This will make things easier to achieve, rather than say that you are completely going to turn over a new leaf from today itself. Record your improvements - as they will improve your confidence and motivate you to do better.

I think that it would be a good idea to go for a few counselling sessions with a psychiatrist or psychologist, so that therapy can be more targeted and personalized.

Wish you all the best.

Dr. Jonas Sundarakumar
Consultant Psychiatrist
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