Think about the last time something or someone made you angry. How intense was the anger, and how long did it take for the anger to subside? For most of us, anger is a quick burst of emotion that fizzles fairly quickly as we realize its irrationality or irrelevance. However, that isn’t always the case. Long-lasting cases of chronic anger exist and can be difficult to overcome. Through various forms of therapy and support from loved ones, there is hope for overcoming chronic anger.
What Is Chronic Anger?
Chronic anger is not a singular disorder. Instead, it presents itself in many different mental and emotional disorders, including Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Oppositional Defiance Disorder. To best define it, chronic anger is a long-lasting emotion that tends to escalate over time. It can get to the point where it negatively interferes with a person’s daily life and makes them feel less-than-functional in society.
Anger tends to be borne of deeply-rooted emotional situations, such as loss, betrayal, abandonment, or sheer disappointment. The more these things occur, the more potential there is for anger to become the default emotion. This tends to be the case for most of us, but many people can check their angry responses before they spiral out-of-control. Anger becomes chronic when it is sustained over a lengthy period of time and is difficult to get to the root of on your own.
Symptoms of Chronic Anger
How are you supposed to differentiate “normative” anger from chronic anger? There are different types of anger, so it is important that you pay attention to the symptoms that you or your loved one exhibit. Some of the most telling signs of chronic anger can include:
- Bouts of anger lasting for several months or longer
- Experiences elevated feelings of anger multiple times throughout the day
- Is seemingly always finding or looking for something to be angry about
- Trouble with the law
- Isolated from society
- Has a diminished immune system
- Exhibits signs of physical aggression
- Continually experiences road rage
- Has a low tolerance for feeling frustrated
- Becomes emotionally detached or feels drained for extended periods after feeling angry
A lot of symptoms of chronic anger double over as symptoms in various disorders in which persistent anger itself is a symptom. This is why it is best to seek out a professional counselor or psychologist when trying to find ways to overcome anger. What you might initially think is just anger could be more deeply-seated than that.
Causes of Chronic Anger
There is no singular root cause for chronic anger. Instead, there can be multiple causes that can trigger anger. For example, a traumatic event from the past can inspire feelings of intense anger when you reminisce about the event or are confronted by something that reminds you of that event.
There is the potential for a genetic risk factor, as many researchers have noted that parents with chronic anger can produce children with anger issues. However, more research needs to be done to determine how this trait might be inherited from one generation to the next.
There are some theories that suggest a physical cause of chronic anger. Some studies have shown abnormalities in the brains of those who experience symptoms of serious anger. Those with damage to the temporal lobes or who have temporal lobe epilepsy tend to display symptoms of chronic anger since these regions of the brain are responsible for regulating emotions.
In many cases, the cause of serious anger seems to have an environmental basis. Someone who grows up in a household where another person experiences chronic anger might develop the same symptoms over time. This seems to especially be prevalent among those who were subjected to physical forms of punishment and appears to most commonly occur in males.
Other Issues Related to Chronic Anger
Chronic anger has been shown to negatively impact the immune system. While anger can benefit us to an extent, prolonged periods of negative emotions can have lasting effects on our bodies, not just our minds. Studies have shown that anger can incite inflammatory responses from the cytokine Interleukin-6 (IL-6). IL-6 tends to play a role in diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and cancer, as well as in depression and schizophrenia.
Additionally, the absence of healthy gut bacteria seems to play a role in our emotional responses. Those who are lacking in probiotics and have a higher level of gut permeability (meaning that necessary nutrients escape the gut and don’t get properly absorbed) have diminished functioning in the central nervous system.
Chronic Anger Treatment Options
There are treatment options available for those with chronic anger. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most popular methods. This form of psychotherapy involves identifying the thoughts that play into cyclical patterns of emotions and behaviors and assessing the reasonability of these thoughts. For someone with severe anger, this means addressing the thoughts that lead to the emotion of anger and finding constructive ways of managing the emotion and associated behavior. This happens through selecting and instituting more positive and helpful thoughts in place of the negative ones. Additionally, those with anger issues can benefit from nontraditional forms of therapy, including self-therapy that can be practiced at home, such as yoga and meditation.
Chronic Anger Examples
Examples of individuals with anger issues seem to be everywhere. For those who have seen The Goonies, Mama Fratelli might come to mind as someone with severe anger. In fact, she seems to never be anything but angry! Her anger has led her to commit risky behaviors and develop unhealthy relationships with her three sons. Mama Fratelli’s inability to control her anger ultimately leads to her spending the rest of her life in prison.
Mama Fratelli is a fictional example of something that plagues many of us in reality. Anger, though a legitimate response to many situations, can be a powerful and controlling emotion. If you feel that anger is overrunning your life or the life of your loved one, don’t be ashamed to reach out for help. Through proper therapeutic methods, peace of mind can usurp anger’s role in your life.