Introduction (Psychology and Mental Health)
The modern definition of anger is a feeling of great hostility, displeasure, or exasperation toward other persons. The experience of anger is perceived as being beyond any conscious reason, because emotions are reflexive, involuntary experiences rather than purposeful acts. To be angry is not a conscious choice. It happens when an experience causes a change in biological and mental states. Anger is caused by both mental and physical stimuli. Its mental components are thoughts, beliefs, expectations, and values. Anger’s physical components are changed biostatus, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure. These stimuli will differ in extent from person to person.
Anger occurs in all people. Psychologically, two things must occur to cause anger: People must form a belief that others have committed misdeeds that have wronged them, and they must assign blame to others, who are targeted for retribution. Anger is therefore a reaction to the actions of others and a judgment of the cause of those actions. To become angry, one must see an action of another person as intentional mistreatment. Whether this is true is irrelevant; the perception of mistreatment causes the anger response. The causes and expressions of anger vary with age and gender. Most frequently, anger is based on feeling unable to right wrongs committed against one, perceived violation of one’s principles or values (such as honesty), physical or verbal attacks on...
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The Biology of Anger (Psychology and Mental Health)
Biologically, human anger is a response of the nervous system to stresses, demands, threats, and pressures. When people are faced with a threat to survival, their nervous systems quickly, automatically meet it by raising body defenses in a fight-or-flight mechanism. The fight-or-flight response, identified by Harvard physiologist Walter Bradford Cannon in the 1930’s, occurs whether life events require greatly changed lifestyle or are minor irritants. The nervous system does not await a conscious interpretation of an event, but simply reacts via the sympathetic nervous system, which is designed for immediate defense responses. The system trigger is the release of the hormone epinephrine (adrenalin), made by the adrenal glands located atop each kidney. Epinephrine causes dilation of the pupils, elevated heartbeat rate, increased blood pressure, rapid breathing, release of sugar into the blood by the liver, and movement of blood into the skeletal muscles.
These responses lead to arousal and readiness to fight or flee. Pupil dilation increases the ability to see danger and differentiate it from normal events. Increased heartbeat drives blood through the cardiovascular system more rapidly than usual. This hastens hormone and nutrient passage through the body, engendering swift signaling by hormones and bettering the readiness of skeletal muscles to be used in a fight or flight. The rerouting of blood and the increased...
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Diagnosing Anger (Psychology and Mental Health)
Almost everyone is angry at times, regardless of gender or age. Some individuals are subject to such frequent rage that they seek—or are sent to—a physician or psychotherapist for treatment. However, many individuals do not recognize their anger and blame reactions caused by it on job dissatisfaction, unsatisfactory marriages, dislike of minorities, and other life problems. Often, such anger will remain unnoticed until they visit a counselor or psychotherapist for help in such matters and it is suggested that they need to treat their anger with psychotherapy or medication.
There are many schools of thought on diagnosing and treating anger. Although the tools used for treatment differ, diagnosing, measuring, and evaluating anger are most often accomplished by administering assessment forms crucial to devising treatment. Diagnosis of severe anger is often occasioned when an enraged or depressed patient is admitted to a hospital emergency room or psychiatric ward and queries by physicians lead to psychiatric evaluation. More often, an angry individual seeks counseling for reasons ranging from marital or work-related problems to tiredness and general mental malaise. Psychotherapeutic consultation will then lead to diagnosis of anger. Some patients visit psychotherapists or counselors because they themselves recognize that they are angry too often or excessively belligerent.
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Anger Treatment Options (Psychology and Mental Health)
In many cases, anger associated with depression, extreme rage and belligerence, and the passive-aggressive state may be treated with tranquilizers, hormones, and antidepressants. In such individuals, medication is often followed by combined psychotherapy and medication as an inpatient in a hospital ward. More often, it is accomplished by means of medication and periodic outpatient visits to a psychotherapist or counselor.
There are many different schools of thought concerning anger treatment for people who are not overly belligerent, severely depressed, or in other states in which they will severely harm themselves or other persons. Some therapists suggest that patients let out their anger, proposing that this will make them feel better and minimize aggressive tendencies. Others recommend leaving the site of an anger outbreak until calmed down. Still others suggest psychotherapy that identifies the basis for the anger (such as events in childhood) and gives curative insights. Other psychotherapists, such as Albert Ellis and R. Chip Tafrate, propose techniques such as rational emotive behavior therapy and similar methods that can often be applied by self-treatment. However, psychologist have not reached a consensus regarding treatment, largely because of the many and varied causes of anger.
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The History of Anger Treatment (Psychology and Mental Health)
Human anger has been reported since the beginning of written record keeping. For example, the emotion was discussed by the Greek physician Hippocrates and practitioners through the Middle Ages used herbs and bleeding to handle the emotion by bringing down the patient’s blood pressure and “choler.” Until the twentieth century, members of the poorer classes who were encumbered with extremes of rage and other anger manifestations such as paranoia were chained in madhouses. In the twentieth century, development of modern psychoactive drugs and psychotherapy engendered treatment of afflicted individuals as described in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
Cannon’s work in the 1930’s on the fight-or-flight response mechanism was essential to the conceptualization of appropriate treatment for anger. Hans Selye, in the 1970’s and 1980’s, proposed that Cannon’s fight-or-flight response mechanism was part of a general adaptation syndrome (GAS) used to handle all stresses a person encountered, from head colds to unexpected violence and anger. General adaptation syndrome was proposed to be nonspecific in humans, so the same basic reactions were deemed to occur due to good or bad news and regardless of the emotion currently being felt, whether fear, excitement, pleasure, or anger. The difference in the result, according to Selye, was...
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Sources for Further Study (Psychology and Mental Health)
Cannon, Walter B. “The Stresses and Strains of Homeostasis.” The American Journal of the Medical Sciences 189 (1935): 1-14. The article in which the fight-or-flight mechanism was first described and named.
Cavell, Timothy A., and Kenya T. Malcolm, eds. Anger, Aggression, and Interventions for Interpersonal Violence. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2007. Collection of essays on the proper identification and treatment of dysfunctional anger and aggression.
DiGiuseppe, Raymond, and Raymond Chip Tafrate. Understanding Anger Disorders. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. Careful and comprehensive overview of theoretical and practical issues in treating anger disorders.
Ellis, Albert, and Raymond C. Tafrate. How to Control Your Anger Before It Controls You. New York: William Morrow, 1995. Covers topics related to the diagnosis and treatment of anger, such as the costs of anger; anger’s rational and irrational aspects; rage-creating beliefs; and ways to feel or think oneself out of anger. Also presents a rational emotive behavior therapy for anger management treatment.
Gentry, W. Doyle. Anger-Free: Ten Basic Steps to Managing Your Anger. New York: William Morrow, 1999. Defines the toxic anger syndrome and describes how to assess it and how to treat it in ten steps. Includes discussion of self-assessment, psychobiological perspectives on angry...
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Anger (Encyclopedia of Psychology)
One of the primordial emotions, along with fear, grief, pain, and joy.
Anger is usually caused by the frustration of attempts to attain a goal, or by hostile or disturbing actions such as insults, injuries, or threats that do not come from a feared source. The sources of anger are different for people at different periods in their lives. The most common cause of anger in infants, for example, is restraint of activity. Children commonly become angry due to restrictive rules or demands, lack of attention, or failure to accomplish a task. As children reach adolescence and adulthood, the primary sources of anger shift from physical constraints and frustrations to social ones. In adults, the basis of anger include disapproval, deprivation, exploitation, manipulation, betrayal, and humiliation, and the responses to it become less physical and more social with age. The tantrums, fighting, and screaming typical of childhood give way to more verbal and indirect expressions such as swearing and sarcasm. Physical violence does occur in adults, but in most situations it is avoided in deference to social pressures.
Like fear, anger is a basic emotion that provides a primitive mechanism for physical survival. The physiological changes that accompany anger and fear are very similar and include increased...
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