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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
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Rage and Its Consequences

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Sep 10th 2007

My daughter, who is an EMT (Emergency Medical Tech), described a recent case she was on that again demonstrates the destructive impact of uncontrolled anger and rage. Her ambulance was called to a traffic accident in which a man was pinned behind the wheel of his car. He was in extreme pain and had two broken legs and other injuries that were difficult to determine until he was released from the automobile. Fortunately, he did survive with relatively minor injuries except for the broken legs. What is most important in this story are the circumstances that lead to the accident. By the way, the accident was the result of his smashing into a tree. Miraculously, the other occupants of the car escaped without injury and he lived to tell the story. As to the car, who knows?

It seems that this person was on his cell phone while he was driving. The point here is not to discuss the merits or dangers of using a cell phone while driving but to discuss immediate and sudden rage reactions. He was on the cell phone discussing some type of work issue with a client who refused to cooperate and close the deal. When the conversation ended he flipped the cell phone closed, took his eye off of the road and hurled the phone onto the dash board. The combination of rage, hurling the phone and taking his eyes off of the road caused him to lose control of the automobile and crash into the tree.

Rage and driving are not a good combination. Rage and relating in a marriage or in raising children are not a good combination. Rage and anything are not a good combination. Why? When in a rage people are not in control of their impulses and are liable to do or say anything that they would otherwise would not do or say. In this state of rage, the individual can become a danger to them selves or to others. Even the nicest people who do not see themselves as violent and would never anticipate hurting others are capable of the most awful acts if they allow themselves to become overwhelmed with rage. In fact, this is obviously what is meant by the term "losing control of one's self."

There are many reasons why people "lose control of themselves. For one, there is a tendency to take things that occur in a way that is very personal. Sometimes that happens even when we know better. Someone told me that a bank manager promised to call back with an important financial offer. When the manager failed to call the individual was incensed as though the manager deliberately intended to insult this individual. In fact, there are dozens of reasons for the manager's failure to make the call none of which have to do with wishing to cause hurt or insult.

Also, there are those of us who have strong tendencies towards explosive anger reactions. Most of the time these are individuals who really need psychotherapy and medication to help them control their angry impulses. I had a relative who was much like this. He predictably and frequently reacted to otherwise benign circumstances with huge amounts of rage. While he was never physically abusive with his family he was most certainly verbally and emotionally abusive. He never did learn to control his anger, rejected psychotherapy and died of a heart attack having alienated most people in his life. In fact, I will never forget one occasion, when I was a little boy, when he hurled a kitchen chair across the room in a fit of rage because he had stained his new suit. While suits can be replaced I never forgot the incident and it is stored in my memory to this day. He was not my father but an uncle who played a significant role in my early life and development.

Whether it is a marital argument, a controversy with a friend or a conflict at work or while driving, rage reactions are extremely dangerous and unhealthy.

If you are a person with this tendency to rage seek help for your self now before there are terrible consequences.

Your comments are welcome and encouraged.

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at dransphd@aol.com for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Anger - Sharon Hart - Aug 12th 2010

Imagine life without anger, what would the consequence be?

You only live once, enjoy it.

Remember each person is unique and is loved by someone. There is no living soul on the face of this earth that is not loved.

I don't know what to do with my rage - Leaf Tuckerson - Aug 11th 2010

I don't know what to do with my rage. I get so angry when people do stupid things especially my family. When people mess with me I don't care but then they mess with my family and I black out. I end up beating them up and the only thing I remember is walking towards them. I haven't blacked out and hurt a family member but I am afraid that one day my rage will get to me and I will. I need help conquering this problem. I tried the simple steps like counting and walking it just doesn't work.

real uncontrollable rage - Greywolf - Jun 3rd 2010

Drugs, Therapy, mental health issues, What all you people fail to ralize is that we have rage at the time because we really feel hurt, decieved, abused. Sometimes it takes a abnormal amount of controll to keep from doing serious harm to people when they have control over your situation and they don't understand that they are in danger. I am not a killer or abuser, or a maniac. I'm an average loving father, grandfather, husband and still I feel at times like I need to take a bat to others because they just don't get it. All Drs want to do is start a drug or talk till they sound like a broken record. If I could i'd fix my rage issues but I can't, now I ask you, and don't give me lifes a bowl of cherries crap, how do you get past the mental bull. Why won't the Drs really listen and forget the insurance payments. They don't give a crap about the real problem, just when do they get paid. I'd give them my lifes savings if they would just pay attention and listen. Instead its "Well times up for today, we'll talk more tomorrow" I need help now, not tomorrow. How do you get past the money bull?

Sudden rage - Jenna - May 7th 2010

I found that my rage is getting worse lately. I just suddenly snap at some things for no good reason. I don't generally get mad at people unless they are mad about something and I feel their anger is directed at me but not to my face. I find that while on the road I tend to get somewhat road ragey when some jerk puts my life in danger driving too fast or passing when the roads are ice and snow packed...sometimes I handle it just fine and other times bam!!! Rage coming on. I don't want to hurt anyone, but if someone confronted me while I am in my rage mode, I could seriously hurt them. I have changed my diet and tried different things and I keep coming back to drinking Pepsi. It seems like they have put something in the soda that makes be go belistic about an hour or so after I drink it. Or it could just be too much sugar at one time. I don't know. I've almost always had anger issues since I was in my teens, but never raging like this. I got it under control for the most part. It really scares me and I am not sure what to do.

Sad and scared in Colorado

Compulsive and angry - - Mar 31st 2010

This comment is actually about myself. I am a 35 year old male. While in recent years I have gotten married to a woman with two daughters, one of which has issues of her own.(not entirely relevant). I have experienced rage and impulsive behavior since I was a kid. I actually didnt start drinking till I was in College at 19 or 20, so although it may not help my issue, It is not the sole reason. While I have experienced bouts of depression over the coarse of my life, Nothing compares to the rage. I It has become a more serious problem now that my step daughter has been diagnosed with O.D.D. She has been in the hospital for this for about 2 weeks. Prior to her going in, I actually had to leave home, I think because I feared if we were in the same room, her being defiant, and me being a bit cotroling, I didnt want an altercation. Now she is coming home today. To her fathers for now. But when I found out, I felt a wave of anxiety come over me. I became enraged and told my wife I was upset about her getting out. I became enraged and said some awfull things. I relize I am no better then the state her daughter is in. I increasingly become more afraid of my reactions and outbursts, and its taring us apart.

Unstable Mom - Trish Jacobs - Mar 28th 2010

My mom grew up in Japan as a Korean during WW2. Well she had a horribly scary up bringing.As a adult with kids she has flown into a blind rage over the garage door being left open and other things that mean nothing in perspective. She resists help and she's 80 yrs old and lives by herself. I'm now in my 50's with a brother dying of Kidney cancer and she has no ability to see what more important in life.An example is allowing her 23 year old grandson visit his dying uncle or wasting gas because it's too far away, 20 miles. As her daughter I've now vowed to never stay with her again especially with my family and she acts like a wounded puppy.

Can you suggest books I could read while I stay away from the line of fire from her? I'd like to help her but it seems she needs to want the help too.

Most desperate

Trish

drowning in my hate - - Jan 12th 2010

looking for advice i am a 27 yr old man i have no friends or significant other cant trust any body they only hurt me dont trust my family. i have had only one serious relationship over 10 yrs ago, kept trying to date always rejected in a hurtful way just gave up at this point. while i do have suicidal thoughts im just more angry at the world and people around me, feels like im not good enough for anyone and that makes me want to lash out example i was having a fit of rage screaming and yelling and breaking stuff when my neighbor came and threatened to call the cops so i told him if i went to jail and i even thought it was his call that did it i would hunt his family down just to get at him and in all honestly i never meant a word i couldnt control myself. hopefullyt something works out for me before i do something people will regret.  

Raging Relative - - Sep 30th 2009

Can anyone offer advice on how to deal with a raging relative? My family and I have been putting up with my brother way too long. He is bipolar, among other things, and has a very selfish, distorted view of life in general..he goes off for no reason and his outbursts are always directed at family memebers only...he would never treat a friend like that.  He yells and screams, calls even our parents profane names, throws things, snatches things, breaks things, yet when he's in one of his rages..the blame for whatever set him off is always put on a family member, sometimes even if they aren't present and had nothing to do with his outburst.  I would never even think of treating other people with such disrespect.  We think he needs to be put in a hospital because these outbursts are coming more and more often.  He did this tonight to our mother and I kept telling him to stop, but he wouldn't listen and would go so far as to follow her around just to scream the same things at her over and over again...of course because I tried to help, I became the next target. I wouldn't leave the house till he was gone and that fired him up even more.  He seems to go in like a fog after he does this, but I have a feeling he acts that way just as an excuse for the behavior. He says things that are so distorted and not at all the truth..the next day he doesn't act like he recalls what went on. Is this part of bipolar or is it something else?  He is 45, single and has very little responsibility, when he does something he regards as "helping" like taking mom to the doctor, it's always with attitude, complaining and concern about only what he needs to do or get done. We were not raised this way, so it is difficult to understand where it comes from.

intermittent rage, scaring my kids - - Jul 30th 2009

i have sudden bouts of intense anger about once evry one to two weeks. i don't physically do any damage, but the intense screaming i hurl at my children for some minor "wrong" they have done leaves me feeling like the worlds worst mother. worse still i am afraid that this is going to emotionally scar them. my regular doctor keeps blowimg me off when i bring up the subject of my emotions. need to know what this could be.

Hulk anyone? - HAK - Jun 11th 2009

I first have to admit that I am very prone to explosive fits of rage. I have broken hunereds of dollars worth of posessions and I too, have alienated most people in my life.

As a kid I used to read comic books a ton. I never really liked the Hulk, because he was just too simple. But now that I am an adult, I realize that in so many ways I am just like the Hulk. I have 2 sides. It doesn't take much for the pissed-off green dude to come out and start a path of destruction.

The important thing, I have learned, is to direct my rage inwardly. I destroy my own posessions, and I usually get angry at myself. I alienate most people I love and/or care about because I don't want them to see me like this, and I do not want to hurt them.

I have little doubt that I will die at a young age as a result of my rage. I am 25 right now, and already I get intense pains in my neck when I get "green." But I am starting to get whole picture. I have found Christ, and I don't fear death. In a lot of ways I look forward to it.

So...should I get drugs and "fix" my issues? Perhaps, but I am a type 1 diabetic, and drugs would probably cause complications with that, which would be a larger risk of death at an early age than my anger. Am I capable of throwing a chair across a room? Yeah, I work out to relieve my anger a lot of times, and at some point I probably will throw a chair. It will probably go through the wall and land on my car in the garage knowing my luck, too, haha.

What is important for people to realize is that, like the Hulk, all too often people with rage issues feel ostracized and "bannished." So if your uncle throws a chair give him a hug. We are people too, and we more likely than not, just want to have good things happen to us once in a while. If you can't love your own uncle, you need drugs and psychotherepy. ;-)

Editor's Note: You might want to look into an Anger Management class.  Information on Anger Management can be found in our topic center of that name. 

Scared Neighbor - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Apr 30th 2009

Dear Scared Neighbor,Judging from your description, this man has a lot more wrong with him that just anger. Anyway, diagnosis is not your problem. What to do about him is your problem. So, here we go:1. The woman who was threatened by him should have called the police. The same goes for all of the neighbors. Perhaps a meeting of neighbors where you plan a strategy is best. Do not judge the police. If there is a real threat or if someone has been assaulted, the police can act.2. If you know that child abuse is happening then you have an obligation to report it to child protection services in your state. They will come and investigate. I believe that reporters can how be anonymous but I am not sure.3. If he is shouting at a neighbor and being threatening you can call 911. They will come immediately. Believe me, if they are called enough times they will start to more than believe.4. All of you as neighbors can report him to the police as a public nuisance.5. Possibly, all of you may have a law suit against him.The worst way to handle a bully is to do nothing.Dr. Schwartz

Rage - - Apr 30th 2009

I usually have these impulses. Sometimes my parents get mad at me.Even if I can't control it.

My Neighbor - Scared Neighbor - Feb 2nd 2009

I have a neighbor that most definitely has serious anger issues. He verbally (and very loudly) abuses his children and has gotten into a scary confrontation with our neighbor. He charged at my female neighbor,got within an inch of her nose any was yelling and frothing at the mouth over a minor incident. The man is a bully and has no respect for women. This guy has serious mental health issues. He has absolutely no boundaries. He thinks nothing of walking through everyone in the neighborhoods property,as an example of how he and his family have been found swimming in the neighbors pool when they weren't home and he actually demanded that other  neighbors allow him and his entire family to swim in their pool! He even had the nerve to complain that one neighbor only let him swim in her pool 3 times. The guy is insane yet, looks perfectly normal. Those who have never had a run-in with this guy think that he is the nicest guy on earth. But,those of us who have seen how crazy he is are afraid of him. What should we do? We're really afraid of him. If we tell the police they'll think that he is perfectly normal and WE are the crazies!How do you deal with someone with anger and boundary issues in a healthy way?

please help - - Jan 2nd 2009
I often have these problems which result out of minor things, lost items, no service on my mobile phone. Should I do some thing about it by myself? Or should I try and get help some other way? I am only a young teenager so it's quite hard to find help. I fear it's getting quite serious, I have smashed a window before. Please Help. Thank you.

me too - - Dec 20th 2008

i have the same rage fits. i have it towards my partner who is over jealous and overly untrusting. what should i do?

please reply.. - yasir - Mar 25th 2008
the problem m facin is tht in rage i end up doin somethin which i would normally would not do....and hurt the person recievin it emotionally....i don wanna do it but it just ends up pullin me into it

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