how anger is linked to ptsd

Anger In PTSD: Reasons And How To Manage It?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – a term known widely, but its cruel nature hardly understood – is a mental condition that develops in people after they have been a witness or a victim of a dangerous or threatening situation. Research suggests that 70% of the people in America have at some point in their lives, experienced a traumatic event and 8% of people suffer from PTSD.

PTSD and anger are closely related and people who suffer from this condition are likely to experience extreme rage, which may sometimes be expressed in the form of an outburst. Feelings of anger usually stem from betrayal, danger and unfair treatment. In PTSD, you see the most trivial of situations as threatening, and out of your instinct to survive, you react with aggression and anger.

Anger can be constructive if channeled positively, but if not controlled, it can be harmful to your mental and physical health, as well as your relationships. It must be kept in mind that extreme anger does not always have to be expressed aloud. Some people suppress their anger and try to distract themselves, but it keeps eroding their well-being. Anger management for victims of PTSD is therefore extremely important.

How Can Anger After Trauma be a Problem?

Unresolved trauma – as in the case of PTSD – and anger can be damaging to the well-being of an individual as they take over several aspects of their life. Constantly feeling angry and irritable for someone suffering from PTSD can result in other mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. If the person’s trauma revolves around feelings of guilt, then anger may also lead them to consider taking their own life.

Anger also impacts physical health. For example, extreme tension and fury can lead to high blood pressure which can cause further complications related to the heart. Moreover, anger takes a toll on your body and makes you feel weak and fatigued.

Furthermore, anger outbursts in PTSD can damage your relationships with the people around you. You may feel triggered and express yourself by raging on your children or partner, for example, when they haven’t done anything wrong, this will make them insecure around you. Even if you don’t express your anger out loud, suppressing your emotions and staying quiet about how you feel will distance your loved ones from you.

3 Key Factors of Post-traumatic Anger

Post-traumatic anger is characterized by three key factors namely, arousal, behaviors, and thoughts and beliefs.

1 – Arousal

When a person feels angry, it doesn’t just affect their mind. In fact, their body reacts accordingly and prepares itself to survive. The heart, brain and muscles are warned of perceived danger and the body becomes tense.

For someone suffering from PTSD, they are more sensitive to their surroundings and in situations that they find threatening, they experience high levels of arousal. This, combined with the fact that they see even the smallest situations as dangerous, makes them persistently tense. As such, they are easily triggered to experience anger.

In some cases, victims of PTSD may try to deal with their arousal by drinking, or smoking to help them calm down. This is dangerous for their health and is not a positive way for them to channel their negative energy.

2 – Behavior

For people who experience post-traumatic anger, their behavior is dominated by aggression. Their brain tells them that they need to protect themselves and their primary instinct is survival. As such, they act impulsively and adopt toxic traits such as complaining, backstabbing and self-harm.

A problem that they face is that they are unable to use positive responses to their anger, which contributes to their worsening mental and physical health and puts their relationships at risk.

3 – Thoughts and Beliefs

The traumatic experiences of those people who suffer from PTSD shape their thoughts and beliefs. They start seeing everything around them as a threat and feel the need to act accordingly. Oftentimes their anger may be based on a belief ingrained into them in the past, but no longer relevant in the present.

For example, a soldier at war is conditioned over time to believe that not following the orders will lead to catastrophic consequences like death. As such, he may come back home and get angry at his partner or children if they go against anything he says because he is still stuck in that trauma and doesn’t realize that his extreme reaction is unnecessary.

Moreover, negative affirmations make up a considerable part of the thoughts and beliefs that characterize post-traumatic anger. People undergoing PTSD feel anger because they keep telling themselves things like “I’m not safe”, “I need to protect myself”, and “I can’t trust the people around me”. They see every situation as survival, and hence experience anger in dealing with the smallest of situations.

5 Techniques To Manage Anger Problems

Anger during PTSD can be a danger to the mental and physical health of the person experiencing it. Moreover, it can also negatively impact their relationships with the people around them such as their partner, children, parents, friends, and coworkers. Therefore, it is necessary to take prompt action to ensure the well-being of individuals.

Here are some ways of dealing with PTSD anger:

1 – Deep Breathing

Deep breathing is one of the most effective ways to calm yourself down in a moment of anger. It increases oxygen flow to your brain and relaxes your nerves, allowing your mind to clear and enabling you to think more logically. You can use any one of the breathing techniques that you know, and once you feel calm, then make your decisions.

One of the breathing techniques you can follow is to step away from the situation, close your eyes and inhale deeply.  Imagine yourself smelling a flower. Hold your breath for a few moments, and then slowly exhale. This time, imagine that you are blowing out a candle. After a few deep breaths, you will realize that you feel much calmer.

2 – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one the most effective methods of psychotherapy and plays an important role in helping deal with post traumatic anger by addressing all three factors namely, arousal, behavior, and thoughts and beliefs.

In CBT, your therapist hears you out on your traumatic experiences and helps you understand yourself better. You gain better knowledge of what your triggers are, how you tend to react to them, and how your negative responses can be damaging to your wellbeing. They then give you tips on how to overcome your anger based on your specific situation.

For post-traumatic anger, CBT usually recommends physical exercise and self-hypnosis for arousal, better communication and journaling for behavior, and positive affirmations for thoughts and beliefs.

3 – Healthy Lifestyle

Adopting a healthier lifestyle can be a helpful tool in helping you overcome post traumatic anger. Anger is a form of negative energy that is built up inside of you, so your goal then must be to counter it with positive energy.

There are many changes that you can bring about in your life to achieve this goal. For starters, you can opt for a healthier diet and get sufficient sleep. Both of these are essential to our lives, but the ones we tend to ignore the most. Nutritious food and proper sleep will revitalize your body, help your mind recover and give you the positivity that you need to go about your day.

You must also involve yourself in some sort of physical exercise or meditation. This is essential for your body because it releases your happy hormones and helps you relax, thereby countering your anger. You must also try to spend quality time with your loved ones and communicate with them. This will allow them to come closer to you instead of feeling insecure about their safety around you.

4 – Medication

You must try and use natural remedies like anger management lessons and psychotherapy for dealing with post-traumatic anger, but in case you feel like you are still unable to control yourself, you can refer to your doctor or psychiatrist for medical support.

Medications can be risky in the sense that they can cause further complications, but if your doctor feels like they are appropriate for you, they will prescribe you medicines like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).

These help your nerves relax and allow you to overcome your irritability, anger, and aggressive instincts.

5 – Online Anger Management Lessons

If you feel like your post-traumatic anger is persistent and is damaging your health and relationships, feel free to reach out for help. One of the most effective ways to do this is by enrolling in online anger management classes. These classes are designed especially to help you fight your rage and give you useful tips to keep yourself in check.

The courses that are available vary from a duration of 4 hours to 52 hours and you can choose to enroll in any one depending on the amount of help and support you feel like you need.

Conclusion

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe mental condition that can develop after one or multiple experiences of danger. To answer the question of whether PTSD can cause anger, PTSD is closely linked with anger in the sense that it makes a person think of every situation as threatening, and out of their need to survive, they react with anger and aggression. Anger is a symptom of PTSD and can help you recognize that you have unresolved trauma.

Three key factors of post traumatic anger include arousal, behavior, thoughts, and beliefs, and if not kept in check, they can harm a person’s wellbeing. It is important, therefore, to understand how anger is related to PTSD and learn techniques to control it. The most effective ways of keeping post-traumatic anger in check include CBT, adopting a healthier lifestyle, and online anger management classes.

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