We all have known people who “fly off the handle” at the smallest thing or from no provocation. These are people who seem to carry a ticking alarm inside their daily lives; the trigger might be a look, a bump, a slight raise of the voice, however small – the triggers are constant. The news is full of stories about such people who have “gone postal, ” or taken their anger to deadly extremes. These news stories are the tip of a giant iceberg. The damage done by out of control anger is pervasive, battered spouses, abused children, intimidated workers and more broadly, a society impacted by the rippling disharmony of such people. This is not an isolated or small problem. A study by the National Institute of Health found that the incidence of “inappropriate, intense, or poorly controlled anger in the U.S. population was 7.8%” – almost one in every twelve Americans. This is a staggering statistic, represented more in the criminal datasets than in the mental health treatment realm.
Inappropriate expression of anger has roots in both nature and nurture. It is highly correlated with psychiatric disorders including bipolar disorder, psychotic disorder, and personality disorders. It is likely to have been the result of negative events in both childhood and adult life, and possibly negative parenting. In fact, high levels of anger and its expression and aggression, are seen in people seeking mental health treatment for conditions ranging from depression, anxiety, PTSD and various psychotic conditions. Age is a significant factor in violent, acting out behavior, with younger people more likely to be both perpetrators and victims. A national study found that 1% of the population accounted for 63% of all convictions for violent offenses. By gender, males commit 90% of all violent offenses, and most of these are young men with drug use being an aggravating factor. Violence is often the result of personality disorder, mental illness, or emotional damage with PTSD. Finally, the most powerful predictor in aggressive violent behavior is previous criminal activity. The profile is so clear and compelling that we can often identify the 1% of the population who will commit 63% of the violent crimes.
Our reaction as a society is to do little or nothing to intervene and treat the conditions which result in violence. Once their outburst has reached a significant level, the individual becomes part of the justice system. Our jails and prisons are filled with people who are violent offenders, whose impulses to act out however will not be modified by being locked up. A study shows that 83% of offenders will reoffend within nine years. Most of these people fit the profile of young men, from problematic backgrounds, having difficult lives, and suffering from various types of mental illness. With many more people in prison in the US than any other country, there is a major expense on society that might have better uses.
There are programs which make a difference by intervening BEFORE aggressive actions lead to such negative consequences. Families, schools, youth programs and many other points of contact can identify “at risk” young people. A referral to a program such as Centrec Care which brings a multi-pronged approach to behavioral change could be key. There are a variety of therapeutic techniques – an educational process during which students learn very basic anger recognition and management skills, these classes attempt to remind people of their personal responsibility while providing strategies to assist in avoiding having the emotion of anger in the first place. Basic self care (adequate sleep, exercise, and avoidance of drugs and alcohol) together with stress reduction help reduce the number and scale of anger episodes. It diagnoses and treats the forms of personality issues which place people at high risk and develops treatment programs to implement psychotherapeutic effects. Redirecting lives places clients on a path to a better life for them and for all with whom they come into contact.