I am Ryan Fuller. I am a clinical psychologist. I have done anger research and I treat a lot of angry clients in New York City. I’ll talk to you a little bit about the top causes of anger. So oftentimes when we’re talking about the causes of anger, we refer to them as anger triggers. And frequently, triggers are the external events, usually other people that, in fact, precede an anger episode. Continue reading →
Frequently, when we talk about anger, we’re really talking about the emotional experience of an anger phenomenon. But with that, there are also certain action tendencies and behaviors that go along with it. Continue reading →
Anger is a negative feeling and when it comes in frequencies and intensities and durations that are in the normal range, it can be quite healthy. Unfortunately, when it becomes really intense or really frequent and it is paired with behaviors that are problematic that are aggressive or uncooperative, it can cause big problems and people can run into anger management issues. Continue reading →
Anger management is important year round. I haven’t seen evidence that there has been more aggression or anger outbursts this year because of a harsh winter. But there are good reasons to suspect that could be the case as our nerves become frayed.
Hot temperatures are frequently thought of as putting us at risk for violence. But there is a great deal of scientific evidence that any environmental factor that makes us uncomfortable can lead to aggression. Certainly bitter cold temperatures can do just that.
Anger is often thought to precede aggression, and many times it does. But most of us do not realize that other emotions put us at risk for aggression too. There is ample scientific evidence that any negative emotion, e.g., anxiety, guilt, loneliness, etc. make the likelihood of aggression more likely. So a difficult winter that may lead to less social contact or make us more nervous because of driving conditions could certainly put us at risk for becoming aggressive.
Another predictor of aggression is frustration. In the social science literature frustration occurs when a goal is being blocked or a desired outcome is prevented from occurring. Big snowfalls can lead to just that. People are stuck in their homes or can’t get their cars out their driveways and are prevented from completing all kinds of goals. And it is easy to see how those situations can also lead to more and more negative emotions, putting us at greater risk of becoming aggressive.
Frequently, when we talk about anger, we’re really talking about the emotional experience of an anger phenomenon. But with that, there are also certain action tendencies and behaviors that go along with it. The most obvious, of course, are sorts of aggressive anger. And really aggression is the behavior that frequently accompanies anger. And it usually has an intention to harm another individual. So this could be very direct, in the form of physical assault, it could be in the form of property damage or something like that. There are also forms that are even more direct and might even be relational. Sometimes people talk about passive anger or passive aggression and things of that nature, where I might be spreading rumors about someone at work, or simply saying negative things about them behind their back. Again, I might expect that that’s going to eventually do them harm but it’s more passive or indirect and it’s not a specific physical threat.
Why are so many people irate when they are driving?
Road rage is a serious problem in the United States. Property damage, serious injuries, and in some cases even death have occurred as a result of road rage incidents.
Given the severity of the consequences, it is a problem that deserves attention. People with anger problems who are at risk for committing acts of road rage can be effectively treated with anger management. A number of studies indicate that with scientifically supported anger management, anger and aggressive acts can be reduced often times with treatment lasting 16 weeks or less. Unfortunately many of these individuals only enroll in therapy after a road rage incident and a court mandates therapy.
Finding ways to encourage drivers to utilize these services perhaps by insurance rate reductions or other means is something that could be considered.
Road Rage Video on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer
Bitterness An Understudied Emotion with Physical Health Implications Via Biological Dysregulation
by NYBH Staff
Have you known a person who was so bitter that he never smiled? We generally say that person is “angry at the world.” Do you think it can make him physically sick?
Dr. Carsten Wrotsch is one of several psychologists at Concordia University who have examined how bitterness affects people, why it develops in some people but not in others, and how it could be avoided.
Anger and Accusation
The researchers found, first of all, that bitterness is most likely to stem from failure at something. Another finding was that anger and accusation usually accompany bitterness, indicating that it is different from regret, where any anger or blame is turned inward on oneself. The bitter person aims his anger, hostility, and blame at someone or something else. Whenever you fail at what you’re trying to accomplish, do you tend to blame yourself or others (e.g., teacher, spouse, boss, government)?
We all, every now and again, are likely to experience failure, as well as anger, regret, and even bitterness. And then, we go on with our lives, making another attempt to achieve something or choosing an alternate route or strategy. However, some individuals take on their anger and bitterness as a badge of honor, refusing to let it go or to move on themselves. Wrosch warns that, in this form, staying bitter is a health risk leading to “biological dysregulation” and physical disease. One expert has proposed that bitterness be recognized as a mental illness and categorized as post-traumatic embitterment disorder (PTED). What do you think?
Whether or not you feel bitterness is a medical condition, we would probably agree that the chronic cases need some type of therapeutic intervention. What would you propose? Psychotherapy? The researchers would agree but note that for a person to win the battle over long-term bitterness, he will have to be able to forgive—whether himself or others.
I want a new drug one that won’t spill one that don’t cost too much or come in a pill…
one that won’t make me sick one that won’t make me crash my car or make me feel three feet thick…
-Huey Lewis & The News . “I want a new drug.”
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) technique
Don’t we all Huey.
Anxiety and anger problems are both very common in therapy offices (Lachmund, 2005). Insomnia plagues us in this age of longer work hours, Red Bull, Blackberries, and decreased physical activity. But many pharmaceutical interventions for anger, anxiety, and insomnia come with devastating side effects.
For example, Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, etc.) are incredibly effective in the short-term for reducing physiological arousal. But the risk of addiction, paradoxical excitation, and depression, is cause for serious concern by consumers and prescribers alike.
So, the next time you or a client can’t calm down or go to sleep, could you try something that isn’t in the medicine cabinet?
What about shoving your face in a sink full of ice-cold water? Sound as soporific as warm milk? Maybe not, but sleep specialists know that cooler temperatures are typically a good idea in the bedroom. One reason vigorous exercise isn’t recommended hours prior to bedtime is due to the increase in body temperature. But, there may be more to a cold water face plunge than Huey Luis or most of us thought.
French Ducks & Ectoplasm
In 1879, a French physiologist, Paul Bert reported that he had observed a duck survive under water for approximately 20 minutes. Charles Richet, the man who later coined the term “ectoplasm”
and went on to win a Nobel Prize, was then one of his students. After hearing his mentor’s description, he went on to design an experiment to further clarify what had been observed, and established that ducks could hold their breaths longer underwater than above. He proposed that bradycardia was at least one mechanism responsible.
This was some of the earliest scientific work conducted on the diving reflex. The diving reflex can be triggered in reptiles, birds, and mammals (including humans). When the animal’s face gets wet, and the breath is held, oxygen is conserved by slowing the heart, peripheral vasoconstriction, and increasing (at least the ratio) blood supply to vital organs. Obvious evolutionary advantages of this reflex are clear. But what about a client who can’t sleep and wakes with nocturnal rumination?
Diving Reflex’s Practical Implications
Last year I heard Marsha Linehan and a colleague share a story of a physician audience member who introduced them to the concept of the diving reflex.
Many of their patients had used cold water on their faces to calm down. The diving reflex explained why these techniques had been working for their clients. Since learning of the reflex, they had become more confident in the strategy, nicknamed it a “non-pharmacological Benzo,” and may be including it in their upcoming version of the Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skills workbook. Tolerance and addiction aren’t side effects any clinician should expect from the “non-pharmacological Benzo,” but anyone planning to use it needs to consult his/her physician first (heart problems may be at least one contraindication).
But for those with medical clearance, here are the steps:
Non-pharmacological Benzo Strategy
Pour water in an appropriate sized bowl
Place ice cubes in the water
Inhale and exhale 3 times
Plunge your face into the cold water, hold your breath for as long as you can, without inducing a panic response
Pull your head up
Any approximation of the exercise can be experimented with. If your coworkers might view you as odd for shoving your face into an ice bucket before a board meeting, even holding a cold soda can to your forehead might have some benefit. But the ideal conditions appear to be about 38 degree Fahrenheit water, bending forward as if diving, and bringing the water up to the temple line. With those recommendations in mind, there may be great variation.
So with medical clearance, experimenting with the parameters is probably a good idea to find what is most effective for you. There appears to be some anecdotal evidence that improvements in the efficacy of the technique may occur with practice according to Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) practitioners. Even more interesting, classical conditioning may even aid in the process as the technique becomes ritualized. So that bradycardia may even occur before your face hits the water.
If you or your clients have already used this or a similar technique, or if you try it, we would love to hear how it goes. Especially if you find ways to make it more effective- let us know your experience.
Chris Brown was interviewed about his new album, F.A.M.E. (Forgiving All My Enemies) on Good Morning America yesterday.
Forgiveness is a difficult concept for individuals, clinicians, and even scientists (although some of the physiological studies on forgiveness are fascinating). Reports indicate that there was a significant anger outburst following a line of questions by Robin Roberts about the domestic violence case involving Rihanna from a few years ago.
Unlike a mood disorder like major depression, where sufferers often experience episodes that may pass (although they may reoccur later), anger disorders can be chronic if left untreated. Anger is an emotion that can be incredibly adaptive given the right set of conditions. I often reference Mothers Against Drunk Driving (M.A.D.D.) as an example of a prosocial use of anger to help produce considerable positive changes in society. And it is clear that anger can provide the energy and action tendencies that helped our ancestors survive when they were defending themselves against a competitor. And many times, anger will go away on its own when it isn’t avoided or left unchecked. But, for those of us who really struggle- anger experiences, grudges, rumination, etc. can go on for decades.
In today’s modern society anger is still incredibly common, which is what makes it particularly difficult to understand. If we all experience it, unlike major depression, how can it be that it is abnormal? And that is just it, anger isn’t abnormal. But, for those of us who aren’t able to fully experience and tolerate it without engaging in self-destructive (or aggressive) acts to dissipate it, it can be associated with all kinds of detrimental outcomes including violence, heart attacks, drug abuse, GI problems, bad relationships, etc.
Fortunately, similar to major depression, there is scientific evidence that anger problems can be successfully treated. There are four techniques that have support, and I believe a few more methods will likely demonstrate effectiveness soon.
2)Cognitive Restructuring (questions remain about mechanisms)
These have all shown significant treatment success. So, there is reason to believe any of us, or our loved ones can find some help, if anger has become a problem. Unfortunately, many methods still used by clinicians may even make things worse, so it is always important to ask a therapist what techniques they are using and what scientific evidence supports that approach.
Above is a quick video link to an interview The Daily conducted yesterday about the specific incident, but it isn’t intended to reference too many specifics, because those are largely unknown. Rather it is intended to address general issues regarding anger management, and how celebrities may have to deal with things a little differently (This was an interesting line of questions by the journalist that hasn’t been asked before). But, it is clear that in this day and age, celebrities often focus our attention on serious societal issues. Anger management from a cognitive behavioral therapist can be scheduled by contacting a specialist at New York Behavioral Health.
Road rage erupts without anger management skills. John Berman of ABC News interviewed clinical psychologist, Dr. J. Ryan Fuller, about how anger and aggression can arise while driving and parking, and how the nervous system and evolutionary psychology may explain particular risk factors for road rage and other forms of violence.
New York City resident, Mr. Oscar Fuller, faces seven years in prison after punching a woman over a parking space. Typically violence related to automobiles is known as road rage and stems from driving behaviors.
This recent tragedy erupted after a woman was standing in a parking space and saving it for her boyfriend. This resulted in Oscar Fuller punching her and she is now in a coma.
Anger Management Therapy to Prevent Murder and Suicide
We may really be taking the concept of anger management too lightly—as merely a subject for movies or, at worst, a class that aggressive drivers are required to attend. But anger can have a really dark side, and data that have just been released by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention illustrate the consequences of anger, when it is not addressed. The main finding of this first systematic, in-depth study of murder and suicide in our society is that people’s personal conflicts make up the chief factor leading to these deaths. It’s not all about random acts of violence. What the CDC found was that interpersonal and relationship problems, especially between intimate partners or family members—usually complicated by mental heath conditions and or substance use problems—were behind many of the deaths. And the bad news is that these findings seem to reflect trends in our society.
Anger Management Skills as Violence Prevention
The study suggests that perhaps we should be putting a lot more effort into providing people the knowledge and skills to handle the personal conflicts in their lives, so that anger doesn’t continue to build and then finally explode into violence with horrific results.