Did you know one third of adults say they feel angry almost every day and are worried they are suffering from one of the anger disorders? Three-quarters of us feel irritated (which is, after all, a feeling of mild angry) several times each week. Typically, it is said that anger is a “normal” emotional state which everyone experiences and which, in itself, is not evidence that there’s anything wrong with you. This emotional state is simply an automatic response to the experience of believing that you’ve been mistreated, wronged, offended or unfairly denied. No-one goes through life without actually being on the receiving end of such treatment, and everyone is capable of occasionally feeling they’ve been treated badly even if they really haven’t.
It’s when anger exceeds certain boundaries that people start talking about anger disorders. There are usually signs that the feelings you’re experiencing might have gone beyond “normal” anger and become something that might need some attention.
Signs of Anger Disorder:
• Anger that’s out of proportion to the situation. If you find yourself extremely angry about something that’s a relatively common or not particularly serious occurrence, you might have an anger-related disorder.
• Anger that’s unusually persistent. If you’re angry most of the time, or you are angry regularly about a particular event or circumstance for weeks or months, that can be a sign of an anger-related disorder.
• Anger that’s frequent and leads to serious life problems. If your anger tends to land you in situations where you’re in trouble with the law, experiencing problems with relationships or employment, harming yourself or others or causing property damage, or caught up in physical confrontations with others it might make sense to seek professional consultation.
• Anger that’s unusually intense. If you find yourself completely enraged, unable to think clearly, engaging in dangerous, violent or illegal behavior or feel yourself to be out of control, your anger might be outside the range of normal feelings.
Mental health professionals divide the situations of people whose problems with anger exceed normal bounds into a number of different diagnoses. There are some disorders which are primarily focused on feelings of anger, while there are other conditions which are not primarily about anger but where problematic angry feelings are often or always also going on.
Recognized Anger Disorders and Related Conditions:
Here are some official diagnoses of anger-related disorders as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV):
• Intermittent Explosive Disorder. Characterized by extreme expressions of anger, often to the point of violence, that are disproportionate to the situation at hand.
• Adjustment Disorder with Disturbance of Conduct. This disorder is marked by responses to stress that infringe upon the rights of others or involve noncompliance with societal norms, in such areas as truancy, fighting, vandalism, reckless driving, or disregard for legal responsibilities.
• Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Diagnosed in children, this is an ongoing pattern of anger-guided disobedience, and hostile, defiant behavior toward authority figures, often accompanied by very angry or stubborn feelings, which are beyond the bounds of normal childhood behavior.
• Conduct Disorder. Also diagnosed in children, as well as adolescents, this disorder is characterized by a repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior in which the basic rights of others or major age-appropriate norms are violated.
And there’s a newly described disorder, which some researchers are hoping will be included in the new edition of the DSM, called Post-Traumatic Embitterment Disorder. In this disorder a person will experience, in the aftermath of a traumatic event (sometimes life-threatening or horrific, and at other times extremely stressful without being life-threatening), a cauldron of seething bitterness and resentment which builds up on a daily basis over a long period of time. These feelings cause great impairment in most areas of life.
Some other anger disorders which are marked by strong feelings but are not strictly related to anger also include: Psychotic Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Paranoid Personality Disorder,
Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.