When choosing a treatment for an anger disorder it is important to remember that everyone’s mind is different and one glove will not fit all.
Perhaps the most important step to take is to confirm whether you truly suffer from any disorder at all. You must then consult a very qualified physician or psychiatrist on what strategy will suite you best.
Cautionary note, should your psychiatrist start off a conversation from psychotropic medication it is our advice to run, not walk.
It is quite possible that given your present condition you may need certain drugs to stabilize your mind, but we truly believe there is no good reason whatsoever not try the therapies listed below first. Any psychiatrist or therapist who recommends drugs first is simply competent and is only serving the agenda of pharmaceutical companies.
Your next step should be determining what should be the target of therapy: ruminative thoughts, mental distortions, specific behavior, physical arousal, etc. And finally which approach is most likely to be effective given your personality.
Howard Kassinove, Ph.D. from Hofstra University recommends looking into the following treatment options for anger disorders:
Also referred to as CBT – Cognitive Behavior Therapy seeks to assist a person to overcome difficulties by identifying and changing dysfunctional patterns of reasoning, behavior, and emotional response. Credited to psychiatrist Aaron Beck (1976), CBT involves helping a person to develop awareness of one’s limiting beliefs, identifying distorted thinking, and changing the way one relates to others.
Dr. Beck proposed that during upsetting events people tend to react with a stream of unplanned, knee jerk thoughts or actions. Some of these thoughts are deemed appropriate to the situation at hand but some are evidently very illogical, distorted and overblown.
In CBT, a patient builds a bridge of trust with a therapist who further guides the patient through a complicated mental landscape in evaluating one’s thinking, reasoning and perception, identifying and further replacing the mental distortions of various situations in daily life. If successful, one rewires to see the world through a different lens and is able to function better in daily life.
2. Self-Instructional Training
Self-Instructional Training (SIT), is a form of CBT which examines how one’s anger-related verbal statements influences the subject’s behavior. This form of therapy aims to provide a person control over their behavior through guided self talk that gradually becomes covert and self generated.
Most quick to anger individuals posses a cognitive deficits in problem solving or verbal mediation contributing to the many problems at hand. With CBT one learns to notice and to re-write one’s internal dialogue about oneself further giving rise to a more balanced appraisal of oneself in difficult situations.
3. Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy
Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) – holds a fundamental premise that a human, does not merely get upset by an unfortunate adversity per se, but also through how he constructs his views of reality through language, beliefs, meanings and philosophies about the world, himself and others.
Developed by Albert Ellis in 1950, REBT is based on the so called A-B-C model, where emotional disturbance – Point C, is the result of irrational thinking at Point B about external events in Point A, but NOT the events themselves. In other words, most angry people blame external events for their inner turmoil, but do not realize that it is their illogical thinking and skewed appraisal of (otherwise neutral) events that leads to inner conflict and not the other way around.
Through REBT, one learns to to understand his role in every situation, notice and evaluate philosophical, illogical, unrealistic and self-defeating interpretations and assumptions. Afterwards one begins to D, dispute, refute, challenge and question those assumptions and distinguish them from unhealthy constructs. As a result of healthy debate with a therapist a person builds a more realistic and self-helping constructs that further guide his behavior to a healthier emotional functioning.
Relaxation Based Therapies
It doesn’t take a scientist to notice that angry behavior is often accompanied by high levels of stress and physiological arousal. Naturally, it is not surprising that simple relaxation techniques can be very effective of reducing any symptoms of anger and anxiety disorders.
Most of these therapies teach clients to reduce physiological arousal such as muscle tension, heart rate, and hyperventilation accompanied by the negative emotions. The goal is to employ these relaxation techniques as early as possible during the onset of an emotional event so that the corresponding behavior doesn’t spiral out of control.
A variety of techniques that serve as part of the therapy include: progressive muscle relaxation, guided self talk or imagery, autogenic training, biofeedback, and of course various forms of meditation. One of the easiest and very effective techniques to master is Anger Mentor’s BREATHE Method, where one learns how to Breathe, Reverse, Explore, Apply, Turn, Humor, and Enjoy elements.
Originally credited to South African psychiatrist Wolpe, systematic desensitization therapy has a simple premise – experience small amounts of anger and frustration in a controlled environment and learn to cope with it. Next, gradually turn up the dial on anger arousing scenarios and learn to deal with each and every single one of them.
The way this would play out is when you sit with a qualified therapist and develop a list of anger invoking situations in your life. These would be organized in a way from the smallest reaction like standing in line with an elderly lady in front of you paying with the cashier’s check to a public criticism or humiliation by your boss.
As you imagine each scenario (starting with the least irritating one) you’d learn to take a step back and evaluate the situation prior to reacting to it in a habitual way. You would also learn a relaxation technique (such as progressive muscle relaxation) to put you back in a more relaxed state of mind to cope with the problem at hand. You’d practice applying these techniques with every scenario on your list multiple times till you get in a habit of reacting to stress in a more functional way. Once the technique is learned, you could effectively do this by yourself at home.
Both, cognitive as well as relaxation therapies have been around for a few decades and have their place in managing various mental maladies. The key is to consult with a qualified professional which option will suit you best and give it a try.