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Anger Management and PTSD


For many people, getting angry can be uncomfortable. I know a woman who has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She struggles with anger management. She frequently has fits of rage. She might get angry at somebody who hasn’t done anything intentionally to hurt her, but her trauma is severe, so she often believes she is being targeted. She’s working on learning her triggers in counseling, and part of her treatment is anger management therapy.

Anger Management: What is it?

Rage and PTSD often go hand in hand. People who have traumatic experiences may have trouble coping with what happened to them, whether it was sexual assault, a sudden death, an abusive relationship, combat in war or something else. Anger management therapy is a form of treatment that teaches people to recognize when they’re getting feeling angry, what’s causing those feelings and how to deal with them. In this form of therapy, the therapist teaches clients coping techniques and shows them ways to navigate their feelings.

Recognizing triggers.

People who have PTSD may need to go to therapy so they can distinguish what their triggers are. No matter what, anger is a valid emotion, and it’s crucial to understand why you’re mad. You may not know at the moment, however, therapy can help you figure out what made you angry and work on those triggers so you can control your rage.

What are triggers?

Triggers are signals that make us react to stimuli emotionally. If you have been abused and your abuser called you “crazy,” being called that word by another person could trigger you. You could also be triggered if they used your mental illness against you. After feeling triggered, you may start crying, screaming, have a panic attack or act out in rage. Many people with PTSD have difficulty controlling rage. They often describe their episodes of anger as “seeing red.” When your anger feels out of control or you’re hurting yourself or others, it’s time to seek help, and that could be anger management therapy.

Anger is a natural trauma response.

Many trauma survivors report feeling angry, which is why it’s considered extremely common in people who have PTSD to have issues with rage. Anger is not always a “bad” thing. Anger can be a helpful emotion at times. When you’re feeling frustrated, getting mad helps you get that feeling out. Imagine the feeling when you punch a pillow after having a bad day, it releases that angry energy.

For people with PTSD, anger can become excessive because the person is using the emotion to defend themselves against a perceived threat. The expression “fight, flight or freeze,” applies to people who have traumatic experiences. In the case of anger, people with PTSD are in a “fight” mode. They’re angry and utilizing their rage to defend themselves. 

However, when anger is hurting a person, it’s likely time to seek help. You may be affecting important relationships with your friends or your romantic partner, and that’s a signal to find mental health treatment. If you find you become angry seemingly out of nowhere and you’re a survivor of trauma, it’s time to uncover what your triggers are and learn to manage them in therapy.

There’s hope!

You may be at the point with your rage that you’re convinced there’s no way to control it, but this isn’t true. You can learn the tools to manage anger properly. It’s not a deficit or weakness to seek professional help with a therapist or counselor. Whether you’re working with a local therapist or an online counselor, you can find someone who will support you in learning to manage your anger as a trauma survivor.

Getty image by RapidEy.