Anonymous asked: I haven't done a lot of research on this topic, but a while back I read some articles over anger problems and how the brain can be so used to reacting with anger that the person has to basically retrain their brain. I feel like the 'angry alcoholic' is too easy an excuse when it comes to characters with anger problems and I was wondering if you had any information.
Anger is a perfectly normal emotion; it only becomes a problem with a person struggles to manage it (usually when they end up hurting others or themselves).
Basically, when you’re angry, you get the same kind of adrenaline rush that prepares you for fight or flight. For some, the way they release that tension is in a physical way such as hitting something (or someone), lashing out or self-harming.
From my own observations of angry people, they can be aggressive and have anger issues without alcohol as an influencing factor. So you’re right to be dubious about the age-old ‘angry alcoholic’ stereotype (although alcohol/drug abuse does tend to aggravate things).
There are many other plausible theories as to what causes anger problems:
- Childhood Observation. If a child grows up witnessing their parent(s) lashing out in fits of anger, they will learn to view this behaviour as an acceptable means of relieving their own aggression.
- Suppression. Being raised in an environment where relieving anger is seen as unacceptable will only create an unhealthy mindset about anger in general. The bottled-up emotions will eventually break out, and the individual will be poorly prepared to cope with it if they do suffer an outburst.
- Chronic Insomnia. You’ll know yourself that after a poor night’s sleep, your emotional threshold is much thinner than normal. You’re quick to temper and (if you’re anything like me) easier to upset. Those with chronic conditions such as Insomnia may be more prone to aggression due to this.
- Abuse (and PTSD). Our bodies will do anything to aid in our survival; anger is a great energy boost, as the adrenaline rush gives you the strength to fight through whatever compromising situation you’re experiencing. Often, anger comes after the event (or abuse) and although anger is a normal response to a trauma, the individual may not be in the right mindset to properly control/deal with it due to a change in brain chemistry.
- Aggression as a Hereditary Trait. The Biological approach in Psychology suggests that aggression is inherited or instinctual, that it is a survival mechanism passed on through years of evolution. In the animal world, aggression is displayed to defend territory and to protect other members of the pack/herd etc. Therefore, aggression observed in children born of one or two aggressive biological parents, are thus predisposed to being aggressive themselves.
In my experience of aggressive people, they have had direct biological links to other aggressive family members, namely the parents. Even when the child has had little interaction with the aggressive parent, they have still grown up to experience anger issues and struggled to keep their temper at bay.
However, that’s not to say that all children who grow up in an environment where aggression is freely shown (or who have had at least one aggressive parent) will end up falling into the same patterns. It just may be more likely that they will. There is also a great chance that the child will learn to manage their anger with the right guidance and support, so it’s not always an endless cycle.
You can read more about anger issues in the following places:
- Anger, Mind (Mind is a mental health charity)
- NHS: How To Control Your Anger
- For Children & Young People: Anger Issues
- Genetics of Aggression
- The Biological and Emotional Causes of Aggression
Followers, Admins, feel free to add in your input if you want to expand on my answer.
Otherwise, I hope this helps at least a little bit, Anon. Best of luck with your research and writing…!