We have talked a lot about stress as a cause of anger. We have also discussed how anger can arise as a response to other emotions such as frustration, hurt, or fear. Anger can of course come from a many different places. This section will explore anger as it relates to depression, trauma and dependency on substances.
Often we associate depression with a withdrawn state of being. It is a disruption of emotional health that can be caused by both external and internal factors. When someone is depressed, their low-feelings can often turn into agitation and unhealthy expressions of anger.
We have discussed many triggers related to anger, such as the impact of negative thinking, negative self talk, unmet needs, and miscommunication. Depression commonly saps away motivation and needs go unmet. Negative thinking often controls the mind when struggling with depression and objective communication can be difficult.
When trauma occurs, the brain sends out the fight, flight or freeze stress signals we mentioned in the previous section. Often, these signals become the place where the trauma sufferer can become chronically stuck. Because of the link between stress and anger, we know that a connection between trauma and anger is often at play as well.
Trauma that has affected you on a more personal level, such as physical, sexual or emotional abuse, may trigger feelings of distrust and fear. Your anger then may set in when you are faced with a situation where your trust has been betrayed or you feel unsafe.
Those who have not healed from their trauma may also avoid quiet activities that may allow painful memories or thoughts to arise. They may choose to keep their minds busy in order to avoid feeling painful emotions. This could lead to an avoidance of the very relaxation activities we discussed in earlier sections that can reduce stress and therefore anger.
Like with stress and anger, those very relaxation exercises that someone struggling with unresolved trauma may be avoiding are a huge piece of healing their trauma.
It is fairly easy to use substances to decrease stress and anger. Many people in this culture rely on marijuana and alcohol as a means to decrease stress. Some depend on more mind-altering substances.
These mind-altering substances are just that however. When your mind is no longer clear, you cannot maintain awareness of yourself, others, or the situation. The substances may give you a false sense of control, sabotaging practiced healthy expressions and ways of coping.
Substances can also complicate communication and perception. You may find yourself in a spiral of negative self-talk, feeling mindless and incapable of accurately perceiving reality. Your self awareness will be limited, as you are no longer fully in the moment and able to consciously access your experience.
Lastly, frequent substance use can affect the production of and the effectiveness of the neurotransmitters that help us regulate mood, allow us to feel content, calm or happy. They also can affect our sleep and appetite. Neurotransmitters are what our brain uses to communicate with itself and the body. Medications used to treat depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders work with neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. Proper functioning of neurotransmitters in the brain is not only important to anger management but also to your overall health, performance, and ability to feel love and happiness.
If you struggle in any of these areas you will want to make a plan to manage and or heal these parts of your life that need attention. Talk therapy, art therapy and somatic counseling can greatly help when struggling to manage these things.
If you find yourself looking to substances as a source of relief from stress and anger, take time to assess why you think you do this. Did you see this as a coping mechanism growing up? Are you using it to avoid certain feelings or thoughts? Write a list of pros and cons of using substances to avoid or take away your troubles. Now write a list of pros and cons of reducing your stress in another way, such as practicing deep breathing or exercise. Which one looks more appealing?