By Jose Pujalte Jr.
“When angry, count four; when very angry, swear.” — Mark Twain (1835-1910), US author, “Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar”ch. 10, (1894).
A video clip that once went viral showed a congressman’s son’s road rage inflicted upon a jeepney driver. Netizens were evenly split on who to blame for the fracas. Private motorists have no love lost for jeepney drivers who generally, on the road, are rectal portals. Others argue that some children of the high and mighty are no different. But whatever rage is exteriorized today is tomorrow’s popular clip on YouTube. Now is there kind of anger that knows no bounds? It has the rage potential to damage property, hurt others or even kill.
Emotional health. A familydoctor.org article on emotional health spells out what IS normal. “People who are emotionally healthy are in control of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. They feel good about themselves and have good relationships. They can keep problems in perspective.” I don’t think I can improve on this. It’s the benchmark from which we can compare a mental illness called by psychiatrists as “intermittent explosive disorder.” It was reported by the US National Institutes of Health that up to 7.3% or 16 million Americans are affected. I can imagine that in our culture of the juramentado and the amok, we have figures in the millions as well.
Anger can be good. Let’s not forget that we are biologically hard-wired to get angry. Anger is an instinct for self-preservation. Socially, anger can be a spur to change or improvement in our lives and in the environment. Anger only becomes bad when it is uncontrollable and when it kicks in at the slightest of irritations or frustrations. We all know the classic drama scene of the old man in a rage one minute then clutching his chest the next. The camera focuses on his grimacing face and there goes another heart attack. Anger can be bad for the health too.
Gauge your anger level. A MayoClinic.com feature lists several descriptions of anger. Please check all that apply to you:
- Angry —
- Bitter —
- Rebellious —
- Spiteful —
- Deceived —
- Annoyed —
- Furious —
- Resentful —
- Bad-tempered —
- Ready to fight —
- Yelling —
- Frustrated —
- Disappointed —
The more checks you put, the higher your anger level. It’s subjective of course but there is always a problem in putting emotions into words, anger included.
Signs and symptoms. Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) is characterized by violent behavior for about 20 to 30 minutes separated by weeks or months of non-aggression. Aggressive episodes are preceded or accompanied by tingling, tremor, palpitations, chest tightness, head pressure, or hearing an echo. IED is more likely to happen in families where verbal and physical abuse occurs. Other health problems such as mood and anxiety disorders, even eating disorders, can co-exist with IED. Prone to explosive anger are individuals with narcissistic, obsessive, paranoid, or schizoid traits.
Screening and diagnosis. The mental health professional applies the following criteria for an IED diagnosis:
- Multiple incidents in which the person fails to resist aggressive impulses resulting in deliberate destruction of property or assault of another person.
- Degree of aggressiveness is completely out of proportion with the precipitating event.
- Aggressive episodes NOT due to the effects of a drug, general medical condition, or another mental disorder.
Treatment. Control of explosive behavior is through the regulated use of anti-convulsants, anti-anxiety agents, mood regulators (lithium), and of course, anti-depressants. There are also opportunities for individual and group counseling as well as meditation and relaxation techniques.
In the end, there’s just one question to ask: “What are you so angry about?” The vernacular sounds so much better: “Anong problema mo?” The quick answer is “I’m out of work and I have bills to pay.” But let’s say this is the soluble part. It’s the anger that comes from nowhere and doesn’t go anywhere that’s harder to deal with.
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