8 Tips For Managing PTSD And Anger
By: Stephanie Kirby
Updated August 28, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn
Content/Trigger Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include sexual assault & violence which could potentially be triggering.
Society as a whole struggles to understand PTSD. It seems to never enter the conversation until there is bad news to report. It might be that someone struggling with PTSD has hurt someone in their family like a child or spouse, or that they have hurt themselves, even committing suicide. The more educated people can become on things like PTSD & anger, the better we will be able to help and support those that are suffering.
If you are suffering from PTSD, know that there are treatments available that can help you regain control.
What Is PTSD?
PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In the early 1900's, this was a disorder that people more commonly called "shell shock". While most people today associate it with soldiers coming back from war, people can experience PTSD for all different kinds of reasons. It is the effects caused by trauma. That could be from war, a car accident, rape, a natural disaster, or tragically losing a loved one.
The disorder is a lot more common than you might think. According to the American Psychiatric Association, "an estimated one in 11 people will be diagnosed PTSD in their lifetime." In order to be diagnosed with PTSD, the APA explains that the traumatic event does not have to be something that you experience first-hand. For example, you could suffer from it if you find out that a loved one was killed in a traumatic way.
What Are The Symptoms Of PTSD?
PTSD doesn't look the same in every person that is diagnosed. Some people experience symptoms quickly after experiencing a traumatic event. But for others, symptoms might not begin to show for years after the event has occurred. These symptoms can be split up into four different categories:
- Intrusive memories
- Negative changes in thinking and mood
- Changes in physical and emotional reactions
The intensity of the symptoms that you experience can increase and decrease. And, there may be certain things that cause your symptoms to intensify, such as a car backfiring triggering symptoms for someone that was involved in a traumatic event with the sound of guns or explosions.
One symptom that can be a common response to a survivor's traumatic event is anger.
PTSD & Anger
Anger is a natural response to many traumatic events. If you or someone you love was harmed in any way it can bring an onset of many difficult emotions. Your natural reaction might be anger, which helps you to deal with the initial response to the situation. This is normal for people in many situations, however. When you have PTSD, the anger doesn't go away as it does for other people.
That means that you have anger lying just below the surface, ready to come out at the slightest provocation. Your family and friends might notice that you have a short temper and try to point it out to you. But it can be difficult to recognize in yourself because it always feels like there is something that is causing you to become angry. This can become a big problem if your reactions are too intense for the situation calls for.
Anger from PTSD can also cause problems in your relationships. If you are constantly experiencing angry outbursts you can make it difficult for people to be around you. They may be frightened of what kind of response you will have if they accidentally upset you, and it's easy for your anger to get out of control without you realizing that it's happening.
Managing PTSD & Anger
If you suffer from PTSD & anger, you can learn to manage your symptoms. Here are some tips to help you.
- Learn To Recognize Your Anger
There are different types of anger that you could be experiencing. If you suffer from PTSD, it's important to learn how to identify your anger. Constructive anger is different than deconstructive anger. Constructive anger is something that you are able to control and helps you to control the situation with a healthy response. It's a healthy form of anger.
Deconstructive anger, on the other hand, is not healthy. This is when you don't know how to handle your anger properly. It can cause you to overreact to situations, be harsh with your loved ones, or held inside causing you to turn to things like substance abuse or self-harm.
When you can recognize your anger, you can begin to address it. This will help you to identify if you are having healthy anger that you are able to control and respond to in a healthy way or unhealthy anger that you need to learn how to address.
- Get A Psychiatric Service Dog
Service dogs aren't just for people that have physical disabilities. There are psychiatric service dogs which are trained to help people that are struggling with mental health challenges. For example, a dog that's trained for someone with PTSD can be trained to create a barrier between their owner and others, go around corners first to check for people, and sense when their owner is having a nightmare and wake them up. Dogs can be trained to sense anxiety levels and to remind people to take their medication.
Psychiatric service dogs are different than therapy dogs. They are specifically trained for the individual they will be working with and they are protected under federal law and are able to enter any public location with their owner. Therapy dogs, or emotional support dogs, on the other hand, are not protected. Studies have found that service dogs can be very effective in reducing symptoms from PTSD.
- Remove Yourself From The Situation
There is nothing wrong with taking a timeout when you need to. This is something that parents do with their children to help them calm down, and it's just as effective for adults. When you remove yourself from a situation, it can help you to calm down. Then you are more likely to think clearly.
If you feel that your anger is starting to build, excuse yourself and step away from the situation. Then, you can use another strategy or tactic to help dissolve your anger. It is sometimes helpful to discuss a "code word" or phrase with your family ahead of time, so that if you are feeling triggered, you can discreetly let them know that you need to leave.
- Practice Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation is something that you can practice on your own, use from an app, or learn from an experienced therapist. The practice of mindfulness meditation helps you to become more aware of your feelings while not indulging in them. It allows you to explore the feelings you are having without judging them. This allows you to calm yourself within the moment.
It also teaches you how to control your emotions and your thoughts. You can learn how to purposefully think about things that will help you to calm both your physical and emotional response to anger.
- Make Exercise Part Of Your Regular Routine
Physical activity is good for both your mental and physical health. If you deal with anger and stress, exercise can help you to find a positive way to release some of your pent up anger. Physical activity helps you to release energy and can give you something positive to focus your attention on. Finding an activity to participate in on a regular basis can help you to have something that will distract you from thoughts, fears, or memories that can cause you to experience negative emotions.
- Get Enough Sleep Each Night
When you're operating on little sleep it can be difficult to keep control of emotions such as anger. If you are struggling with losing your patience, it can help to just make sure that you're getting enough rest every night. Adults should be getting between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. Operating on too little sleep can make situations harder to deal with and emotions more difficult to control.
- Track Your Symptoms
Keeping a journal or tracking your symptoms can help you to learn about your triggers. Once you know what things tend to set off your anger, the easier it will be to control. When you don't know where the anger is coming from or what triggers it, it will be incredibly difficult to learn how to manage. But once you can recognize the triggers and spot any patterns that you have, you can become more aware of when you are getting closer to losing your temper and take action to stop that from happening.
- Go To Therapy
There are many different types of therapy that are effective in treating people with PTSD. Talking with an experienced therapist can help you learn proper ways to cope with your anger and other symptoms of PTSD. Online therapy can give you the opportunity to connect with a therapist without having to wait long periods of time for an appointment. However, face-to-face sessions can allow you to learn and practice strategies to cope with PTSD.
There are also other forms of treatment available, such as medications, to help you learn to overcome and control the symptoms of PTSD. It's important that you work with a professional if you're suffering from PTSD to learn what the best forms of treatment are to help you find relief from your symptoms.