ANGER AND ITS LINK TO CHILDHOOD TRAUMA Archives - Childhood Trauma Recovery

Category Archives: Anger And Its Link To Childhood Trauma

Articles about how childhood trauma can predispose individuals to develop severe anger management problems in later life and how chronic anger, including repressed anger, can adversely affect both the brain and the body. Therapies for anger management are also explored, including cognitive therapy to address ‘thinking errors’ that perpetuate a person’s propensity to become easily moved to anger.

Childhood Trauma Increases Risk Of Being Both Victim And Perpetrator Of Crime And Violence

Research shows that the more ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES an individual suffered in their early life, the greater their risk of becoming the victim of crime and / or the perpetrator of crime in early life.

ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES, as defined by the well known Adverse Childhood Experiences Study are listed below :

physical abuse

– emotional abuse

– sexual abuse

witnessing the mother being abused by the father

loss / abandonment / rejection by a parent (including due to separation and divorce)

– living with a parent suffering from a pathological addiction

– living with a clinically depressed mother

– living with a mother who suffers from another significant mental illness

ACE SCORE :

The more of the above adverse childhood experiences a person has suffered, the higher their ACE Score. For example, a person who had suffered one of the above adverse childhood experiences would have an ACE score of 1, whereas an individual who had experienced four of them would have an ACE score of 4.

RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN AN INDIVIDUAL’s ACE SCORE AND THEIR LIKELIHOOD OF BEING THE VICTIM AND / OR PERPETRATOR OF CRIME :

Some main examples of the research linking crime / violence to childhood trauma include the following :

  • ACE scores of 4 or over increase the risk of being the perpetrator of violence, the victim of violence and of being put in jail by 500 per cent, compared to an individual with an ACE score of zero. (Bellis et al.)
  • Females with ACE scores of 5 or more are 14% more likely to suffer domestic violence and 30% more likely to suffer sexual assault, compared to females with an ACE score of zero. (Whitfield et al.)
  • Ex-offenders with an ACE score of 5 or above are 11 times more likely to re-offend during their first year of probation and 15 times more likely to re-offend during their second year of probation, compared to individuals with an ACE score of zero (Anda, 2011).
  • Children involved in the juvenile justice system have, on average, approximately, an ACE score triple that of children who are not involved in the system (Baglivio et al.).
  • As a child’s ACE score increases, the risk of him perpetrating violence increases from between 35% and 144% (Duke et al.).

For more connected to this topic, you may wish to read my previously published articles :

Childhood Trauma Leading To Addiction And Crime

So-Called Psychopathic Traits In Adolescents Often Symptoms Of Intense Emotional Distress

Anti-Social Personality Disorder : A Psychodynamic Explanation.Anti-Social Personality Disorder : A Psychodynamic Explanation.

eBook :

Above eBook now available for instant download from Amazon. Click here for further information.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

BPD AND ANGER

causes of anger

Anger Management Hypnosis | Self Hypnosis Downloads : CLICK HERE.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)  Anger and Rage

As we have seen from numerous other articles that I have published on this site, those who suffered significant and chronic childhood trauma are at much increased risk of developing borderline personality disorder (BPD) in their adult lives compared to those who were fortunate enough to grow up in relatively stable, non-threatening, loving and nurturing families.

And, as we have also seen, one of the most common and predominant features of BPD is intense feelings of rage and anger which are difficult to control, particularly in stressful situations (even situations which others may perceive as non-stressful or only very mildly stressful).

Theories Relating To Anger :

There are various theories which seek to cast light upon the origins of such feelings of aggression ; four main such theories are as follows :

  • psychoanalytic theory
  • behavioral theory
  • cognitive theory
  • neurobiological theory

Let’s briefly look at each of these in turn :

  • PSYCHOANALYTIC THEORY :

FRUSTRATED NEEDS :

Early psychoanalytic theorists attributed the source of anger in the child to deep feelings of frustration caused by not having their fundamental needs met (including unsatisfactory breast-feeding).

‘AN EXCESSIVE NATURE OF PRIMARY AGGRESSION’ :

The psychoanalyst, Otto Kernberg (b. 1929), who carried out important early research into the borderline personality, was one of the first to suggest that temperament (individual differences in personal traits that are biologically / genetically based and relatively independent of the influence of learning) may play a significant role in the development of the adult BPD sufferer’s propensity to be easily moved to feelings and expressions of intense anger. Kernberg referred to those with such temperaments as possessing ‘an excessive nature of primary aggression.’

  • BEHAVIORAL THEORY :

EMOTIONALLY WITHOLDING ENVIRONMENT :

Linehan, an expert in borderline personality disorder (BPD) who devised the therapy for the condition known as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), proposes the idea that aggression in BPD sufferers has its roots in the individual growing up in an ‘emotionally witholding environment‘ thus thwarting the child’s need to have his/her fundamental emotional needs met.

  • COGNITIVE THEORY :

ANGER AS A DEFENSE AGAINST REAL / IMAGINED / ANTICIPATED EXPLOITATION :

According to cognitive theory, one of the main functions of anger is to operate as a defense (a defense which has been unconsciously learned in early life to protect one in a threatening environment) against real or imagined exploitation (e.g. because a parent has used,,  taken advantage of  and manipulated the individual as a child).

  • NEUROBIOLOGICAL THEORY :

ABNORMALITIES IN THE BRAIN’S LIMBIC SYSTEM :

PET (positron emission tomography) scans have revealed that those individuals who have significant problems in connection with their feelings of anger and have histories of aggressive behavior can show abnormalities in the brain region known as the LIMBIC SYSTEM, or, more specifically, in the amygdala and hypothalamus (these are both sub-components of the limbic system) as well as abnormalities in the brain’s prefrontal cortex).

SEROTONIN :

Various research studies have also revealed that impulsive aggressiveness in individuals with BPD is associated with abnormally low levels of serotonin (a neurotransmitter) in the brain.

RELATED ARTICLE : Narcissistic Rage

RESOURCE :

Anger Management Hypnosis | Self Hypnosis Downloads

eBook :

childhood anger ebook

Above eBook now available for immediate download from Amazon. Click here for further information.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Effects Of Repressed Anger Towards Parents

repressed anger

Above video summarizes this article.

What Are The Effects Of Repressed Anger Towards Parents?

If our parent/s caused us significant psychological suffering when we were growing up, we may have built up a great deal of anger towards them, but we may, too, have repressed that anger and its cause (ie. buried it deep inside our unconscious).

This repression of anger can occur because consciously facing up to the fact our parents emotionally damaged us so much and that this has made us so angry would be too psychologically painful. Hence, we do not allow ourselves to be consciously aware of this; this is what’s known as a psychological defense mechanism.

However, this repression of the real cause of our anger creates problems. One main problem is that we tend displace (re-direct) this anger onto targets who are not responsible for having created it. The result is we might often become inappropriately and disproportionately angry with people who don’t deserve it (eg. getting into bar – room fights, ‘road rage’ etc).

Alice Miller, the internationally famous expert on how our childhood experiences affect our adult behaviour went so far as to suggest it was Hitler’s own repressed anger which led to World War Two!

repressed_anger

The diagram above shows feelings which often drive and lie beneath the surface of anger.

There are many other signs which may indicate that we are suffering from repressed anger which I list below:

Possible Symptoms Of Repressed Anger:

1) Depression (Freud was of the view that depression is caused by anger being redirected against the self. He also believed that by bringing the real reason for our repressed anger into our conscious minds could very substantially relieve us of our psychological misery and pain. We need to accept this anger, realize its complete validity and not feel guilty about it)

2) Sarcasm (redirecting our hostility towards our parents through being sarcastic to others)

3) Extreme sensitivity to being rejected (if our anger was caused by our parents rejecting us, this is very likely to make it a extremely hard for us to deal with rejection in our adult life)

4) Becoming disproportionately angry due to trivial causes (such as spilling some coffee)

5) Constant tiredness (repressing anger depletes mental energy)

6) Tension in our muscles

7) Addictions (to numb our emotional pain, eg. alcohol, drugs, exercise, shopping, work, food)

8) Nervous habits (such as nail-biting, skin picking)

9) Passive aggression (expressing anger indirectly)

10) Occasional explosive outbursts of rage when the pressure

repressed anger becomes overwhelming).

How Can Repressed Anger Be Treated?:

Repressed anger and its causes need to be gently uncovered in a safe environment with a suitably qualified therapist. The anger then needs to be diffused in a healthy way (ie not in a way which harms the self or others). On no account should the anger be expressed through violence, as this clearly does hurt others and, one way or another, the self as well, compounding the problem substantially.

Resource:

 

anger-management-hypnotheray Anger Management Self-Hypnosis Audio Pack. Click here for further details

 

eBook:

anger_management

Above eBook now available from Amazon for instant download. Click here for more information.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Chronic Resentment (And How To Channel Anger Positively).

chronic resentment

Violence in movies and on the small screen is, in case you hadn’t noticed, ubiquitous. Indeed, violent films can gross several hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office. Why are such films so popular? One theory is that they, vicariously and, therefore, innocuously, allow viewers to express their own suppressed anger and violent impulses in the form of shootings, stabbings, garroting, strangling, poisoning, torturing (think Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Taxi Driver etc) – the list goes on ad infinitum.

It is suggested that many individuals feel a sense of release by viewing such material – the classic ‘letting off of steam’, helping them to keep their own aggressive impulses under control. (There is also the opposing argument, of course, namely that watching violence desensitises people to it and, thus, makes them more likely to perpetrate acts of violence themselves).

THE DAMAGING EFFECTS OF SUPPRESSED ANGER:

Many who have suffered significant childhood trauma have suppressed anger  directed at a parent or parents (or primary carer/s). Such anger that has no outlet can turn inwards and become directed at the self, leading, often, to depression and/or physical (psychosomatic) illness (such as migraine, irritable bowel syndrome, hypertension etc).

BENEFIT OF ‘LETTING GO’ OF ANGER:

‘Letting go’ of anger can help us recover from these damaging effects. Indeed, one study that involved training individuals to let go of their anger found that it led to a significant drop in their blood pressure.

Another study indicated that chronic feelings of intense, unremitting anger and resentment are linked in some individuals to premature death.

hypnosis_for_anger

CHANNELLING ANGER POSITIVELY:

Suppose, for example, we belong to a particular sport’s club and are angry with the manager for not selecting us for the 1st team. Rather than, say, going up and punching him (which is likely to prove somewhat counter-productive) we can channel ( or sublimate, as Freud would put it) the energy provided by our anger into training especially hard, thus securing that elusive place in the team after all.

Or, say our boss at work undervalues our talent ; rather than confront him and tell him he’s an idiot who should be immediately sacked (again, this could prove less than fruitful), we may channel the energy we can derive from our anger into excelling in our job to such a degree that we eventually eclipse our boss’s work-related achievements and become his boss, thus satisfyingly putting him in his place.

Indeed, it is almost a cliché to point out that many high achievers have been motivated by the fact that one or both parents constantly belittled, denigrated and derided them as they grew up. Their achievements, in their eyes, constitute a kind of revenge. (This can, however, be psychologically unhealthy, if, for example, it turns one into an obsessive, neurotic workaholic who can never be satisfied by his accomplishments because, what he really seeks, on an unconscious level, is his parents’ approval).

RELINQUISHING ANGER :

positively_directing_anger

Being angry is a psychologically tormenting state which frequently harms the person harbouring the anger more than anybody else ; relinquishing it allows us to experience some emotional peace and solace and is very likely to lead to a significant improvement in both our mental and physical health.

By giving up our anger towards a particular person also serves to deprive that person of any further power and control over how we feel – we no longer allow them to damage our mental equilibrium and become free.

Resources:

Let Go of a Family Feud | Self Hypnosis Downloads

Ebook:

Now available on Amazon for immediate download. Click here.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Anger And ‘Thinking Errors’ (Cognitive Distortions).

anger_caused_by_errors_in_thinking_and_unhelpful_learned_beliefs

I have already written several articles which have been published on this site about how certain types of childhood trauma can make it more likely we will develop difficulties with controlling our anger as adults (click here to read one of these articles), or, worse, may lead to us developing psychiatric conditions such as Intermittent Explosive Disorder (click here to read my article on this).

In this article, however, I want to specifically examine how ‘erors in thinking’ can cause us to experience excessive and counterproductive feelings of anger:

 

Thinking errors (sometimes referred to as COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS) we may make that can cause us problems managing our anger as adults:

1)  Jumping to conclusions:

Psychologists also refer to this as ‘mind-reading’ (though this is not meant literally). It means that we may be prone to drawing definite conclusions about what’s motivating another individual based on flimsy evidence. An example might be:

‘I just know that person is deliberately trying to irritate me’

when, in fact, if we were to be more objective, we’d see there was little evidence that the person was , in fact, deliberately trying to do this.

2) Catastrophizing:

This involves exaggerating in our own minds how serious the consequences of something that has gone wrong actually are. People who tend to think in terms of extremes (sometimes referred to as ‘black or white’ thinkers) are particularly likely to do this (ie ‘catastrophize’).

For example, we may tell ourselves that a person ‘has ruined’ our ‘life forever’ and thus become extremely angry whereas a more objective judgement might be that the person has caused us a temporary and quite easily surmountable set-back.

cognitive_errors_and_anger

3) Selective attention/perception:

This involves disproportionately focusing on negatives. For example, we may become very angry with a person by focusing solely on what s/he has done to upset us whilst ignoring the person’s good intentions/motivation and/or all the positive things the person has done for us.

4) Using Emotive Language :

This refers to when we think or speak about a person using exaggerated and emotive language. For example, we might tell ourselves a person is ‘evil’ whereas a more sober assessment of the person we’ve deemed to have wronged us clearly would not warrant such a melodramatic judgment. Therefore, the anger we display towards the person may be as disproportionate as the language we use to describe him/her.

5) Over- generalisation :

This involves seeing a person as always behaving in ways that upset us when, in fact, for example, s/he may only occasionally upsets us with his/her behaviour. A common expression which reflects such over -generalisation is :

‘You never think about anyone but yourself!’

when, in fact, if we gave the matter more thought, we would be able to think of plenty of evidence which contradicted this.

Conclusion:

All of the above then, can make us feel more intensely angry than would be objectively warranted. To put it in a very colloquial way, the above represent examples of how we can fall into a trap of unnecessarily ‘winding ourselves up’. 

anger_and_cognitive_distortions

It is in our own interests to avoid making these errors as anger is so often destructive and counterproductive. Also, being constantly angry is a very painful state of mind which is emotionally exhausting and a waste of energy; energy that could be channelled in far more constructive directions.

Research has shown that a very effective way of treating these types of ‘thinking errors’ is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Click here to read one of my articles on this.

 

Resources:

Control Anger audio download. Click here.

 

EBook:

anger_management_ebook

Above eBook now available on Amazon for instant download. Click here.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Childhood Trauma : Dealing with Moodiness and Anger

 

anger and moodiness in childhood

Those of us who have suffered significant childhood trauma often find, in both adolescence and adulthood, that we are full of rage and have great difficulties controlling our feelings of anger. Reasons for this include the conscious or unconscious hostility we feel towards our parent/primary care-giver whom we believe to have significantly contributed to our mental anguish . Such feelings can lead to us :

a) directly expressing our anger towards our parent/primary care-giver

b) DISPLACING the anger we feel towards our parent/primary care-giver onto others (especially if we IDENTIFY such others with our parent/primary care-giver e.g. a therapist) even though they were not the primary cause of it

c) both of the above

d) REPRESS our anger towards our parent/primary care-giver (ie deny it/bury it deep within ourselves) so that we are NOT CONSCIOUSLY AWARE OF IT. If this happens, unconscious processes may take place which cause us to turn this anger in upon ourselves resulting, perhaps, in  self-loathing,  clinical depression,  suicidal thoughts/behaviours and/or psychosomatic illnesses.

 

controlling_mood_swings

FLUCTUATING MOOD :

We may find, too, that, as adults who experienced severe childhood trauma, our moods are far more prone to change than the average person’s. We may, for example, find our feelings of intense irritation and anger are much more easily triggered than they are in most others. In short, we may find our moods and emotions are highly unstable and unpredictable. This, in turn, can cause others to be wary about interacting with us, perhaps feeling that, when they do, they are ‘walking on eggshells.’

We are especially likely to experience problems controlling our moods and emotions if our adverse childhood experiences have led to us developing a mental illness such as borderline personality disorder (BPD) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

 

how-to-control_mood_swings

 

WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP OURSELVES TO CONTROL OUR MOODS/OUTBURSTS OF ANGER?

1) If we have a mental illness, such as BPD or PTSD (as referred to above) we should very seriously consider obtaining specialized treatment to ameliorate such conditions. Cognitive-behavioural therapy and dialectical behaviour therapy are two possible options).

2) Improve our diet – for example, a high intake of sugar can cause intense highs and lows directly affecting our mood.

3) Cut down on caffeine and alcohol, both of which can have powerful effects upon how we feel

4) Avoid recreational drugs – this is especially important if we are vulnerable/have a pre-disposition) to developing mental illness. Recreational drugs can tip people over the edge (eg cannabis-induced psychosis).

5) Try to tackle any sleep problems – lack of sleep/sleep deprivation is very likely to make us more irritable/prone to anger.

6) Reduce stress as much as possible – this is extremely important as, when we feel under attack and generally oppressed, then, much like a cornered animal, we are far more prone to ‘lash out.’ This is an inbuilt, biological defense mechanism. If we have been drinking due to stress and, as a result, our inhibitions are lowered, we are particularly at risk of destructive behaviours which we are liable, later, deeply to regret.

Furthermore, if we suffered severe childhood trauma, it is possible that the development of vital brain regions such as the amygdala were adversely affected. Such damage is now known to make it much harder to deal with stress and to make the individual who sustained it generally more emotionally unstable (click here to read my article on this).

 

RESOURCES :

MANAGE YOUR ANGER PACK (downloadable MP3 0r CDs) CLICK HERE

 

EBOOK :

 

content_4964975_DIGITAL_BOOK_THUMBNAIL

Above eBook now available on Amazon for IMMEDIATE DOWNLOAD CLICK HERE

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

Intermittent Explosive Disorder (I.E.M.) and Childhood Trauma.

 

intermittent_explosive_disorder

This disorder, which is listed in DSM V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition), a manual which is used by psychologists and psychiatrists to diagnose mental illness and provides the diagnostic criteria (i.e. relevant symptoms) by which diagnosis of the specific psychiatric condition is made, is, as the name implies, related to problems a person has with controlling his/her anger.

anger

According to DSM V, the symptoms of intermittent explosive disorder (IED) are as follows :

1) Several episodes of being unable to suppress impulses of intense anger which leads to serious aggressive acts such as assault and destruction of property

2) The high intensity of the aggression displayed during these episodes is clearly out of proportion to the precipitating event (ie the event that triggered the aggression)

3) The episodes of aggression are not better explained by other mental conditions such as borderline personality disorder (BPD) or anti-social personality disorder.

HOW COMMON IS IED IN THE GENERAL POPULATION?

Research into this area so far suggests that around 5% of the population may suffer from IED during some period of their life-span. Not infrequently, the disorder first appears during adolescence.

Often, too, the disorder will exist co-morbidly (ie together with/alongside) other mental health conditions.

anger red face

WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF IED?

IED can very adversely affect many crucial areas of the sufferer’s life, which include : relationships with family, relationships with friends, reputation, career prospects and even freedom (if the uncontrolled aggression results in an incident which leads to being sent to jail). Clearly, then, a person who suffers from IED urgently requires treatment in order to prevent him/her from potentially ruining his/her own life. But in order to treat it, of course, it is first necessary to understand what causes it. In relation to this quest, research has focused on childhood trauma.

WHAT HAS THIS RESEARCH SHOWN?

Research indicates that the experience of childhood trauma, particularly childhood trauma connected to problematic (ie dysfunctional) relationships with parents/carers is the strongest predictor of the development of IED in adulthood. It is thought that the reason for this is that, as a result of such trauma, the affected individual does not learn how to manage his/her emotions nor how to manage the intricacies of interpersonal relationships.

Neurological issues may also be related to IED ; however, I should point out that such issues may themselves have been caused by the childhood trauma – further research into this is necessary.

POSSIBLE THERAPIES FOR IED :

These include :

Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT). .

Trauma Focused CBT.

RESOURCES:

ANGER MANAGEMENT MP3 – CLICK HERE

 

eBook :

anger_management_ebook

Above eBook now available for instant download from Amazon. Other titles available. Click here.

David Hosier BSc Hons ; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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