Your “feeling bad” may be Dysphoria.

By David Joel Miller.

Dysphoria – the feeling bad problem.

Unhappy

Dysphoric.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Sometimes you just feel bad. Many times, people feel bad but can’t describe what that feeling is. Ask someone at random how they feel, and the most common answers will be, good, bad, or angry. Some of this stems from the bad reputation feelings have received. Many people go to great lengths to avoid any negative feelings. When you tried to avoid negative feelings, it’s no surprise that when you do feel bad, you have difficulty identifying that feeling and giving it a name.

You may have been labeled dysphoric without your knowledge.

If you have been to see a professional because you were “feeling bad” but you didn’t know the specific reason, the professional may have written down somewhere in your file that you were “dysphoric.”

When you’re under stress, the chemicals your nervous system produces are felt widely throughout your body. Panic attacks can feel like a heart attack. Depression can leave you exhausted, lacking the energy to get out of bed. A high percentage of clients who experienced these symptoms go to the medical doctor first. Which is not a bad idea. You need to rule out a medical issue. Sitting and talking to your counselor during your heart attack could be fatal.

Once your medical Doctor has ruled out immediate, life-threatening illnesses, you may be referred to see a psychiatrist, counselor, or therapist. Seeing a counselor does not mean you are crazy. What it tells us is that your nervous system has been sending out chemicals alerting the body to an emotional crisis. The result is an episode of dysphoria.

Is dysphoria a mental illness?

Dysphoria is a term that goes back to the days of Freud. Back then someone was either diagnosed with psychosis, that meant you were crazy, or neuroses which largely meant you were struggling with the problems of living. I have seen the term dysphoria in a lot of the older literature from the fields of psychology and psychoanalysis. Today professionals use the DSM-5 to diagnose mental illness. The DSM lists about 400 different varieties of mental illnesses. Dysphoria can be an underlying symptom of many of these illnesses, but it is not one specific disorder.

No client has ever told me they felt dysphoric. But I’ve heard that they “feel bad” plenty of times. I have seen the word dysphoria on assessment forms several times, usually as a checkbox for a feeling the client might be having. As my students have heard, I think of a good assessment as more than just checking the boxes and filling out a form.

To help someone who is “feeling bad” the counselor needs to examine that feeling, identify the specific feelings involved and ideally match them up with a specific mental, emotional, or behavioral problem.

What exactly is dysphoria?

OxfordDictionaries defines dysphoria as “a state of unease or generalized dissatisfaction with life. The opposite of euphoria.” Some words are easiest to define by saying that they are the opposite of something else. Unfortunately defining dysphoria by saying it’s the opposite of euphoria is not much help.

The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia, from 1889, gets us closer to a useful definition. I think this is an important point. When you are reading books which were written a long time ago, Freud and Jung, even the psychoanalysts who wrote before the DSM Four, it’s important to ask what the words meant to them. The English language has always been in a state of change.

The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia defines dysphoria as; pain hard to be borne, anguish, impatience under affliction, a state of dissatisfaction, restlessness, fidgeting, or inquietude.

In Psychology dysphoria generally means one of 3 things.

Martin Seligman in his book What You Can Change and What You Can’t begins with the idea of dysphoria and then breaks it down into three specific negative emotions. I would highly recommend this book by the way. One point he makes here is that to date there is no medication which cures any mental illness. At the time he wrote this book; he listed 14 mental illnesses that could be effectively treated, cured, or greatly reduced, using specific forms of talk therapy. I’m inclined to think in the years since he wrote this book other therapies have proven effective for additional mental and emotional disorders.

Anxiety can look like a physical illness.

Anxiety disorders are the “great pretenders.” During episodes of anxiety, the thoughts in the brain mobilize the body for flight or flight activities. Anxiety reduces a lot of physical symptoms in your body and is frequently mistaken for a physical illness.

Professionals split anxiety disorders into a number of specific types. Most are temporarily manageable with medication, but when the medication wears off the anxiety returns worse than before. Therapy of several varieties, coupled with relaxation techniques and life skills training can greatly reduce the levels of anxiety.

Recently, trauma and stressor-related disorders such as PTSD were separated from the Anxiety Disorders. These problems have added symptoms such as nightmares and flashbacks. There are treatments for these disorders, but those treatments are very different from the ones used for anxiety.

Depression comes in many varieties.

Professionals categorize depression more by the physical symptoms you experience than by the cause of the depression. Some types of depression have a specific cause, and others don’t. Many of the symptoms of depression look like those of physical illness. Changes in appetite, eating either too much or too little, can all be part of depression. Changes in sleep are also an element of depression. Some people, when depressed, experience significant fatigue. Depressed people may take to bed and feel too tired to get up. Underlying depression is the loss of the ability to experience happiness. Some people can feel a few bursts of pleasure, but the temporary pleasant sensation quickly fades.

Anger and irritability are often components of dysphoria.

When someone doesn’t feel well, they are out of sorts, they become irritable and push others away. Some people feel “bad” and experience a lot of anger. Neither anger nor irritability is considered a specific mental illness, but they may be symptoms of several mental health challenges.

It would be wonderful if there were specific blood tests or x-rays that would determine that the physical symptoms you have are the result of dysphoria and could be identified as one specific mental illness. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. First, you need to see a medical Doctor to rule out physical illness. Next, you would see a counselor who would talk to you about your symptoms. Based on the number and severity of symptoms you would get a specific diagnosis.

Treatment should be tailored to you and your particular symptoms. Therapy is not something the counselor should do to you. Therapy is something the counselor and client do together. As a result of counseling, you should learn skills and new ways of thinking that will help you manage dysphoric feelings and learn to increase the number of positive feelings you experience.

If you have been feeling bad, one or more of the dysphoric feelings, please consider getting help.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller.

David Joel Miller MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.)  Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

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What is Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) F94.1?

By David Joel Miller.

Reactive Attachment Disorder begins early in life.

What is? Series

Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is one of those disorders which was moved in the DSM-5.

It used to be included in the chapter on Disorders First Diagnosed in Infancy, Childhood, and Adolescence.

RAD now appears in the chapter on Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders.

Reactive Attachment Disorder is the result of deficiencies in early life care.

Reactive Attachment Disorder is an internalizing disorder. A related disorder called Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder involves externalizing behaviors.  Both conditions are thought to be caused by poor caregiving early in life. RAD involves a consistent pattern of shutting down, withdrawing and inhibiting emotions. This disorder starts before age five and is rarely given after that age.

While this is a diagnosis primarily applied to very young children, in working with adults we often see conditions that probably began as Reactive Attachment Disorder.  A common statement is that they “just don’t get close to others.” This condition involves an inability to regulate emotion and unexplained anger, both issues we frequently see in adults who came from dysfunctional homes.

With children, we usually know that the symptoms are caused by neglect and poor parenting.  With adults, similar symptoms show up as depression, chronic sadness, anxiety disorders or even personality disorders.  Our understanding of reactive attachment disorder is pretty much an all or nothing condition.  I can’t help wonder about the effects which varying degrees of neglect or failure to meet the child’s emotional needs might be causing.

Reactive Attachment Disorder involves a consistent behavioral pattern.

Most of the Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders are related to anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders and are fear based. Reactive Attachment Disorder is about shutting down and internalizing. In Reactive Attachment Disorder, there is chronic sadness, depression, and loss of the pleasure.  There may also be accompanying anger, aggression, and dissociation. This involves a lot of withdrawal and inhibited emotion.

Reactive Attachment Disorder involves social and emotional problems.

Children with RAD are unresponsive to others.  They’re rarely happy or positive.  RAD involves frequent irritation, sadness and sometimes being afraid. Children with this disorder often react to adult caregivers in a negative way for no apparent reason. These patterns of poor relationships with adults continue even when caregivers change.

In adults, we see similar patterns with those people who get diagnosed with Persistent Depressive Disorder.  They often say they do not ever remember being happy.  What we often don’t know is if this person really had deficient care as a child or if they had a temperament which makes them difficult to parent.  Sick, or irritable temperamental children are harder to parent and more likely to be abused or neglected.

Extremely deficient care results in Reactive Attachment Disorder.

Characteristics of this less-than-adequate care include emotional needs not being met, frequent changes in caregivers, and being raised in impersonal institutionalize settings.  Mostly this deficient care results in poor relationships with caregivers and other adults, but it may also affect peer relationships.

Sometimes other things look like Reactive Attachment Disorder.

Sometimes children with Autism or developmental delays exhibit symptoms that can look like Reactive Attachment Disorder. In young children, it is important to be sure the problems were caused by poor caregiving.  In adults, we see behaviors that we suspect began as Reactive Attachment Disorder, but without a prior diagnosis, we can’t be sure. RAD may affect many other developmental areas.

Some cautions.

As with the other things we are calling a mental illness this RAD needs to interfere with the ability to work, or in children, go to school, relationships, or other enjoyable activities or cause personal distress. Otherwise, there may be issues, but the diagnoses will not be given. If the only time this happens is when someone is under the influence of drugs or medicines or because of some other physical or medical problem these problems would need to be more than the situation otherwise warrants. These other issues may need treating first, then if there are still symptoms, the diagnosis will be given.

Treatment for Reactive Attachment Disorder.

For children, getting into a situation with a caring, responsible, caregiver, can make all the difference.  For adults with problems now, which may or may not be the result of early childhood experiences, there are several therapies which may be helpful.

It is imperative that children who have Reactive Attachment Disorder get treatment early to prevent lifelong difficulties.  Adults who struggle with emotional difficulties may find that they still have early childhood issues that need to be addressed before their adult problems will resolve.

FYI These “What is” sometimes “What are” posts are my efforts to explain terms commonly used in Mental Health, Clinical Counseling, Substance Use Disorder Counseling, Psychology, Life Coaching and related disciplines in a plain language way. Many are based on the new DSM-5; some of the older posts were based on the DSM-IV-TR, both published by the APA. For the more technical versions please consult the DSM or other appropriate references.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

What operating system is installed in your brain?

By David Joel Miller.

How is your brain programmed to handle life?

Brain Apps

Brain Apps.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Most of us like to think that we have a lot of free will, we can make choices.  Psychology tells us that many of those choices we think we’re making are the result of programming, early life learning, which has created a default way in which we deal with life.

Sometimes it is helpful to think of these default operating systems as blueprints for living which we developed in childhood.  Many people find that the problems they deal with in adult life are things they learned between the ages of eight and eighteen which worked back then but do not work well as adults.

These default operating systems can sometimes work well and help us get through things.  Other times we find that there are flaws, fatal errors in our programming, which result in a less than ideal life. If you’re finding life isn’t going the way you thought it would, you may want to take a look at that programming and see if it doesn’t need an update.

Here are the most common brain operating system problems.

Act out, behavioral solutions.

For many people, this is the default setting.  When upset or angry they act out.  People who opt for the behavioral solution may become violent, throw things, yell at people or swear.  In action adventure movies this is the way the hero frequently behaves.

Acting out and behavioral solutions are a typical male way of reacting.  In athletic competition, young men and women are encouraged to be aggressive.  Outside of athletic competition, these behaviors are unacceptable.

In school, many boys get in trouble for this and may be suspended or expelled.  Later on in life using behavioral solutions to life’s problems may get you arrested, put in jail or result in prison time.  Developing the skill to think it over before using a behavioral solution is an important part of the developmental process.

Stay inside your head, isolate.

A second response pattern which is often learned in childhood is to avoid problems by withdrawing and pulling inside.  Historically girls tended to use this strategy. When stressed they would often sit at their desks staring at their work.

The result of using the isolating, withdrawal strategy, is to avoid confrontations.  It may also result in you being considered less intelligent or incapable of doing the work.

High alert, stay in fear. Scan for the negative.

A certain amount of vigilance and anxiety can be protective.  Too much anxiety becomes a problem.  People who adopt a strategy of using high attention to avoid danger can become over-anxious.  This can result in hypervigilance.  People with hypervigilance often have an exaggerated startle response.  The door slams down the hall and they jump out of their seats.

Avoidance. Use drugs, don’t trust.

Another common way of dealing with problem situations is simply to avoid interacting with the situation.  Avoidance can be as simple as just don’t talk to or see someone who is upsetting.  Other common avoidance techniques are using alcohol, drugs or another behavioral addiction.

Some people avoid painful situations simply by not interacting with others.  They may avoid friendships or close intimate relationships.  People who have been disappointed by others try to avoid additional disappointments by not putting their trust in other people.

Don’t feel.

In some family’s feelings are a banned substance.  The goal of not feeling was to avoid anything that would be upsetting.  In family’s like this people never talk about their pain or their hurt.  While this strategy may seem like a good way to avoid unpleasant emotions, it has some long-lasting negative effects.

If you grew up in a home which never dealt with feelings, you may be totally unprepared for the feelings that you do have.  People who never learned how to manage anger, pain, and sadness, are at high risk to be overwhelmed by these feelings when they do experience them.

People who have a history of not feeling are likely to also say that they have never experienced happiness.  In order to experience positive emotions, you also need to be able to experience the negative ones.  Consistently avoiding feelings can leave people feeling numb.

What are the rules? Tell me what to do.

When people don’t develop basic skills to make decisions, they may have a strong tendency to rely on extensive rules.  These people are often attracted to dogmatic leaders.  And they’re likely to be very legalistic.  You can easily spot these people.  They frequently can cite the exact rule that they believe applies to this situation.  What they find difficult to do is to function in situations where there are unclear rules or were new rules need to be made.

Rule users are also likely to try to impose their beliefs about what things should be like on other people.  They are likely to be intolerant of variation and nonconformity.

File everything for future use. Hold onto the hurts.

Another way of coping with life’s uncertainties is to never express how you feel about things.  People who adopt this strategy, often do a thing called gunny sacking.  When someone does something to bother or upset them they will hold onto that slight for later use.  They pick these little resentments up, one at a time, holding onto them for future use.  When the gunny sack gets full they unload the entire list of past resentments on the other person.

Act on those feelings, impulsivity.

Some people rather than using feelings as information feel compelled to do whatever those feelings urge them to do.  They become, in effect, slaves to those feelings.  Rather than taking ownership of their feelings they believe that other people make them happy, make them sad, or make them angry.  Since they ascribe their feelings to another person, they also believe the other person is responsible for that feeling and for their actions.

Beat your body into submission.

Some people, when under stress, take it out on themselves.  They may engage in an excess of exercise or even in physical abuse.  These people are at high risk to become cutters or in other ways engage in self-injurious behavior.

No Starter.

Some people adopt a strategy of dealing with the risks of life but trying to avoid taking any risks.  They simply never begin anything and therefore never fail at anything.  The downside of this strategy is that by never starting anything they are never successful at anything.

No brakes.

Other people avoid the uncertainties of life by trying to never accept any feedback on their actions.  Once they begin on a course of action no matter how many difficulties they may encounter they continue going forward.  These are the people who find it impossible to admit they’ve made a mistake.

Not many functions. No vocabulary.

Some people’s brains are programmed for a limited number of functions.  They simply haven’t developed the skills necessary to do other things.  A lot of what humans do is symbolic.  We use words to talk about the feelings in our lives and what we want to do.  Some people lack the vocabulary to express the feelings they do have.

Executive function that decides what routine to use.

The most desirable and most effective operating system for humans is one that involves a great deal of executive function, the ability to think about, communicate about, and make decisions.  People with a good executive function are able to set a new course, stick to that course and accomplish great things.

This is a brief description of possible human operating systems.  Many people probably use several of these methods on a daily basis.  Which of these mental operating systems have you developed?  Consider increasing the number of apps your brain has available for day-to-day life.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Anger Burns.

Sunday Inspiration.   Post by David Joel Miller.

Anger Burns.

Anger burning

Anger Burns the Holder.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Holding on to anger burns the holder.

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”

― Mark Twain

“Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”

― Aristotle

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you please share them.

Do you have anger issues?

By David Joel Miller.

When should you seek counseling for your anger issues?

Anger

Anger
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Anger and “anger issues” are one of the more common problems that result in people calling my office for a counseling appointment. Having anger building up inside you can harm you. All those excess stress hormones are really hard on your heart and other organs.

But anger, an excess of that stuff, can also damage relationships with family, friends and those you work with. Untreated anger issues may result in the police being called and you going to jail. Excess anger also results in lost jobs and in divorces.

In extreme cases, too much anger will get you locked up and court-ordered to 26 weeks of anger management classes or 52 weeks of batterer’s treatment classes. Out of control anger can make a mess out of your life.

That must mean that anger is one of the more common and major mental illnesses, right? Wrong.

Despite all the problems an excess of anger can bring it is not recognized as a mental illness. Say what? Yes, you read that right. We think anger, rather than being any one specific mental or emotional illness is a “secondary” emotion. That is you are feeling one thing but you end up expressing this other feeling as anger. When hurt, emotionally or psychically hurt, many of us express this as anger.

Regardless of what is causing your anger or why you are angry, counseling can help you tame that anger beast.

There are several reasons you might need to go for some anger management counseling.

  1. You do not like the person you become when you are angry.

If your anger is bothering you then it is time to see a counselor. This is true of a whole lot of other unpleasant or negative emotions. You do not need to be mentally ill to seek out counseling. If you do things when angry, sad or anxious you would not do otherwise, that is a bad sign. Just having to live with that anger all the time can make you miserable.

Some of you are thinking that you are in a situation where another person is always “making you angry.” Do not let that stop you from seeking help. You can learn ways to turn the volume down on your anger so you become less angry and angry less often or your counselor may help you with some life coaching to change the situation so that you are not going to get your anger triggered.

  1. Your anger is interfering with your relationships.

Any time an emotional, mental or behavioral issue interferes with your relationships with family and friends that need attention. This may be an indication of a mental illness or it may just be stress. Either way, you need help for anything that is damaging your relationships.

Humans need other people. Having a good group of supportive people around you improves the quality of your life. Do not let anger drive your friends and family away and leave you unsupported.

  1. Anger is affecting your work or schooling.

If you miss work or get in trouble on the job because of anger or other emotional flare-ups, this means that your feelings are a problem that needs attention.  If you are not working but are in school then we consider going to school and doing your homework your job. Wish I could convince kids who tell me they don’t want to go to school, that school is their job and if they can’t do that one they may need to work on their being homeless skills.

  1. Your anger has interfered with other things you used to like to do.

If you used to play softball or go bowling but because of your anger and fights you got into you can’t go there any more than your anger has been and continues to be a problem. Letting anger or any other emotional issue cut you off from things that make you happy is a bad idea. Life should be more than working and suffering. Try restructuring your life to make it a life worth living.

That is the short list, you may think of other reasons you need to go see a counselor or life coach. Just remember you do not need to wait until your problems become serious mental illnesses before you seek help. Have you put up with anger for longer than you need to? Is it time for you to get some help, learn some skills, to get that anger creature out of your life?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Who taught you about anger?

By David Joel Miller.

How do you know what you know about anger?

Angry Man

Angry Man
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Long before you went to school and learned to read and write you learned a bunch of lessons about how the world was. Some of those lessons were about feelings, anger in particular. Did you have good feelings teachers? Did you get those lessons right?

Thinking back to your childhood and how you came to think and believe the things you do can be a happy experience for some people. Others feel that those early life lessons left scars. What you learned about anger at a young age is one lesson you may want to take another look at. If thinking about your early life experiences is painful and difficult, then you are a candidate for counseling or some other personal growth experience.

What are your earliest life memories of anger?

Early life experiences shape personality development. Many of these memories are pictures of what happened or feelings about these happenings rather than the sort of stories we older people tell about these memories.

Do you have strong gut reactions to seeing others angry? How does experiencing others anger affect you now? Are you “freaked out” if someone is angry? Some people learned to avoid anger and feeling angry, others learned that when angry they should “let it all hang out.”

As a child do you remember being angry? What happened when you got angry? Did your needs get met or did you learn to hide that anger?

Infants and young children develop anger spontaneously when their needs are not met or they are frustrated. They quickly learn how they must express these needs to get what they require. Some people learn that others may express anger but they are not allowed to do so. If you learned rules about anger and how to express it as a young child this may be affecting your ability to cope productively with those feelings.

How did those you grew up around express their Anger?

Some families had the unwritten rule that anger or other strong emotions were not to be expressed, ever, under any circumstance. Other families were constantly acting out anger in a variety of ways.

For some people, anger was expressed by cursing or vulgar gestures. Did you adopt those ways of expressing anger and those expressions have become, for you automatic? You may find yourself saying things and doing things when upset or angry that you had not planned to do.

Who was allowed to express anger, who could not?

Was one person allowed to express their anger and others were not? Some families have one person who carries the anger for the whole family. The rest of the family members lives revolve around not making the angry person angry.

If you had a family culture where one person was the angry one you may have perpetuated that system in your relationships or the family you have created. Is that working for you or would you like to change the way anger is allowed to be a member of your family?

How did they express anger?

Families develop rules for how and when anger can be expressed. We often hold on to those rules when we leave out family of origin and then try to make those behavior patterns fit our new relationships. For some anger can be expressed directly, this is what is making me mad. Or it may be expressed more indirectly. There could be yelling and screaming or the silent treatment and stonewalling.

If your life is full of throwing and breaking things it is time for a change. If you or someone in your household has a pattern of leaving when angry this may be keeping you from every finding solutions to the conflicts.

Productive anger management may require time outs when one person becomes overheated but those exchanges also require setting a time to reconnect and work on solving those problems.

Did you learn gender roles in anger expression?

Many people arrive at therapy with a set of rules in their head about how people should fill their life roles. Do you think there are ways men express anger? Are those “male” anger behaviors different from those of women? Should the two sexes express their emotions differently?

Do you expect men and women to express their anger differently?

Are your disagreements win-lose situations or can people disagree?

Healthy families have some rules that are must-haves. The parents must set boundaries that are firm. As a parent, you probably should tell your kids that drugs are not allowed. But there are other things, politics, and religion where an absolute need for everyone to agree might be more optional.

Ask yourself can you allow other family members to disagree about things? Do you feel threatened when they don’t agree with you? Are there things you learned early in life that may not be working for you anymore?

Reexamine how and what you have learned about anger and decide for yourself if there are things about anger and your relationship to that anger that need changing.

For more on anger and anger management check out the other Anger Posts on counselorssoapbox.com.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Anger triggers – What gets you angry?

By David Joel Miller.

What things set off your anger?

Anger

Anger
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Some people are chronically angry, many things set them off. Others have a relative few things that result in feelings of anger. Becoming one of those people who rarely gets angry and manages their anger well is possible but it takes some work.

Learning to cope with anger involves recognizing anger when it comes to visit, becoming aware of the things that increase your chances of being angry and then learning control strategies to turn the “thermostat” on your anger down.

Many things may be “triggers” for making someone angry. In substance abuse work we spend a lot of time on learning to manage triggers to drink and use. For people with lots of anger or other emotional issues, learning your triggers is important as well.

Some authors define triggers as external events that may be the cause of your anger. I am used to thinking of triggers as being either external, situations or people I encounter, or internal, what is going on in my body and my mind. I have roughly divided some reported triggers into these two groups. You may find that there are other very personal triggers for your anger that are not on my lists.

See how many of these fit you and then do some “field research” in your own life, looking for the things that are triggering your anger. Some of these triggers may be real threats to you or your family and friends. Other triggers may be things most of us would call minor but for you, they just “set you off.” Identifying your triggers can help you plan responses for the future.

External Anger Triggers – People, Places, and Things.

These are things that happen to you, others do or events that upset you.

Facing a real threat physically or financially.

Being verbally or physically attacked or assaulted.

Being put down or disrespect in front of others.

An interruption to your plans.

Frustration at things that get in your way.

Financial losses or difficulties.

People who do things we believe are ethically or religiously wrong.

Unfair situations or treatment.

Things being out of our control.

People lie to you or let you down.

Having your things taken or damaged by others.

Having long waits or standing in lines.

Traffic or people getting in your way.

Crowds.

People talking about you.

Not being paid what you are owed.

People saying bad things about you.

Being accused of things you didn’t do.

People who do not clean up after themselves.

Being given wrong information or directions.

Internal Triggers for anger.

Sometimes it is the things going on inside of you that can trigger anger or other negative emotions.

Lack of sleep

Being hungry or thirsty.

Having your mind occupied with problems.

Negative emotions, anxiety, depression.

Feeling physically ill or having health problems.

Being lonely.

Feelings of guilt or shame.

Believing that you are not good enough or unworthy of good things.

Not liking yourself.

How many of these things, either external people, places or things or internal states are triggers for your anger, anxiety or other emotional issues? Once you recognize what is setting your anger off you may be able to work on reducing the impact of those triggers and avoiding the negative consequences of out of control anger.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.