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The Relationship Between Anger and PTSD


Updated October 22, 2011

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PTSD and anger often occur simultaneously. In fact, anger is so common in PTSD, it is considered to be one of the hyperarousal symptoms of PTSD. Anger in PTSD may be so intense that it is difficult to manage. As a result, some people with PTSD may act in aggressive ways.

In discussing anger and PTSD, remember that just because someone has PTSD, it does not mean that they also have intense anger. Anger is just one symptom of PTSD and it is not a requirement for a PTDS diagnosis. In addition, anger is not the same thing as being violent. Therefore, a person with PTSD may experience high levels of anger, but not be violent. Violent or aggressive behavior is just one way someone might express or attempt to manage their anger. More often than not, someone with PTSD with high levels of anger is going to try to push down, suppress, or hide their anger (which can have its own negative consequences).

This article presents some information on anger and aggression in PTSD.

Hyperarousal Symptoms of PTSD

Anger and irritability are considered one of the hyperarousal symptoms of PTSD. Here you can learn more about the other hyperarousal symptoms of PTSD.

Constructive and Destructive Anger in PTSD

People often view anger as primarily a "negative" or "harmful" emotion. However, that is not always the case. Although anger can often lead to unhealthy behaviors (for example, substance use or impulsive behavior), the experience of anger in and of itself is not a bad thing. It is a valid emotional experience that can provide you with important information.

Some people classify anger into two types: constructive anger and destructive anger. In a nutshell, constructive anger can facilitate healing, forward movement, and recovery, whereas destructive anger can cause harm. Learn more about this important distinction, as well as ways of managing constructive and destructive anger in this article.

PTSD and Anger in OEF/OIF Veterans

As the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are ongoing, and we are constantly learning more and more about the impact of these wars on military service men and women. One point that has been clear is that Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans are at risk for a number of mental health problems. For example, high levels of anger in veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars have been observed. Learn more about anger among OEF/OIF veterans with PTSD.

PTSD and Relationship Violence

Unfortunately, research has found a connection between PTSD and relationship violence. In fact, in general, intimate partner abuse happens more than you may think. National estimates indicate that, in a period of one year, 8 to 21% of people in a serious relationship will have engaged in some kind of aggressive act aimed at an intimate partner. This article presents some research on the relationship between PTSD and relationship violence, as well as some information on why they may be connected. Finally, if you are the victim of relationship violence, this article presents some resources for seeking help.

Self-Destructive Behaviors in PTSD

Intense anger can cause someone with PTSD to be more aggressive towards others; however, more often than not, people often try to suppress or hide their anger. This may be effective in the short-term, but in the long-term, this may cause the anger to become more intense and out-of-control. Consequently, people may turn their anger on themselves in the form of self-destructive behaviors, such as substance use or deliberate self-harm. Some common self-destructive behaviors found in PTSD are presented in this article, as well as ways of reducing these self-destructive behaviors.

Anger Management Techniques

Anger can be a very difficult emotion to manage. It may feel intense and out-of-control. This article presents some basic coping skills for managing anger.

Taking a Time Out From Anger

Because anger is a common symptom of PTSD, many PTSD treatments incorporate anger management skills. One such anger management skill is taking a "time-out" when you are experiencing intense anger. This is an easy to skill to learn, and this article takes you through the steps of using a time-out to better regulate your anger.

Using Self-Soothing Skills for Anger

Self-soothing skills can also be an effective way of managing anger. Coping strategies focused on improving your mood that you can do on your own are sometimes described as self-soothing or self-care coping strategies. Effective self-soothing coping strategies may be those that involve one or more of the five senses (touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound). This article presents some basic self-soothing skills that may be helpful in managing anger.

Seeking Out Social Support

Talking with someone and processing your emotions can also be a helpful way of managing anger. It can help you get the perspective of another person, as well as give you the opportunity to express your frustrations in a constructive way. Of course, it is important to make sure that you reach out to someone you trust who will validate and be supportive of your feelings. Learn some ways of establishing healthy social support here.

Anxiety Management Skills for Anger

Believe it or not, coping skills for anxiety can also be very effective for coping with anger. Anger and anxiety are very similar emotions in the sense that they both involve intense levels of arousal. Therefore, anxiety coping skills that focus on bringing down arousal can also be useful in managing anger. Some basic anxiety coping skills that may be helpful for your anger are presented here.
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