In our last blog, we took some time to explain what happens in your brain when experiencing anger. We learned that anger comes from the most primitive part of our brains and is more or less a “fight or flight” response to a stimulus. Those who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experience a different response to stress than those who do not have PTSD. While a person who does not have PTSD might have a different reaction to different levels of stress, someone with PTSD might respond to the smallest stressor in the same way they respond to life-threatening events.
Because of this, it is important for people with PTSD to try to take control of their anger. As we discussed last time, there are three categories of anger outlined by the US Department of Veteran Affairs and the National Center for PTSD. They are as follows: hyperarousal, behavior, and thoughts/beliefs.
Hyperarousal: As we discussed last time, hyperarousal includes a number of PTSD symptoms ranging from irritability to insomnia to being easily startled to experiencing nightmares. In essence, it means being in a state of heightened anxiety. If hyperarousal is causing anger problems, there are certain coping methods that can reduce your overall anxiety. Meditation and relaxation skills are a great place to start, as well as using physical activity like running, swimming, boxing, and exercising to release tension.
Behavioral Anger: If your anger manifests in the form of dangerous or destructive behavior, there are ways to manage this. First, identify what your behaviors are. Do you punch walls, turn to alcohol, or yell at your loved ones? After you recognize what these behaviors are, you can remove yourself from the situation by taking a “timeout” in your bedroom or by going for a walk, putting your thoughts into words by writing them down, talking to a trusted individual, or by remembering to think before you act.
Thoughts and Beliefs: After experiencing a traumatic event, your thoughts and beliefs can shift to be along the lines of “survival mode.” This can be anything from “I can’t trust anyone” to “I don’t have control of my actions” We know these thoughts can be incredibly destructive. Changing how you think isn’t always easy, but it is possible. Even small shifts like “I don’t have control in this situation, but I am not in danger” can make a difference in how you respond to situations. Finding a mantra to tell yourself when you get angry can also be helpful. Repeating something like, “I will survive even if the situation is not perfect” can help you to ground yourself during an anger outburst.
Not All Anger Is Bad
Once you have control over your anger, you can start to use anger to help you heal. Controlling your anger and examining it can help you better understand how PTSD affects your life, and understand yourself and those around you.
Find Someone You Can Trust
Talking to someone is one of the best ways to cope with anger. At Peer Support Central, our PTSD support specialists are people who have been in your shoes and experienced the same things you have. This helps them to have an insider’s perspective of what you are experiencing, more so than a traditional therapist or counselor. To learn more about peer and PTSD support groups, contact Peer Support Central today.