As you know by now, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder cover a wide ground. However, one common symptom is experiencing anger. This anger can manifest as a chronic irritation or can result in sudden intense outbursts. Today, we would like to help you better understand what happens inside your body when you experience anger. In our next blog, we will offer some valuable coping mechanisms for people to use while experiencing angry outbursts.

What Causes Anger?

In terms of PTSD, anger is categorized as one of the hyperarousal symptoms. Hyperarousal contains a number of PTSD symptoms that result from a state of heightened anxiety. These include feeling irritable or aggressive, having difficulty falling asleep, being easily startled or jumpy, acting impulsively, difficulty concentrating, experiencing nightmares, being in a constant state of “fight or flight.”

People with PTSD can find this anger incredibly difficult to control and manage. This anger can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms like drug and alcohol abuse and impulsive or irrational behavior.

On a neurological level, anger is caused when an outside stimulus reaches your amygdala. Made simply, the amygdala is the most primitive part of our brains and where our “instincts” live, including fear and anger. When your amygdala alerts the body that a negative stimulus has been detected, your system begins to pump out adrenaline that can increase your heart rate and increase blood flow to your brain and muscles. Additionally, your body begins to produce more testosterone which can increase feelings of aggression. All of this stuff happening in your body causes your speech to become louder and quicker and acts like a “snowball” effect for piling on more anger and rage.

While anger is, at its most primitive sense, a survival technique, if unchecked it can wreak havoc on the personal lives of those experiencing it.

Why Does PTSD Increase Anger?

After experiencing a traumatic event, your response to stress changes. While someone without PTSD might respond to different stressors in different ways depending on their level of intensity, it is not uncommon for those with PTSD to have only one stress response mode. This stress response mode is often entering a “survival mode.” Whether your life is actually in danger or your child didn’t do their chores like you asked, the response can be the same. It is easy to see how this survival mode response can cause issues at home.

Three Things That Happen When Angry

The US Department of Veteran Affairs offers three categories of response when experiencing PTSD-related anger. The first is arousal. This correlates with what we described above when talking about hyperarousal as a symptom of PTSD that includes the feeling of always being on edge, engaging in risky behavior such as actively seeking out situations that require you to ward off danger, and feeling tempted to cope with unhealthy drug and alcohol use.

The second category of anger response is behavior. This is the action you take in response to hyperarousal. These aggressive behaviors can include becoming enraged and engaging in physical violence, self-harming, or even excessively complaining, “backstabbing” your friends and loved ones, and purposefully showing up late or not fulfilling your duties.

The last category in this series is thoughts and beliefs. After experiencing a traumatic event, your thoughts and beliefs might shift. Perhaps you think that you are surrounded by threats and danger, even when you are not. This can lead to thoughts that you cannot trust anyone, that others are out to get you, or that you feel as if you were to lose control it could be life-threatening. These thoughts stem from a greater need to control your surroundings based on your past experiences. Having these thoughts and beliefs is often what causes problems in one’s personal life. For example, if a military veteran becomes angry when his or her child doesn’t “listen to directions,” it may be because while on the frontlines, not listening to directions could mean the difference between life and death.

How To Get Help With Anger

In our next blog, we will talk about different coping mechanisms for dealing with anger associated with PTSD. One of the ways to do that is by joining a peer support group. These groups are led by people who share your experiences and can relate to what you are going through because they have been there too. To learn more about peer and PTSD support groups, contact Peer Support Central today.