Anger Problems & Disorders: Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Karin Gonzalez

Karin has taught middle and high school Health and has a master's degree in social work.

In this lesson, you will learn the definition of anger and anger disorders. You will learn about four prominent anger disorders: oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and intermittent explosive disorder.

What's an Anger Problem?

Anger is a feeling of intense aggravation, annoyance, or irritation about or towards something or someone. It's important to note that anger is a completely normal emotion that is rooted from our body's natural 'flight or fight' tendency to protect ourselves from any perceived threats. But when unhealthy outward displays of anger negatively impact your mental state, work, relationships, and life in general, it can be labeled as an anger problem.

Anger problems can range from a mild irritation that leads to passive aggressiveness (being angry with someone but not expressing your feelings to them in a healthy manner; instead, anger is delivered through indirect manners, such as sarcasm or procrastination) to a state of being enraged that leads to violence. Many disorders are rooted in anger. Let's take a look at a few.

What Is an Anger Disorder?

Anger disorders are destructive, enraged, violent, or self-harming behaviors that are symptomatic of underlying and/or suppressed anger. Anger disorders occur as a result of destructive thinking patterns and/or a person's inability to control his or her anger, which often results in threatening body language, speech, or physical violence. Here are the typical anger disorders along with their symptoms and treatment approaches.

Anger Disorders in Kids and Teens

When a child has a recurrent anger problem, they are often diagnosed with an anger disorder which is usually Oppositional Defiant Disorder or Conduct Disorder. Following are the details surrounding these two disorders.

Little Johnny was suspended from elementary school five times this semester for fighting with kids on the playground. Others describe him as often losing his temper and becoming easily annoyed with other children. He becomes frustrated at adults who try to tell him what to do and refuses to comply with their requests. In the classroom, he taps on his desk, attempting to annoy the kids sitting next to him, even after the children and teacher have told him repeatedly to please stop.

The above scenario is typical of a child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Other symptoms of ODD are:

  • Continual feelings of anger and resentment
  • Generally blames others for his or her own mistakes
  • Evidence of malicious or vindictive behavior

Treatment for a child (or teen) with ODD involves several different strategies. Focusing on positive reinforcement of desirable behaviors and other positive parenting techniques can help reduce the anger in a child. Social skills training will help the child to interact well with others. Also, anger management and cognitive behavioral therapies may be beneficial.

A few years later, Johnny was suspended from high school for excessive truancy, or skipping school. When his parents try to discipline him, he runs away, sometimes for days at a time. He was arrested recently for bringing a knife on campus and threatening others. He often starts fights in the school cafeteria and wrote graffiti all over the school walls. Recently, Johnny was found with the teacher's phone in his backpack. He has a history of forcing girls to preform sexual favors for him. When the counselor meets with Johnny, he turns on his charm and cons the counselor into thinking that he will behave in the future.

Johnny's ODD was not properly treated and formed into Conduct Disorder (CD). Other symptoms of CD are:

  • Has stolen while confronting a victim
  • Has maliciously engaged in fire setting with the intent to damage property

Treatment is difficult with CD kids and teens; it involves positive parenting, extracurricular activity or prosocial activity involvement, parental communication training, positive reinforcement, diligent monitoring of child's/teen's whereabouts, substance abuse therapy (if drugs are involved), cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychotropic medications, and anger management therapy.

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