Break the Vicious Cycle of Chronic Anger With Cognitive Therapy

Chronic anger is a legitimate condition that can cause long-term health effects. Temper your rage now so you can feel a lot better later on.

Sometimes it is better to just walk away when you're angry.


As naturopathic doctor Dan Labriola explains in The Seattle Times, anger is similar to fear on a psychological level as they both trigger "fight-or-flight" responses:

"You get a burst of heightened ability as your body goes into survival mode, including increased heart rate, blood pressure, muscle strength, alertness and immune-system function, enabling you to better defend yourself from threats such as a physical attack or an oncoming bus — events that are over quickly."

The problem is that it isn't always life-threatening danger that catalyzes these responses. Sometimes it's work or politics or just having to deal with Comcast. If your body gets accustomed to entering "fight-or-flight" mode for every relatively minor conflict, you put yourself at risk of long-term health issues such as heart problems, a weakened immune system and poor judgment. The constant entering of panic mode will eventually wear you down, not to mention make you rather irritable.

Instead, Labriola suggests engaging in cognitive therapy to tame your compulsive rage. This involves putting minor affronts into context:

"The jerk that cut you off doesn’t deserve status in your life. If you escape without damage or injury, classify it as an annoying nonevent and walk away. When you raise yourself emotionally and spiritually to a higher standard of behavior, the jerk just looks more like a jerk."

What makes cognitive therapy "cognitive" is the overt decision you have to make in order to fight the impulse for lashing out. Train your brain that instances of frustration need not be treated like instances of danger. It's not difficult to do as long as you dedicate yourself to taking control of your emotions. 

Labriola offers a few additional tips -- the usual stuff such as good nutrition, avoiding irritants, and meditation. You can also seek the help of a doctor, as chronic anger is a health risk that needs to be monitored and treated. Ultimately, the best strategy is to wake up each morning and promise yourself that you'll resist any urge to act out on your anger.

All you have to do then is keep that promise.

According to one of Boston.com's latest articles that can be read here, getting angry over the small details in life can be diagnosed as Intermittent Explosive disorder. Taking action like Cognitive Therapy, and employing it when you get angry is a key element to keeping yourself, and others, safe. 

David Small used his own form of cognitive therapy while creating his memoir. The art incorporates his therapy from youth.

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