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Anger - What Fuels It?

Guest Author - Carolyn Chambers Clark, RN, EdD

Why is it important to identify events that fuel your anger?

It's always better to know what you're facing because then you can plan how to deal with it. Faced with the unknown, irrational thinking often creeps in. Because other events can fuel anger without you even knowing about it, try to identify just which ones could be affecting you.

What are some typical events that can fuel your anger?

There are many external, and sometimes internal, events that can fire up your anger. Here are some of them...

* Society - we live in an angry world where parents often tell their children to be on guard, watch out, they're out to get us, violence is on the increase and killing is almost a sport in some areas, each generation has wars and prejudices that offer a safe target for pent-up anger, video games and movies and TV play up aggression and killing that can make us believe these are appropriate responses.

* Family - if you came from a family where anger is treated as normal and expected, there are family feuds and someone is almost always angry at somebody else, family members tease each other or call each other derogatory names like "stupid" and "lazy," nobody listens until you get angry, and problems are solved with anger (spankings, lectures, threats, beatings, silent treatments, slamming doors, shaming, grounding, humiliations, etc.).

* Chronic pain - an injury or illness nags you and keeps you from work, happiness and positive thinking.

* "Attention Deficit Disorder" - hotheadedness is one of the characteristics of this "disorder"

* Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - War veterans, trauma victims, the physically and/or sexually abused, health care providers who see or are inflicted with trauma daily are just some of the people who suffer from PTSD, and can experience anger-evoking flashbacks.

* Depression - Under depression, anger frequently lurks. Depressed people are irritable, grouchy, gloomy. They may direct their anger at others, but suicide or even homicide are dangers.

* Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) - This "time of the month" often makes already angry women even more irritable and even violent.

* Medications - Many over the counter and prescribed drugs have side effects such as agitation that make anger worse. Steroids, such as in Prednisone can make you angry and keep you angry.

* Street Drugs - Chronic marijuana use can add to anger and make you more paranoid. Cocaine leaves almost all users irritable, guarded and suspicious. Amphetamines, long used to give an up and lose weight can bring on rages and paranoia. Sedatives (downers) can lead to violence and suicidal behavior. If you use steroids to build up your body, you're apt to be more easily ticked off, and when people mention it, you'll get even angrier. Hallucinogens like LSD and Mescaline exaggerate what you're already feeling, so if you get angry while taking them---watch out! Heroin may make you believe it mellows you out, but how will you feel when you can't afford your next fix? Angel Dust or PCP can make you aggressive even if you weren't before.

* Alcohol - Probably the number one trigger for spouse abuse. At first you get happy and the world appears shiny and bright, but all uppers in life are followed by downers. Reason flies out the window and old hurts surface. All you need is a target and blam! anger and aggression rule.

If you identify with any of these situations, check out the resources below. Assertiveness is the perfect tool for you, and Potter-Efron, and Mckay and Rogers may also have some important skills that can help you defuse your anger.


Clark, Holistic Assertiveness Skills for Nurses: Empower Yourself and Others! New York: Springer, 2003.

Potter-Efron, Angry All the Time, An Emergency Guide to Anger Control. Oakland: New Harbinger, 1994.

McKay & Rogers. The Anger Control Workbook. Oakland: New Harbinger, 2000
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Content copyright © 2015 by Carolyn Chambers Clark, RN, EdD. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Carolyn Chambers Clark, RN, EdD. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Teresa Post for details.


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