It's not easy to live with an angry person. Anger, aggression, abuse, hostility, and outright criminality often go along chronically bad tempers. Inappropriate and chronic anger usually have a cause that may be more or less easy to correct.
One of the most common causes of being angry all the time, or explosively angry at small stressors, is substance abuse.
Alcoholics, methamphetamine addicts, anabolic steroid users, and even people who smoke lots of pot may tend to "blow up" at little things because their drug use has dulled their sense of self-control. Some street drugs can cause hallucinations and delusions that generate an unseen (and irrational) threat to which the response is violence.
In some ways, it's easier to deal with a drug problem than some of the other causes of chronic anger. At least you have an objective goal. They keep drugs out of their life or you get out of theirs. However, other causes of anger are not as easily objectified.
Some people who are angry all the time suffer attachment disorders. It's almost as if you could tell them "You don't know who loves you, Baby." They are so insecure that they will accept food or shelter or sex or drugs from just about anyone, and they tend to blow up when someone gets in their way. These kinds of problems usually originate in childhood, and take long-term therapy to treat. If you partner cheats on you and gets angry when you don't do what he or she demands, this could be part of the problem.
People who are both "clingy" and angry often have borderline personality disorders. Someone who has a borderline personality isn't really crazy. They can have superb social skills. They can be intelligent. They have something to offer in their relationships.
The problem in borderline personality disorder is that the person who has it has a profound, deep, pervasive fear of being left all alone. They will do anything they have to do to avoid abandonment, including blowing up at you, if it scares you, or immediately apologizing, if it pulls at your sympathy strings.
This disorder usually results from real childhood abandonment and results in real adulthood abandonment, but for entirely different reasons. People who develop this pattern of behavior often are histrionic (overly dramatic) and impulsive. They may be terrifyingly bad drivers. They may buy and do things on a whim. They fall in love at first sight, and then do everything they can to keep the relationship no matter how "off" they were in their choice.
About 10 percent of people who have this condition kill themselves. Those who live to be 35 or older usually become less impulsive although the fear of abandonment persists. Borderline personality disorder can't be treated with medication, although intensive therapy usually helps.
Some people who have anger issues suffer from bipolar disorder. When they are in their manic phase, they may not even realize that they are drinking or smoking pot as self-medication. Similarly, when they are in their depressed phase, they may not realize that the cocaine or methamphetamines they are using are also their way of medicating themselves. The problem is, other than the cost and criminality of getting drugs, street drugs are unpredictable, and the ups may bounce higher and the downs may fall lower. Bipolar disorder just isn't manageable, in most cases, without professional help and medication.
In the United States, post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) are also commonly associated with violence, or the need to keep violent urges inside, and anger. Post-traumatic stress occurs after people are exposed to actual death, death threats, violent crime, warfare, destructive events (such as warfare or extreme storms), sexual violation, or serious illness or injury.
PTSD isn't an entirely physical illness. Usually the adrenal glands "burn out" with prolonged stress so that there is constant fatigue. The part of the brain that processes newer, happier experiences, the hippocampus, actually shrinks. The part of the brain that generates fear and aggression, the amygdala, becomes more active. People who have PTSD try to avoid anything that reminds them of their trauma, and "freak out" when these memories are unavoidable. They are often reckless, self-destructive, and hypervigilant. For people who love and live with them, the experience can be like walking on eggshells. About 20 percent of US military veterans have PTSD; the disease is even more common in countries that have been through prolonged violence.
You may choose to stay in that relationship because you love your spouse or your friend or your family member, but you can suffer traumatic stress, too.
There are several levels of things you have to do if someone close to you has anger issues:
- If there is any history of violence toward you, leave the relationship. Getting hit one time is one time too many. Listening to one abusive and demeaning tirade is one too many. It can be very, very hard to leave an abusive partner, especially if you have children. However, zero-tolerance is essential for all concerned.
- If there is any indication of self-harm by the person you are dealing with, get emergency help. It's not OK to let someone drink himself or herself into not just a stupor but alcohol poisoning. It's not OK to let someone shoot himself or herself. It's not OK to let someone cut himself or herself. This also can be very hard, but get professional help. Call emergency services if you must.
- Realize that someone who is angry usually also has an inappropriate sense of self-confidence. It's not just that they will probably try to place blame on you. It's also that they are more likely to try things that really aren't a good idea, like hitting you, breaking possessions, or screaming at the kids.
- Realize that you are not an emotional captive of your partner. It sounds (and is) trite, but it's true that you can't stop birds from landing on your head but you can stop them from building nests in your hair. Understanding and forgiving your angry partner frees you from negative emotions. It does not, however, free them. They have to free themselves, and you may or may not want to wait for that.
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