Mental Illness and Rage: How to Confront the Anger Dragon
Mental illness and rage often go hand in hand---primarily when the illness is not yet treated. Rage is scary and stems from irritability and anger. It represents, and feels like, complete loss of control. What is rage and how can we confront it when living with mental illness?
Rage and Undiagnosed Mental Illness
When I think of the word "rage" I immediately picture myself as a child, twelve-years-old and recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I see myself, in a frenzy, ripping up pages from the phone book. I can see myself screaming into pillows and grabbing anything within arm's reach and throwing it, just to watch and hear it shatter. My parents were baffled and so was I. I wanted the rage to stop, to tame the dragon breathing fire inside of me, but I could not. Years would pass before this would change.
Even now, twenty-eight-years-old and usually stable save for some rough winters, rage creeps up on me. It's different now, but it still feels awful. I have broken more cordless phones than I can recall. I have thrown them into walls; the phone breaking and the wall dented. This happens less and less, but when I am depressed, I am extremely angry. Many people living with mental illness understand rage, but I want to utilize language to define it further.
Defining Rage Outside of Mental Illness
I am going to take this out of the realm of mental health and provide a general definition. Rage, according to Wikipedia, is defined as:
Rage (often called fury or frenzy) is a feeling of intense or growing anger. It is associated with the Fight-or-flight response . . . . The phrase, 'thrown into a fit of rage,' expresses the immediate nature of rage that . . . if left unchecked may lead to violence. Depression and anxiety lead to an increased susceptibility to rage and there are modern treatments for this emotional pattern.
I have to say that my immediate reaction to this explanation is, well, exceptionally impressed. This makes sense. Rage is immediate and can be violent and feels intense. Further, depression and anxiety--and everything in between--does lead to a susceptibility in rage.
Wikipedia has rarely impressed nor enlightened me, but this--this--is accurate. I cannot even spew some sarcasm as I usually do.
How to Tame Rage When Living With Mental Illness
First, I would be amiss if I did not state that rage can lead to dangerous actions to one's self or someone else. That can be the nature of it. If you feel out of control, and unable to control these feelings, share this with a loved one and your mental health team. ASAP.
That said, there are different approaches we can take if rage affects our lives:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy has been used with success. Among many things, CBT teaches a person to regulate emotion. Ask your mental health team about CBT.
- Write down what makes you feel anger. Anger is the precursor to rage and being able to figure out what causes feelings of anger allows you to deal with them before they spiral out of control.
- Make a plan of attack! If you have a plan you can put into action when you start to feel angry you can often calm yourself down before it escalates.
- Analyze feelings of anger and rage. Ask yourself: "Why am I feeling this way?" and "What can I do about it?" Taking personal inventory is an invaluable tool when working to stabilize ourselves.
- Remind yourself that rage, although intense and scary, will pass.
- Practice self-care! Many self-care techniques work to calm our body and our mind.
Rage is a frightening emotion and it's worth it to share these feelings with loved ones and your mental health team regardless of how often they occur or the severity.
Understanding the underlying issues can help us move past these feelings and tame the dragon. Or, perhaps, kick it out of our lives completely.
Champagne, N. (2013, April 22). Mental Illness and Rage: How to Confront the Anger Dragon, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 23 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2013/04/confronting-the-dragon-mental-illness-and-rage
Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne
What a great comment. The words "angry" and "intense" I feel are connected but, of course, it depends on the person. It took me a long time to learn to talk about feelings before acting on them. I still struggle with this.
Thanks for reading,
Those who have any experience with charming psychopaths understavd that rage is not anger the healthy response to injustice trauma. Rage is repressed until it’s safe.
A psychopath has absolute control of choices & the rage episodes, the pathology dictates that unless affective empathy exists rage is the motivator in life, a target is found, groomed,, a shock and awe tactic will be created. Predators hide in plain sight waiting for the opportunity to rage, those closest will fall victim to the Jeckll and hyde character.
Rage can never be rational or logical that is why it is not anger, the psychotic nature of rage coupled with deliberate execution paralyses victims. Note Ted Bundy and his rages nothing triggered his crimes, he just enjoyed the endorphins high of plotting & completing his crimes.
Rage is the drug of choice in cluster B personalities with a huge release of endorphins four times higher than a non disordered person, it’s the risk & then rush through deliberate cruelty’s that differentiate rage and hot anger, sone people can disassociate from their behaviours and lack a moral compass.
Rage is a pathological controlled -. Anger is a loss of control, immaturity behaviour is in the moment not a premeditated action.