While no one is perfect and we all get mad sometimes, there are appropriate times and places for people to get angry. It is when the anger is out of control or disproportionate to the event that it actually becomes an issue. Reactions range from yelling or shouting, throwing/breaking things, to violence. The cause of anger issues can vary greatly, but often the root of the problem is an underlying depression of some sort. The people around the angry individual are often scared, embarrassed, nervous and uncertain of what to do when the situation suddenly erupts. Because all people are different, there is no universal way to act or react to such people. The situation is one that you must “feel out” and decisive action must be taken based on things like where you are and the person’s individual history. There are, however, some things that you can do to deal with the issue for the future.
Don’t try to fix it while it’s happening. Once the situation has become beyond what the person can handle, there isn’t much to be done on your part. Aside from backing away from the issue, it is best to not attempt to confront the problem in the heat of the moment. Telling someone that they have an anger issue, while they are angry, is NOT a good idea. Say what you need to say or do to cool things off. While you may think this means “losing” the argument, you are never really winning arguments with this type of person anyway. Suck up your pride and deal with the real issue when things cool down.
Leave immediately if things get violent. This is especially important when children are involved, but no one should ever stay around someone who is acting dangerous or unpredictable. You may think you can handle it, but don’t even try. Separating yourself from the situation at the first sign of danger sends a clear message to the angry person - “I won’t tolerate your behavior.” If they don’t get the message that their behavior is scary, then you know, beyond any doubt, that you need help to deal with them.
Try not to rationalize their behavior. Many people actually think that they did something to trigger or “cause” the person to be mad. By shifting the blame to you, you are justifying irrational behavior and taking the responsibility of self-control out of their hands. When someone has an anger issue, they become upset for almost no reason whatsoever, or have what appears to be a response that is blown out of proportion. There is no rational thought going on in their heads while this is happening. You cannot make any more sense of it than they can. You need to accept that it is their responsibility to “act normal” as much as they need to accept it for themselves.
Seek out professional help. Aside from a counselor or therapist, you will need to involve family and friends in this. If this person has a history of this behavior, don’t be surprised if you find a lot of people from their past who are no longer friends with them. Talk to other people about having an intervention. It may seem like a radical idea, and that the anger issue “isn’t that bad” but these things rarely resolve themselves. In most cases, the behavior unchecked only escalates. The fuse becomes shorter and shorter with less need for “justification.” While the individual may initially be upset with you for “overreacting,” it is a clear sign that you really care for them when you attempt to get them help. This initial anger with the confrontation of the issue is one of the biggest reasons that you should find others to help you to deal with this situation. It is far safer to bring up in a group setting than one on one. Also, it will help the person to realize that you are not the only one who sees their behavior as troubling. If you would like to find help to deal with someone who has these issues in your area, start by contacting your local health department. If you are more comfortable over the phone or online you can contact www.coping.org, www.stressgroup.com, www.PPBH.org or www.findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov.
While it may be painful to watch someone suffering with anger issues, especially when that anger is directed at you, it is important to deal with the problem. This means doing what it takes to get the person the help that they need, which is usually not an easy thing to do. You must be very strong, for them and for yourself. I recommend talking to a counselor for your own benefit, before you begin to deal with this issue. A professional will be able to help guide you to make smart decisions and to know when the situation is “out of your control.” They will also be able to sense changes in your own behavior that you may have neglected to notice, or are too subtle to detect. For more information on professional counseling services, visit www.freementalhealth.com or contact your local health department for more localized resources.