Why do I keep getting so angry?

File:Angry man.jpg

Do you find yourself losing control, tipped over the edge by the smallest of things? Well, it might be all down to your genes?  While some of us can accept life’s irritations with a smile and a shrug, others see red and want to tear the head off the next person who dares to speak. Consider how your parents and grandparents handle their anger. Chances are you probably deal with things very much like them. Now while I would love to tell you that you have probably inherited the “angry gene,” the reality is that such a specific gene does not exist. Chances are that your nature, that is, how you deal with things that is likely to have been inherited. In other words it’s learnt behaviour, the way you deal with stress, confrontation and life’s challenges is the thing that is inherited. Perhaps stress management rather than anger management is what you need? Feel free to talk to us if you would like more information on ways to manage stress.- steveclifford.info

So what exactly is anger and why do we get angry? As with all our other emotions, anger is has a very important function. From an evolutionary perspective, anger is natures way of responding to threat. It is nature’s way of letting us know that we have been emotionally wounded and mobilises us to fend off an attacker.

There are certain situations that appear to trigger anger more frequently:

  • When our “rules, values and standards” have been crossed, threatened or disrespected in some way or when path has been blocked by another.
  • When we feel frightened, inadequate or foolish.
  • When we feel our “rights” have been broken or violated by another.
  • When we have been “hurt” and do not want to show another how vulnerable we feel.
  • When another’s actions triggers past hurts.

From a CBT perspective, its not the event itself that causes us to feel angry, its the meaning of the event that causes us to feel the way we do.

So how do you overcome the urge to respond angrily to another?

Coming back to the scenario when we feel wronged and our response has been to shout , gesture and act intimidating towards another with the intent of attacking verbally (sometimes even physically). Is this really the way to express ourselves, or indeed quell the rising torrent of anger? Take heart, it need not be like this. You have a choice, either the anger controls you, or you can take control of it.The first point to remember is that you are responsible for your anger, you can choose whether to express your anger or not. For example, a bus splashes you as it drives through a huge puddle and you are instantly soaked. You have a choice… you can laugh at your pitiful plight, or wave an angry fist. The key is to buy yourself some time, in other words, you need to”lengthen the fuse.”

Instant fury is triggered by reflex action and responses come from a small part of the brain known as the “amygdala” located in the”limbic centre” of the brain. This is the part of the brain responsible for the “fight or flight” response when we sense danger or threat. In the case of instant anger, the thinking part or “central cortex” has been bypassed. This is known as an “amygdula hijack.” By simply lengthening the fuse and counting from one to ten slowly, it will allow the thinking part of the brain to engage.

People often mistakenly believe that the way they respond to situations is set in tablets of stone, “I’ve just got a short temper,” or, “I’m just like my Dad.” Well, this is simply not true, it is just that is the way you have become accustomed to dealing with situations.

If you have become angry and “lost it” at the shop assistant because they appear to be going deliberately slow (when you are in a hurry). Stop, take a breath, count to ten and then apologise sincerely. Now ask for their point of view. This will serve to create a mindful problem solving arena. Remember. they are probably as frustrated having a continual queue as you are stood waiting in the queue. They may well be going slowly, because they are tired, bored and fed up. Try listening to what others say, with the emphasis on responding, not mindlessly reacting to their words. Use the rational thinking part of your brain rather than the primitive danger/threat response.

So here are some tips you might find useful:

  • Start managing your anger, even before it appears.
  • Watch out for your hot spots, those people, places, times and situations in which you normally find yourself getting angry.
  • Ensure there is no “unfinished business” or issues that could re-kindle unresolved anger.
  • Aim to process your anger as soon as you become aware of it. Ask yourself, “What is it saying to me?” or, “Do I recognise this feeling?”
  • Be prepared to process your anger by talking about your feelings
  • If you must fight, “Fight fairly.”
  • Make sure your ready to apologise.

Here is a method that has been used successfully by many people to manage situations and stop their anger surfacing in an unhealthy manner. It may not prevent arguments, but it could stop arguments spiraling out of control. The key is to address your anger as soon as you become aware of it. Follow these four steps BEFORE you explode, rather than picking up the pieces afterwards.

  1. As soon as you feel your body tensing and your anger beginning to rise, say out loud:  “I am beginning to feel angry and need to take time-out.”
  2. Exit your home or the situation, for a thirty minute period of time. No less, no more. Go for a walk or a jog, but DON’T DRINK and DON’T DRIVE,
  3. Do something physical that will use up the adrenalin that is beginning to surface.
  4. When thirty minutes has passed, return. Check in with the other and ask if they want to talk about the problem. Accept their wishes and remember they may not wish to discuss it.

Time-out is a very effective strategy to employ, but it needs to be practised. It is not to be used to get out of work or things you do not wish to do.

For more information on anger management contact the British Association for Anger Management – www.angermanage.co.uk

Until next time, Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

image ref: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7b/Angry_man.jpg

What causes headaches?


The chances are that someone reading this will be experiencing a headache. It might be a migraine headache, a tension headache, or even, dare I say, a hangover! There are so many causes of headaches, including some you might have overlooked.

Take the weekend lie in for example. Working flat out all week and then suddenly stopping, causes stress hormones in the bloodstream to suddenly drop. This sudden drop in stress hormones triggers the release of neurotransmitters which cause the blood vessels to constrict and this frequently results in a pounding headache. The solution? Work on lowering your stress levels during the week and then the come down won’t be so marked.

Have you ever woken up with a headache and wondered why? Could you be grinding your teeth in your sleep? Again stress is likely to be the culprit when you find yourself grinding your teeth and wake up with a headache. You may not necessarily be aware of it, but tell tale signs include aching teeth, neck and facial tension in the mornings. As well as working on lowering your stress levels you could try having a neck, shoulder and facial massage. Some forms of massage are particularly good at releasing emotional tension, see pulsing.co.uk

Poor sleep as a result of a partner snoring can also be a common cause of daytime headaches. A simple but effective cure might be to use earplugs designed especially for this purpose, see zenplugs.co.uk

Bad posture is a common cause of headaches, sitting down at a computer all day with your head and neck pivoting on tight back, neck and shoulder muscles. While glare from the computer screen, along with eyes straining to focus on a near distant screen often triggers headaches.

Surprisingly, exercise can also cause headaches with some people. For example, “Joggers headache” which comes about when the muscles of the head, neck and scalp need more blood to circulate. This causes the blood vessels to swell. This type of headache is known as an exertion headache. Another cause of exertion headache is the “orgasmic headache.” While this might only be an occasional problem for some, those with a predisposition to migraines are more likely to suffer exertion headaches. Such pain may last anything from a few minutes to several hours. It is thought to be due to the rapid rise in blood pressure which occurs during sex and, in particular, during orgasm.

Recent press coverage suggests that overuse of painkillers taken to cure headaches, may actually be the cause of headaches for many people dailymail.co.uk  The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) nice.org.uk suggest incorrect diagnosis may be a factor along with fears of possible underlying causes. While I agree that persistent headaches require investigation to rule out brain tumours and other life threatening conditions, I do not necessarily accept that mis-diagnosis is a major problem. In my opinion, it is more likely that the problem relates to ease of access to analgesic medication which is seen as a quick fix, coupled with lack of education about alternative ways to address the pain caused by headaches. Treating themselves with over-the-counter medications may seem like a good idea, but with the array of potent drugs available, like aspirin, paracetamol, ibuprofen and the addictive codeine based painkillers it is not surprising that people are giving themselves drug induced “rebound headaches.”

At my Bexhill practice, not only have seen many people addicted to over-the-counter analgesic medication, but I have also seen many trapped in a cycle of “health anxiety.” This preoccupation with illness with people worried about headaches, actually leads to raised stress and tension, resulting in further headaches. Forcing GP’s to send them for tests only results in more stress headaches and the cycle goes on, as they repeatedly seek tests and investigations.

One of the best ways to manage pain of all types (including headaches) is to learn mindfulness meditation steveclifford.info. With its origins in Buddhist philosophy 2500 years ago, this type of meditation has been well tested, and, I am delighted to report, it is free from side effects! Despite first impressions, mindfulness meditation is not strictly the preserve of shaven headed monks as anyone can benefit from learning the techniques. It is simple to learn and offers a very powerful tool to combat stress, tension and associated headaches. Instead of trying to push pain away, mindfulness teaches us to approach it, to explore and to embrace, rather than fight it. With practice, by letting go of the resistance to pain, the pain becomes more manageable and headaches ease.

Until next time, Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist

image ref: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ATension-headache.jpg

Mental Health Disorders

According to the National institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) nice.org.uk at any one time, common mental health disorders affect some 15% of the population. This figure represents one in five working days lost, at a cost to UK employers of £25bn each year. Talking about mental health problems is so important, because without public debate, mental health problems will remain in the dark, fuelling ignorance and perpetuating stigma.

If you are worried about your mental health, seek professional help and advice via your GP in the first instance. Alternatively, talk to someone at one of the mental health charities such as MIND. mind.org.uk

Don’t be ashamed to confide in a close friend or family member. Those around you can not only support you, but may be able to provide practical help and may even come with you to the GP if you feel nervous about going.  Remember mental health problems are very treatable and your GP will enable you to get the right help you need..

Many people find having the opportunity to talk to a professional counsellor or psychotherapist very beneficial. Some types of talking treatments such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can teach you to become your own therapist. Helping you to make the link between your thoughts, feelings and behaviours and then showing you strategies to change them can be really empowering. For more information on CBT visit my website steveclifford.info and click on the link, “What is CBT?. AS well as talking therapies medication can also be invaluable in helping to stabilise your mood to help you to feel more in control. Talking therapy and medication  is often very effective when used together under the guidance of a health professional.

Leading figures in public life such as Nick Clegg, John Berkow and Alistair Campbell are supporting campaigns such as the “Sunday Express Crusade for Better Mental Health.” Talking about mental health and how it impacts on you and your life is just so important to break down the stigma associated with mental health disorders. When actor Stephen Fry spoke about his battle with bi-polar disorder, it did so much to help people with this condition, likewise, when comedienne Ruby Wax spoke about her experiences with depression it was another step towards helping to move debate out of the shadows into the real world. Visit Ruby’s website blackdogtribe.com and join the Sunday Express Campaign for Better Mental Health at sundayexpress.co.uk / mentalhealth.

START TALKING TODAY and help end the discrimination that separates mental health problems from physical health problems. Remember Mental heath disorders are no different from physical health disorders.

Until next time, Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

image ref: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ADepression-loss_of_loved_one.jpg