Anger Management with ADD and Learning Disabilities

Let’s Talk About Anger

By Elizabeth Bogod Executive Director Vancouver Island Invisible Disability Association.

Pick a topic:

Anger and Learning Disabilities and/or Attention Deficit Disorder

Anger Management for Everyone

  Possible Concerns For People With Learning Disabilities and/or Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder

  • Anger and frustration about the impact your LD/AD(H)D has on your life Its not fair. (Why do I have to struggle when other people lives seem so much easier?).
  • Resentment towards others (non-LD/ADHD) who have seemingly easier lives.
  • Anger directed at ones self for failing to meet your own or other people expectations.
  • Blaming others (e.g. parents, teachers, social workers, etc.) for not providing you with the support you need(ed) or failure to recognize the problem in the first place.
  • Frustration with academic performance such as poor reading comprehension, poor concentration, poor memory, or slow work completion rate.
  • Anger and frustration about the lack of understanding of LD/ADHD in the family, workplace, educational institution, and general public.
  • Frustration caused by lack of services (e.g. assessment, counseling, and job training services)
  • Anger about being incorrectly judged, diagnosed or labeled.
  • Anger about being abused, bullied or taken advantage of because of LD/ADHD related social/emotional issues.
  • Social Frustrations:Difficulty noticing or understanding humour, sarcasm, and non-verbal communication (e.g. body language).
  • Lack of tolerance for your LD/AD(HD related difficulties.

Coping Strategies

  • Accept your LD/AD(H)D Work through the acceptance process by using the Acceptance module
  • Redefine your goals and recognize unrealistic expectations
  • Practice forgiveness
  • Develop strategies to make learning easier (e.g. mnemonics for memorization, etc.)
  • Dont beat yourself up over every LD/ADHD related problem you encounter REMEMBER IT IS A DISABILITY!
  • Share difficult experiences and your feelings with someone you trust who is a good listener such a family member, relative, friend, or therapist.
  • Contact VIDA (250-478-4554) or your local Learning Disabilities Association to find out about services available to you or take the Finding Your Way workshop to learn about services available in your community.
  • Develop an awareness campaign to educate people about learning disabilities and Attention Deficit Disorder. Use your LD/AD(H)D to educate people if you feel comfortable.
  • Develop your self-advocacy skills to get the support and accommodations you need.
  • Learn new social skills and practice them regularly.
  • Reduce your chances of being re-victimized – not not trust everyone you come into contact with immediately. Keep private information to yourself until the person has earned your trust

Anger Management for Everyone

Mini Anger FAQ

What is anger?

Anger is __________________

a)    Normal
b)   An emotion experienced by everyone
c)    A powerful feeling but one you can learn to manage with practice.
d)   Not the same thing as aggression, which is a behavior (such as hitting someone) that may result if you cant bring your anger under control
e)    Neither positive nor negative nor right nor wrong to feel
f)     All the Above

If you answered f) All of the Above, you are correct.

So what is anger?

Simply put, anger is an emotion. In fact, anger is just an emotion – it is neither right nor wrong to feel it. Anger only becomes a problem for people when it is repressed. Unresolved anger can lead to serious physical and mental health problems such as heart disease, stroke, depression and anxiety.

What is the purpose of Anger?

The purpose of anger is to alert us to danger and in doing so produce the flight or fight response. In other words, anger is meant to protect us from harm. All of the physical effects you experience when you are angry are there to tell you that something is wrong. It can motivate us to make positive changes in our community or advocate for others. For example, Martin Luther King was motivated by outrage over racial prejudice (some of which he experienced first hand) to start a civil rights movement in America. With this in mind, you can see that anger, in and of itself, is not negative.

It is, however, a complex emotion. Anger is usually considered a secondary emotion. When we get behind our anger, we discover that there is always a primary emotion such as fear, sadness or frustration at root of it. Understanding the emotions behind the anger is one way of expressing anger appropriately, but we will discuss this later.

Where does anger come from?

Anger is usually caused by some kind of perceived or actual injustice, selfish or thoughtless act, hurtful remark, etc. But this is not where anger comes from. Anger comes from inside of you. It is a natural response to dissatisfaction with your environment.

Types of Anger

According to John Lee, writer of Facing the Fire Experiencing and Expressing Anger Appropriately , there are basically two main types of anger Present Anger and Suppressed Anger.

Present Anger

This type of anger is caused by immediate circumstances such as somebody cutting you off while driving, the frustration you experience after missing your plane, or being forced to deal with someone who is being verbally aggressive. The emotional response is in proportion to what has happened. This anger is only a problem as long as the circumstances persist. Once the circumstance passes the anger subsides quickly and everyone is able to go on with his or her life as normal.

Suppressed Anger

This type of anger is destructive. It is left over anger from experiences that we were either unable or refused to deal with at the time. We often express this type of anger inappropriately. Present day events remind us of the experience or some aspects of it which brings back our old feelings of anger. Unfortunately, because this anger is not based in the present and has been allowed to build up over a period of time (sometimes for years) our emotional responses will not likely to be in proportion to the triggering event. As a result, we might overreact or take our anger out on somebody who had nothing to do with the original anger-producing event or trigger.   This anger is misplaced. It usually continues to trouble us long after the reminder has passed. You might obsess over it or become extremely depressed by it.

Why do people suppress anger?

As we grow up, we learn about anger and how to respond to it. Some people learn that anger is bad. In their minds, anger is directly associated with pain or violence and therefore must be avoided. They dont understand that anger, in and of itself, cannot cause someone to act violently. Violence is a conscious choice. Only you can decide to hurt someone else not your anger!

Suppressed anger can often be traced back to some type of trauma that we have experienced in our lives such as emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. Bullying during childhood is another form of trauma that often contains suppressed anger. Victims of natural disasters and crime are partially susceptible as well. Other life changing events such as the loss of a loved one, divorce, child custody battles, job loss, etc are other sources of suppressed anger. However, suppressed anger does not necessarily have to be related to a huge traumatic event in your life. For some people, the intense feelings of loss and anger at never having a chance to say goodbye, after a close friend moves away, remain with the person well into adulthood. It is important not to dismiss these types of experiences as being silly or unworthy of exploration.

Why do some people seem addicted to anger?

Some people are anger junkies. They enjoy or need to experience the short-term pay-offs of aggression in order to get through their everyday life. A definition of addiction which I find useful is that it is “a short term kick followed by a longer-term kick in the teeth”–a reward followed by a punishment.

Here are some of the short-term rewards of anger:

  •        Creates an adrenaline rush
  •        Provides a sense of power
  •        Provides Excitement
  •        Relieves boredom
  •        Makes people listen to you
  •        Enables you to avoid crying or showing vulnerability
  •        Keeps you from facing feelings of sadness or fear
  •        Gets people to do things for you through intimidation
  •        Establishes superiority over others (Im better than you)
  •        Puts the blame on someone else, other than yourself
  •        Shows other people that you are not a wimp
  •        Scares other people into submission
  •        Motivates you to get things done

If you are an anger junkie, try to identify the pay-offs you are getting out of it. Then think about the long-term effects of your aggressive or passive aggressive behavior (e.g. loss of relationships, opportunities, etc.). Now decide if the short-term benefits are worth suffering the long-term punishments.

How can I manage my anger appropriately?

You can manage your anger and express it appropriately! Here is what you will accomplish once you learn how to manage your anger:

1. You will view anger as an emotion and nothing more. You wont see it as a precursor to violence and will be able to recognize both the negative and positive effects anger can have in your life.

2. You will use anger as a signal that there are problems you need to look after.

3. You will take action, but only after you are aware of what is making you angry and why. You will be able to identify the type of anger you are experiencing Present or Suppressed Anger.

4. You will be able to identify the primary emotions that lie under the surface of your anger and use these emotions to communicate your needs.

5. You will not need to resort to violence, crime or verbal attack because of your anger.

6. You will skillfully cope with interpersonal conflict.

7.   You will state your needs clearly, in ways that others can understand.

8.   You will let go of your anger rather than hang onto it once you have expressed your feelings and resolved the problem.

Healthy’ Anger

Because anger is not a negative emotion it can be a healthy emotion! Healthy anger lets you problem-solve, not blame. It gives you control, allows you to think and to accept your feelings. With healthy anger, you accept responsibility for your anger. You do not blame others.

How do you make anger healthy?

Know you are angry. Your body will tell you that you are angry. Pay attention to the signs:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Red, hot face
  • Sweaty palms
  • Wide Eyes (pupils dilated)
  • Knotted stomach
  • Tight jaw
  • Clenched fists
  • Tense or shaky body
  • Yelling
  • Tightness of the throat
  • Know what is making you angry. What type of anger you are dealing with (present or suppressed anger)?

Hint: You can tell what kind of anger you are experiencing by comparing your degree of emotional response to the situation. If you are annoyed, frustrated, mildly bothered, flustered, taken aback, you are likely responding to Present Anger. However if you are ticked right off!, vengeful, or ready to hit someone youre responding to Suppressed Anger. Of course, some Present Anger situations can make you extremely angry. For example, if you experience a major injustice such as losing a child to murder. With this in mind, you will also need to take the situation into account. Ask yourself if your emotions are in proportion to event taking place. Be honest with yourself about this. If the situation doesnt warrant the degree of emotion you are experiencing try to figure out where your Suppressed Anger is coming from.

Here are some strategies for emotional release of anger:

  1. Take a few deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose for five seconds and out through your mouth for five seconds. Repeat the process until you feel calm.
  2. Write a letter to the person you are angry at that you never intend to send. Be as irate as you wish, but try if you can to express the secondary emotions behind your anger in the letter. After you are done, you can either tear the letter up or burn it, depending on how you feel.
  3. Talk to a close friend who has nothing to do with the situation. One cautionary note, check with the person before you begin to be sure they are prepared to listen. If it is not a good time, ask when would be a better time and make an arrangement to talk then. You will also need to be sure the person is a good listener and is willing to put up with your ranting and raving!
  4. If you are coping with a lot of historical anger it might help to write a list of all the people you are angry at and why. Remember you are not planning to share this list with any of the people on it.
  5. Scream in the Car – If you do this, be sure that the windows are rolled up and doors are closed. Make sure nobody is around.
  6. Twist a Towel Tightly twist a towel using both hands. As you twist, express your anger verbally, say Im angry, I hate you, or whatever else you are feeling. Let the towel absorb your anger.
  7. Dance and Music This is a great way to release anger but it is a bit noisy so you may want to wait until you are alone. If you live in an apartment that has poor sound proofing you may prefer to take it to some other location, such as a secluded woods. Play a piece of music that expresses your anger. Now start dancing in a primitive, passionate style. Stomp your felt on the floor and shake your body. If you have one, you can add a drum or tambourine to the mix. Feel the anger flowing out of body. When you stamp the floor say, Boom, this Anger, Boom, Boom, (name the person you are angry at here).
  8. Get back to nature Go to your local forest or wildlife park. Walk or run on the trails what ever you prefer. Use what nature has to offer such as a rocks for throwing (be sure nobody is in its path!), dead branches for beating on the ground, etc.
  9. Exercise go for a walk or run to unwind. Only one precaution here Be sure you are not using exercise as a distraction. The object of this exercise (no pun intended!) is to release your anger not suppress it.
  10. Beat a Drum Get a drum and pound on it. Please note, all the cautionary notes mentioned in Dance and Music (above) also apply here too!
  11. Punch a Pillow Dont forget to verbalize your anger. Yes, you have my permission to yell at your pillow.