Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an incredibly debilitating anxiety disorder tied to the traumatic events in one's past. These traumas fundamentally reshape one's worldview and perception of themselves and others. This can introduce a frame of mind dictated by fear, anxiety, depression, or other negativities.
However, on top of these feelings, PTSD can also birth intense feelings of anger and frustration, continuing to complicate and pollute one's already anxious state of mind. Coping with the prevalence of anger as a result of PTSD is essential in navigating one's recovery. Understanding the role that anger plays is the first step towards overcoming it throughout recovery.
The Overwhelming Nature of PTSD
PTSD is a complicated disorder, largely because trauma is such a personal experience. Trauma comes in many forms and from many different sources. A person's traumatic experience is unique to them. For some, trauma may result from bodily harm or threats. These can take the form of physical or sexual assault, threats to one's life or safety, or come as the result of natural disasters, car crashes, or other physical traumas.
Others may experience trauma even if they were not directly physically harmed. Living through life-threatening events, even if they were lucky enough to emerge unscathed, can still fundamentally affect their perception of the world.
First responders, medical professionals, and members of the armed forces can be at an even greater risk of exposure to traumatic events due to the life-threatening situations that they may experience. However, trauma is still a ubiquitous experience that can affect anyone from all walks of life. While one's personal experiences with traumatic events may be wholly unique, the effects of PTSD, as well as the anger produced, create a need for change.
The Prevalence of Anger From PTSD
Anger, frustration, irritability, and more are all common as a result of traumatic experiences for a number of reasons. Some may be frustrated with themselves as a result of their scenario. Feelings of shame or guilt can be present, causing an individual to blame themselves for the traumatic event transpiring. Feeling angry at oneself can be a common way these feelings manifest in an individual.
Others may experience anger at the rest of the world around them, blaming others for such a drastically and violently changed worldview. This newfound negative perspective can bleed into everyday life, filling once innocent parts of one's world with a newfound sense of anger or dread.
Lastly, PTSD is a collection of overwhelming emotions, and it can easily compromise one's emotional resilience. Increased emotional states of hypervigilance and hyperarousal can manifest as anger. This is either as an individual attempts to come to terms with the situation or as a result of an incredibly strained emotional state.
Anger is a very pervasive feeling due to its raw nature. While one's true feelings may be a complex concoction of anxiety, depression, guilt, fear, and more, lashing out with anger is a common way one may attempt to process these feelings. PTSD's ability to compromise one's ability to regulate their emotional responses often leaves anger unaddressed and unregulated as a result.
The Effects of Anger on PTSD Recovery
The prevalence of anger throughout recovery is a common experience. However, anger can cause an individual to act outside of their own better judgment. Addressing anger is paramount for effective recovery, both to help an individual manage their own emotional state as well as employ appropriate coping strategies. While one's recovery will be unique to them, addressing the prevalence of anger is necessary to find appropriate outlets to express such a raw emotion.
Processing Anger in Recovery
Finding a way to process these feelings is difficult. For some, it is less about trying to rationalize their anger and more about directing it into a safe medium. The use of art can be instrumental in giving these feelings a tangible form. It can take an overwhelming, flooding emotion and provide it with a definitive form, instead of allowing it to exist unregulated in the atmosphere or in one's mind. Others may take to music, with certain songs being able to elicit specific emotions, creating a time to process these feelings instead of them manifesting anywhere at any time.
Lastly, keeping open and honest communication with supports can allow one's anger to be addressed in an educated way. Anger can cause an individual to say things they may not mean, or take actions against their own goals. Keeping informed supports nearby can help an individual process these emotions safely while retaining the hard work they have done to reestablish these important relationships.
While anger is an essential emotion to express, it can also be volatile and destructive. Getting help to overcome the unique symptoms of PTSD is important, both for one's anxieties as well as finding ways to process this anger. If one's anger becomes increasingly destructive, it is important to find professional help to create new processing strategies to retain these relationships and ensure that one's recovery continues in a healthy, safe, and productive manner.