You talkin’ to me?! Anger Management and ADHD/ADD

I know you’re not talkin to me…

 Anger, that red hot feeling of pure rage and adrenalin surge that obliterates any rational thought. Most people when they get angry are able, most of the time, to control their impulses and step back.  For people with ADD/ADHD the trip from slightly annoyed to explosive outburst is short. The consequences of uncontrolled outbursts range from strained family relationships to jail time.

 In my own life anger management ranks as high as impulse control on my list of things that complicate my life.  I am still learning to control my anger, and learning to respond in a reasoned and controlled way.  It helps that I am trying to model good behavior for my kids. I love their reminders to “use my words” and “inside voice, mom”. If nothing else it breaks the tension and sometimes it is all I need to get back to normal.

Writing helps too. When I am angry it helps to write it down. Writing forces me to identify just what is pissing me off so much. Writing also forces me to slow down and think. Writing has saved me from myself more times than I care to think about. Here are my tips for anger management.

1. Identify your triggers. Avoid them. This will be more difficult if your triggers are human, and related to you. In that case, try and limit your interactions. If you find yourself triggered by co-workers, supervisors, or your work place, you might want to consider finding a new job. Seriously, your mental health is worth it.

2. Understand that frustration is the most common emotion that leads to anger. Identify what frustrates you, and fix it. Angry because you can’t find your keys, and you are running late for work? Make a plan the night before, keep your keys in the same place. Do what you need to do to make your life less frustrating.

3. Eat. Pay attention to your diet. Make sure that you eat in a way that maintains an steady blood sugar. As much fun as it is to eat a box of doughnuts and wash it down with coffee, be aware that low blood sugar after the binge can precipitate angry emotions. We have all been so hungry that we were angry about everything. Eat.

4. Get enough sleep. Stop laughing. Do the best you can. It really does make a difference.

5. Write it down. Make a list of everything making you angry. Identify what you can change, avoid or let go of. Get it out of your head and on paper. Sometimes when I am done, I just rip the paper to shreds, and toss it out. Find your own ritual to let go of your anger. If your are a fiction writer use your emotions to craft scenes of ultimate destruction, and revenge.

6. Take a walk. Go for a run. Put on loud, angry music and dance. Get the physical feelings out safely. Do not use this as an opportunity to intimidate others with your behavior.

7. Get help. If you find that your outbursts are causing problems in your life, find a mental health care professional to talk to. Some employers have employee assistance programs that provide free anger management counseling, and classes. Many hospitals offer anger and stress management programs. Take advantage of free and low cost programs in your area.

Anger management is possible. It is also our responsibility. Step back, take a breath, count to ten. Do what it takes to get your anger under control. Do it for yourself. Do it for your relationships.