Help with my apartment-mates rage problem
December 12, 2004 11:34 AM   Subscribe

My apartment-mate has a rage problem. It used to be once a month or so he would have a tantrum that involved smashing dishes and lightbulbs, overturning furniture, tearing down posters, and ripping up papers. Lately it's gotten to be a weekly thing. I used to feel sympathetic and I talked with him about his problems, but I've lost my patience and I'm sick of being caught in this. Several of his friends have tried getting him to go see a college counselor but he won't go. If I could, I would just leave the apartment, but it's impossible until my contract is up in June. Does anyone have any suggestions for getting him to chill out when he's in the middle of a tantrum? Or any suggestions for convincing him to get counseling, try medication, anything?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total)
I would tell him he either sees a counselor or you will bring law enforcement into it. You may want to call counseling services yourself for any suggestions they may have.
posted by konolia at 11:57 AM on December 12, 2004

Though I would never do this, because I'm a pretty small guy, might I suggest kicking his ass? Often times, when a person is unwilling to take responsibility for his actions (not goto counseling, not controlling himself, not giving a shit about the people around him) the best medication is a taste of his own medicine. Don't break him or anything; just make him understand.
posted by BlueTrain at 12:05 PM on December 12, 2004

If he busts stuff that's not his or is acting in a way that a reasonable person might (mis)perceive as dangerous, call the cops. Hopefully the prospect of going to jail might encourage him to get treatment (or just stop being an asshole), or a judge might order him to get treatment.

If you're renting from the university, bring it up with your RA / the management staff / etc, and try to get him kicked out.

It's a shame that he has these problems, and it's good to encourage him to get help for his problems. But at base, they're *his* problems, not yours, and there's no good reason for you in particular to have to put up with them.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:06 PM on December 12, 2004

Does anyone have any suggestions for getting him to chill out when he's in the middle of a tantrum?

I don't think this is possible. A friend of mine used to have the same problem, and once she got into her 'tantrums', they were in fact uncontrollable. This led her for a long time to believe the problem itself was uncontrollable, though she now says that the key is to recognize the impending outburst before it erupts. If you are still interested in helping your friend, try paying attention to what factors 'set him off' - type of problem, time of day, alone or in a group, alcohol involved, etc. Of course, if the answer to this is 'everything', then there is not much you can do, but if you recognize some specific factors, reminding him of them as they occur (and before he has become enraged) may have some effect. If he does not manifest this behaviour in all circumstances (e.g. he is able to control it in public, in front of bosses/professors), then the problem may not be as far out of his control as you (and he) may think it is.

Also, he may not be fully cognizant of the magnitude of his rages while he's in them. Apart from the cliched "intervention" (you and his other friends confronting him together in a systematic manner), which may provoke further rage, you might want to consider recording his 'performances' with a camcorder (again, assuming this doesn't enrage him further). Sometimes the shock of seeing how they appear to others can have a profound effect on people. For the same reason, never clean up the results of his outbursts. Coming back into the room a few hours later and still seeing the overturned furniture, the smashed dishes, etc., may also help him see the true extent of his problem.

If you are at the end of your rope and no longer primarily interested in helping him, then konolia's solution may be your necessary last resort. Also, you refer to an apartment "contract". Is this a lease in your name? Is it a joint lease? Or do you have separate leases for a shared apartment (a common practice for student accommodation)? If it is one of the latter two arrangements, you may have some recourse with the landlord before actually getting law enforcement involved.

Best of luck.

On preview: BlueTrain's solution is harsh and probably impractical for you, but has the virtue of simple stimulus-and-response, state of nature reasoning, and thus probably more accurately reflects humanity as it generally is, sad to say...
posted by Urban Hermit at 12:24 PM on December 12, 2004

Have you told him that doing this is NOT okay? Tell him to go somewhere else to freak out.
posted by xammerboy at 12:31 PM on December 12, 2004

it's impossible until my contract is up in June

Nothing is impossible. Work out something with the landlord and move out. Most of the apartment leases that I've seen have specific terms that say what happens if you need to break the lease (e.g., you forfeit a month's rent or something). And whether it does or not, you can always negotiate something with the landlord. Forfeiting a little money may be well worth it to get out of this situation. If the landlord won't let you leave on acceptable terms, ask for their help in getting the other guy kicked out.

If it's university housing, then they must have some process for keeping you out of a dangerous situation. (People using seem to be able to move just because they don't _like_ their roommate.)

If you try to beat the guy up you could wind up with a criminal record. Just because you never call the cops on him doesn't necessarily mean that he won't on you, or that the neighbors won't hear and call or whatever.
posted by mcguirk at 12:54 PM on December 12, 2004

Do SOMETHING. This is not the kind of thing that should be tolerated.
posted by rushmc at 12:55 PM on December 12, 2004

Who holds the lease? You or him? Either you bail on him, or you kick him out. Do not tolerate this.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:06 PM on December 12, 2004

Yeah, I'd say go if you can. The only thing we have to do is die. Everything else is optional.
posted by Mo Nickels at 1:33 PM on December 12, 2004

Tranquilizer darts.

I'm only half joking.
posted by kindall at 1:52 PM on December 12, 2004

I had a downstairs neighbor who would fly into fits of rage and throw things around his apartment. It was so loud, it sounded like he was picking up bookcases and throwing them against the wall. I ended up talking to the landlord and moving out of the building, the guy was pretty out of touch mentally and pretty aggressive if you saw him in the halls. I knew I had to leave when I started keeping a baseball bat near my bed.

I agree with others that you need to get out of this situation. People who cannot control their rage will eventually turn it on their neighbors or roommates, it's just a matter of time and frustration. It has to be scary to be around them while they're breaking things and freaking out, and I've only lived near people like this, not with them. I don't agree with the advice that you should attack the roommate, they've already proved how unstable and unpredictable they are. I just wouldn't risk it. Better to take the high road, and break the lease, call the cops, have an intervention, etc. A little tough love works with someone who is relatively stable and has hit a rough patch, but it would probably provoke someone who is having rage problems on a consistent, periodic basis.

And if you're at all concerned for your safety, don't worry about hurting their feelings or seeming rude, or causing a scene. Call the police immediately, talk to the landlord today, move in with some friends temporarily, whatever it takes to get yourself away from them asap. And trust me, once you're away from this bad situation, you will sleep like a baby and be much happier in general. Good luck!
posted by beaverd at 2:06 PM on December 12, 2004

And if you both have your names on the lease, consider asking your housing folks for permission to install tougher locks on your room. If they ask why, explain the issue with your roomate. State how you'd like to leave (or have him leave), but don't want to break the contract. If they're worried about being sued, they may let you go (or better yet, kick him out) before June.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:32 PM on December 12, 2004

If you have a lease, I doubt the landlord wants someone who tears the apartment apart either. I understand he might have problems and all, but it's silly that's you're asking if YOU should move.

Whether you "talk to him" or flat-out tell him you want his ass out of the apartment, the key here is preparation, for your own safety. I would recommend, first and foremost, securing anything you have of value before letting him on to your problem. The last thing you want is him putting his foot through your computer or something, or trashing your room in anger when you're away. When the moment comes to inform him of what has to be done, I would suggest you bring a friend or two and have them wait outside or in the other room, in case he decides to take this anger out on you when you face him.

Finally, be it the landlord or a college dorm manager, the solution to contract breaking is calling the police. If you have an assault report, there's not a landlord in the world that's going to say one of you can't leave. That's a willful negligence lawsuit waiting to happen.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:49 PM on December 12, 2004

just ignore it. one day he'll graduate, settle down, start a family, and take his rage out on them.
posted by quonsar at 4:39 PM on December 12, 2004

Be careful. People with this kind of episodic dyscontrol don't generally respond well to being interrupted in the middle of their tantrums. The proper time to address the behavior is before or after, not so much during.

If you feel that interruption is required, get someone trained in the art (a cop or security guard) to help you.
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:55 PM on December 12, 2004

I think Urban Hermit hit the mark. Stop them before they begin. I used to go into some pretty awful rages, and I don't know if I was ever able to stop one in the middle of it. It's pretty disgusting, but they're intoxicating when you're in the middle of them. Along with learning to be less angry, I had to learn to stop myself when I felt one coming on and remove myself from the cause of the anger.

When my dad was in grad school he and his housemates came up with a house rule for stopping arguments. Any time it looked like someone was getting angry, anyone could yell "Suit up!" Then everyone in the room would have to form "hand glasses" - making a circle with your index and thumb, turning your hands upside down and then hooking your middle, ring, and pinky fingers along the sides of your face so your palms pressed against your cheeks and the index and thumb formed "glasses" around your eyes. The idea was that no one could possibly continue a serious argument while looking so ridiculous.
posted by schroedinger at 5:07 PM on December 12, 2004

The only disadvantage to anonymous posting is that you can't respond to our follow up questions, which would help a great deal. But hopefully you'll get enough input here to help you make an informed decision.

My first question to you would be if he is having the tantrums while you are home... Like kid's tantrums, adults like this are often trying to get attention and help by others' reactions to negative stimuli. If he goes into a rage and you're at home, leave immediately, telling him that you will return when he can express his feelings rationally. This may force his hand and extinguish the events faster.The flip side of this option is, depending on your relationship, you may find yourself to be the more direct object of his tantrums if he processes that you are negating what he feels to be a valid feeling.

I agree with just about everyone else in that there is a risk to your personal safety by remaining there, and this guy needs some clinical support stat. In some areas, police involvement can help in getting a mental health referral, but in others they may just dump him into the 'nuisance' category.

Good luck and put your safety first above any of the advice here, than concern yourself with his if you choose.
posted by moonbird at 5:37 PM on December 12, 2004

Get the fuck out of there. No financial penalty is worth lingering around someone with an escalating rage problem. When he turns on you will you feel comforted by the fact that you didn't forfeit some cash on your lease?
posted by srboisvert at 7:11 PM on December 12, 2004

Buy some mace, and possibly a taser, and then start planning to leave.
posted by aramaic at 9:07 PM on December 12, 2004

Definitely get out, whatever it takes, and then talk to a family member of your roommate and let them know what its happening. The possibilities for the cause of this behavior are various - it could be a personality disorder, or a side effect from something else (some antidepressants evidently can cause rage as a side effect), or depression, or a brain disorder, even aspergers or epilepsy - so, a good thorough medical examination would be in order straight off the top.

What you don't want to do is to try to confront your roommate in an attempt to work it out on your own. Because this anger is irrational and seemingly out of control, it could become dangerous. Some people who experience rage will destroy things, or harm themselves, to try to keep from attacking other people. The fact that these episodes are increasing doesn't seem like a good sign to me, and I think you need to get out of Dodge.
posted by taz at 4:21 AM on December 13, 2004

Like kid's tantrums, adults like this are often trying to get attention and help by others' reactions to negative stimuli.

I have to disagree with this. I have had anger issues myself (possibly related to the fact that I have epilepsy - apparently there are such a thing as 'rage seizures') but I very rarely burst out in front of other people (I just seethe). My worst responses (throwing something, hitting something) are when I am alone. It is difficult to control but I am more likely to if I am around other people (which means if I really feel I'm about to burst I will walk off in a huff). The fact that there is some modicum of control does not mean it is really controllable though - people with tourrette's have a degree of control, too, but it is obviously of a different sort than those who do not feel an overpowering impulse to yell obscenities to begin with.

I would begin with making it clear this is absolutely unacceptable. Do not act as if you are frightened as that may only a)make him feel more powerful or b)make him feel angry with you for what he may interpret as passive-aggressive behavior. A weird thing about anger is that it can be fed by other emotions but it doesn't matter all that much which emotions (love/pleading, fear/shrinking away, anger/yelling back). If you see he's getting upset, be detached (not condescending, but just generally unaffected), remind him it's unacceptable, and go out for a while.

Does he apologize afterward? Does he seem to realize this is a problem, or does he think it's not that big a deal? Make it clear to him that this has to change. If he is unwilling to be treated, then I'd follow the other advice here - get out, kick him out, or have security intervene.
posted by mdn at 8:29 AM on December 13, 2004

1) Tell the jerk that it is NOT ok to do that and that you want him to move out and that if he isn't willing you're looking to move out.

2) Send a certified letter to the landlord explaining that you want to break your contract and that you want to do this because you fear for your safety and for the safety of your belongings.

3) Warn him that you'll call the cops if he breaks anything of your's. Call the cops when he does.

4) Get out of the situation as soon as you can. This cannot and should not be tollerated.
posted by pwb503 at 10:19 AM on December 13, 2004

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