Anger is affecting my life
December 27, 2010 8:52 PM   Subscribe

Why am I so angry and what can I do about it?

I used to be the most laid back person you could meet. I find in my professional life I can control my anger or deflect it, but I find over the last few years my ability to control my anger with my family, boyfriend, and various situations (ex. bad drivers) has been terrible. I seem to freak out or have outbursts about the smallest things that would normally not bother the average person (or me 4 years ago) I feel I've become so much more emotional and I even feel out of control at times. The past year has been especially bad... I've never been violent but when I feel out of control I feel like there it literally steam coming out of my ears, I may even shake a bit and feel just out of sorts. (Usually when I get upset I calm down and I tend to recover quickly) I feel so silly for getting upset then a massive amount of guilt. There has been the odd time where after I will cry uncontrollably just so upset that I reacted the way I did. I just don't feel right and I'm considering seeking help from my doctor for a referral. Just wondering about others experiences about this or observations about loved ones they know going through something similar. I feel so ridiculous and want the old me back so badly, I have no idea how to get back to that point.

Thoughts? TIA!
posted by bluehermit to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Generalized anger sometimes be a strong indicator of depression, for which you know you have a lot of options -- the big three (in my book) being a combination of therapy, medication, and some version of exercise/yoga/meditation. None of them will work overnight, but in my experience they do all work.

Also, is there a chance you've gone on (or switched) hormonal birth control during this time? Mood swings like this can definitely be a side effect to hormones.
posted by scody at 9:01 PM on December 27, 2010 [6 favorites]

Did something happen in the intervening 4 years? Have you been in therapy? If not, maybe it's time?

One thought is that you describe the "you of 4 years ago" as the "most laid back person you could meet". Sometimes being laid back is great, other times it means that you are holding in your emotions for the sake of other people. Is that what happened here? If so, maybe all of that emotion is now coming out. There's a happy medium just have to find it. Maybe that therapist can help you sort that out.
posted by Sal and Richard at 9:03 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hey, don't fret. It happens. Sometimes stuff just builds up in our subconscious and starts bubbling over. You're human -- you're allowed to have off days, even if they feel really insane and stupid after the fact. It could be for any number of reasons: burn out, hormone imbalance, suppressed emotional turmoil, etc, etc. Only you, your GP, and maybe a therapist will be able to help you sort yourself out again.

FWIW, I started having the same issue both when I went on Yaz for two years, and then when I came off of it. My ability to tolerate very small things yo-yo'd from incredibly high to incredibly low in just a few weeks and for months I could not understand where my old self went. I actually had a number of nervous breakdowns to the point where, yes, I actually got a little physical with someone. Ask anybody who knows me and they'd tell you that violence is categorically uncharacteristic of my personality -- and yet, it happened, and my ability to manage my rationale and my self-control was so, so whack. Now I finally have the BC out of my system and I can't bear the thought of going back on it because my emotions are so much more... Well... Normal.

For me what helped was a) seeing my therapist and b) having my GP run a barrage of tests to see what was up with my hormone levels. Maybe you could do both? It never hurts to have your blood, hormone levels, and other bodily functions checked periodically, and maybe having the chance to talk to someone who specializes in some type of therapy that suits you would give you the chance to take this issue head on holistically.

Sorry you're feeling out of sorts. Hope you're able to find a solution. In the meantime, breathe, take time for yourself, and visualize yourself being calm and collected.
posted by patronuscharms at 9:06 PM on December 27, 2010

Response by poster: hmmm i started a new BCP a little over a year ago, not sure if that's affecting me, hard to tell? I will definitely bring it up with my doctor, would probably be worth getting my hormones checked... I didn't even think about it. I started a new career (I'm a brand new teacher) in April so I know that has caused a lot of the stress in my life too.
posted by bluehermit at 9:13 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Did you change or start taking birth control?
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:13 PM on December 27, 2010

How else do you feel, physically? Definitely explore any emotional issues, but don't discount possibilities like thyroid trouble, iron or vitamin deficiencies, sleep disorder, etc. The first two of those are easily and relatively cheaply detected by blood tests.
posted by availablelight at 9:13 PM on December 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

hmmm i started a new BCP a little over a year ago, not sure if that's affecting me, hard to tell?

My wife went on birth control pills, and became much more emotional generally, including anxiety and overreacting. When she stopped the pills, her mood stabilized. Asking around, she found plenty of anecdotal confirmation from other women that birth control pills can have significant mood effects, and her doctor confirmed that it was a predictable side effect.
posted by fatbird at 9:27 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

I know a few laid-back, easy-going people who had stressful times in their first year teaching... and they started doing that as a second career (so they weren't 21 or so, fresh outta college, without much life experience, etc.). The second and subsequent years were times of much lower stress.
posted by ambient2 at 9:48 PM on December 27, 2010

Nthing it is almost definitely the BCP. Personal experience speaking here!
posted by jbenben at 10:35 PM on December 27, 2010

I'm also a mellow, laid back kind of person by nature but birth control pills make me want to kill all the people. When I was younger I took a brand that didn't make me feel that way but they discontinued them and every pill I've tried since has made me want to throttle kittens.

I don't take them anymore, needless to say.
posted by fshgrl at 10:38 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sleep apnoea can make people grouchy and grumpy.

Do you snore? Do you wake up with a headache? Do you wake up feeling exhausted?
Do you feel like you need to go to bed at 3pm?

If so, it's worth looking into - as well as making you grouchy, untreated sleep apnoea can make you a more dangerous driver, affect your performance at work, and take years off your life expectancy.
posted by Hot buttered sockpuppets at 10:54 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yes, I took birth control for a month or so and it made me a total psycho. I became so easily enraged that it was frightening and upsetting. Something little would annoy me, like my partner clearing his throat, and I would become nearly uncontrollably angry. It made me feel very self-conscious with him and with other friends because I felt like such an asshole.

I lived in one small-ish room with my partner, very happily, for a year +, so it was very much out of the ordinary.

Off the pill, I was back to my old tolerant self.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:54 PM on December 27, 2010

Definitely get blood tests to rule out possible medical causes for this and to attend to any physiological consequences of the ongoing stress you've experienced. Hopefully you have an enlightened GP; be vigilant and look elsewhere if you feel your doc isn't being thorough enough, or just chucks antidepressants at you.

Anger's about feeling wronged, frustrated, or impotent. When you're responsible for things over which you have no control; deal with an abundance of minor 'hassles', like being caught up in bureaucratic entanglements, traffic, etc; or are subject to sensory overload (classroom?), you're bound to get angry. Plus, you're trying to craft a new professional identity, with a daily (and important) audience, that's stressful.

Are you getting enough sleep? Sleep deprivation is linked with irritability.

I remember reading in several places (which I now can't find, annoyingly) that the physiological effects of anger are cumulative. Rather than being cathartic, expressing anger only begets more anger. (Will try again in a bit.)

I think the best suggestions for actually coping with all this (rather than guessing at explanations) will come from senior colleagues, ideally those who are similar to you in temperament. Does your school (or union) offer counselling or mentoring support?

I'm sure that some of your stress (noisy classroom) will decrease with familiarity. You'll feel less out-of-control when you have a better feel for the system in which you're working (i.e., with time). Of course, it might be that your particular school has a culture that just doesn't work for you... maybe another setting would stress you less.

In the meantime, give your body a break - now and then, find someplace (theoretically) green and fresh-airy, nature's awesome for calming.
posted by nelljie at 11:00 PM on December 27, 2010

You've gotten lots of great advice above. I just want to add that in traditional Chinese medicine, anger is related to an imbalance in the liver. Acupuncture may help you, as could a gentle food-based cleanse (supervised if you've not done this before). I've done cleanses with Laughing Sage Wellness before that went really well; they have one coming up in January for the post-holiday season. Basically they send you detailed instructions, recipes, shopping list, etc., then provide support with phone sessions and emails as you do the program. It really helped me.

You're not doing anything wrong or bad by feeling anger. Best wishes as you look for the root cause.
posted by hansbrough at 11:15 PM on December 27, 2010

yep - BCP, raving psycho - nearly got committed over it. stopped the pills - a month or so later, back to myself. sadly, the acne and cramps came back too.
posted by nadawi at 1:28 AM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Stress? Nothing like stress for making the patience crack and the temper flood out. Try to do things that relax you. Often.
posted by Decani at 1:43 AM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would get so wound up while on hormonal birth control - and it took me a long tome to realize that it was the culprit, because it would take a year or so of being on it before the squirrely side effects would kick in.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:29 AM on December 28, 2010

My husband says I've been signifcantly less of a crazy raging bitch since I started taking antidepressants.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:53 AM on December 28, 2010

Nthing a million times over the BCP/ hormone imbalance. If I don't have my PCOS well managed my testosterone levels go through the roof and I become a crazed lunatic (that stuff is powerful!). I'd do a medical workup and if there are no answers there I'd try daily meditation/relaxation techniques. The next stop would be therapy.

Good Luck!
posted by PorcineWithMe at 6:53 AM on December 28, 2010

IANY therapist or any other kind of medical or psychological professional. You should continue with any plan to talk to a medical professional.

Maybe part of the problem is that you are caught in an anger loop - you get angry about something (it doesn't matter what or if the anger is logical) and you feel like your anger is inappropriate or you are shamed by feeling this anger. That makes the next bout of anger even worse because you're anticipating the shame spiral.

I think this is a gender specific problem - most males aren't raised with the notion that feeling anger is a shameful or embarrassing thing. It can be really hard to overcome years of brainwashing and messages that tell you "don't be angry" because angry woman = crazy woman = bitch woman etc.

Stop being so hard on yourself.
posted by jaimystery at 6:55 AM on December 28, 2010

Nthing the BCP issue. It can take a long time for this to happen - after an adulthood of sticking with the same BCP, I switched to a new one (Yazmin, for the record) at one point. It was fine for almost 2 years, then I started to get crazy mood swings with lots of anger. Stopped the pill and was back to normal pretty quickly.
posted by chez shoes at 7:29 AM on December 28, 2010

I hate to be one of those "nthing" people, because in general I find that's not really helpful in AskMe Land. But I'm nthing the birth control as a likely suspect.

I took Depo Provera for about a year, and in hindsight it was one of the worst years of my life. Those side effects warnings about rage, mood swings, anxiety, loss of libido? They warn you about side effects because those are things that happen.
posted by ErikaB at 9:08 AM on December 28, 2010

As an alternative (because I've never had problems with BCP), I used to be one of those really laid back people... because I was generally Burying all of the anger to be nice and calm. Then I got stressed and it came out in Force. Not knowing what I was angry about was scary, almost as scary as my sudden temper. Therapy helped with all of that.
posted by ldthomps at 10:37 AM on December 28, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you everyone, great advice! I made an appointment with my doctor and hopefully I can get this figured out, thanks again, much appreciated.
posted by bluehermit at 12:25 PM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

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