Irritable as heck
April 8, 2022 5:27 AM   Subscribe

I'm recently diagnosed as ADHD, female and probably on the spectrum too. Eating well, therapy, chilling out has no bearing on the constant rage I feel both towards myself and others. I'm awaiting meds to be prescribed but any suggestions on how to not. be. so. angry. all. the. time.

I don't really exercise beyond walking unfortunately as I am unable to motivate myself to do it. I am pretty sure (says my stupid brain) my partner hates me, as does everyone else (work, friends, family) so struggling to reach out for support. I just want to feel calm but it's really hard... Any ideas, will take drastic suggestions seriously. I have to work 5 days a week but can throw money at the issue. Anything to get out of this rage loop.
posted by socky_puppy to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Are you doing anything to express the rage? Ideally to other human beings, but just screaming into a pillow or ripping something into tiny pieces or whatever is a start. I find that that often helps. It can be hard, especially for those of us AFAB, especially if the rage feels "undeserved" or whatever, especially when you don't have a support network you trust. But I think in general you need to get it out before it will go away.
posted by mskyle at 5:36 AM on April 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

How old are you? Rage is a pretty common aspect of perimenopause. It can affect you from your 40s onwards.
posted by Zumbador at 5:51 AM on April 8, 2022 [14 favorites]

When I was once really, physically angry about something, the only thing that helped was heavy exercise like running hard. And it did help.
posted by pinochiette at 6:00 AM on April 8, 2022 [9 favorites]

Looking at your previous questions, you're in the same country I am. There's a lot to be angry about right now. I'm finding it very helpful to avoid the news as much as possible (not reading the paper, avoiding broadcast media with news bulletins, limiting my use of social media). I've also tailored my Twitter feed to be weighted towards art, nature and novels, so that a fair bit of my social media time is spent looking at postage-stamp-sized artworks and flower photos instead of feeling my blood boil.

For immediate relief, if I'm so angry I'm shaking, running helps. (I am not a runner, but the adrenalin doesn't care.)

Where are you walking? If it's somewhere with traffic noise and fumes, can you go and walk somewhere green instead, or at least shift onto quieter streets? Can you make your walks longer, or more frequent?
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 6:12 AM on April 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

I do have ADHD, but years before we knew that, I went to the doctor about postpartum depression and she put me on a low does of an antidepressant. It helped with the PPD, but it was also a revelation to know that other people were not barely suppressing anger all day every day, as I had been for decades. I was just ALWAYS mad all the time.

I see you're not in the US, but here, ADHD meds are harder to get than antidepressants--I need a psychiatrist and a diagnosis for stimulants, but my PCP was able to give me a scrip for antidepressants based on a brief conversation (and I know a lot of people who have had that experience). So I don't know if this information is helpful, but I hope so.
posted by gideonfrog at 6:17 AM on April 8, 2022 [3 favorites]

I also find exercise has drastically reduced the anger swings I would experience when I was younger. If walking is your thing, then walk for a long time, in the forest, up a very big hill, with a pack on your back. If you are willing to throw money at it, then get a trainer to introduce you to strength work.
posted by TORunner at 6:27 AM on April 8, 2022 [4 favorites]

Assuming that the rage is not a symptom of your surroundings needing immediate change, I have found martial arts to be a really good way to channel/control my feelings.
posted by tchemgrrl at 7:06 AM on April 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

Although it's frequently dismissed as "woo", you might be desperate enough to try a Chinese herbal formula. (2500 years of trial and error should count for something). My GF has similar rage issues and this seems to help. Long Dan Xie Gan Tang
posted by Carlo at 7:25 AM on April 8, 2022

Do bodyweight squats in sets of ten at least three times (so thirty total) and preferably ten sets of ten (a hundred friggin’ squats!) and yell and grunt loudly the whole time. You will feel trembly and the next day your legs will be on fire and you will hate me but also you should do it again and yell and grunt even more. Anger is in many ways a physical state. We have to process it physically, too.

I am also an often angry neurodivergent usually-female person and the only things that effectively help my emotional rage are physical. High intensity interval exercise (which I am NOT a fan of but sometimes I do anyway), yelling, wildly pacing and gesticulating while ranting to a supportive friend, satisfyingly chopping large vegetables with even larger knives, pounding meat with a tenderizer, demolition work like hitting crappy old flat pack furniture with hammers until it breaks and I can haul it to a dumpster, destroying large lovingly built lego creations, singing along to very angry music while flailing angrily in my bedroom like an angsty teen… I am a very low energy person and my private theory about myself is that all my energy is stored in a format that only my anger can access. If my parents had enrolled me in martial arts as a child I probably would be a much more balanced person.

Anyway, my advice to you in the short term is to do something that gets you sweaty and trembly as fast as possible, and then after you have a day or so to recover try to find something innocuous that you can shred or smash, like maybe there are tree roots you can hack up and dig out, or a lot of cardboard boxes that need flattening, or ideally someone has a rickety shed they want to replace with a nice new one and you are there with a sledgehammer.
posted by Mizu at 7:28 AM on April 8, 2022 [13 favorites]

In men, irritability can be a sign of underlying untreated anxiety. While less common in women, who are socialized to avoid expressing irritability, it definitely can occur (ask me how I know). Have you addressed that possibility? In the meantime, nthing the exercise suggestion (alas); get enough sleep, by any means necessary; simplify your life as much as you can in the short term. I don't mean quit your job, I mean of those fifteen things you "have to" do this week, take a cold hard look and figure out which five you actually have to do to stay fed, employed, housed, and married, and ditch the rest for now. Your partner loves you and wants to help. Let them.
posted by praemunire at 7:35 AM on April 8, 2022 [4 favorites]

Something that helped me when I was processing "stuff" was journaling. And not like a "daily gratitude journal" kind of thing - more of an as-needed brain-dump thing. I would get a blank book and a pen and just hole up and write pages and pages about how much everything SUCKED and my boss was STUPID and I HATED MY HAIR and it WASN'T FAIR I wasn't wealthy and CAPITALISM IS EVIL and MEN DON'T LIKE SMART WOMEN and STROM THURMOND IS A HOSEBEAST and....

....And what doing that did was it took all the stuff out of my head and put it somewhere else, and when I was done dumping it I could close the book and walk away. Sometimes I would indeed walk away and leave it in my room, sometimes I would carry it with me so I could have it handy if I needed to open it up and add "and ANOTHER THING...." So having somewhere to put all that that wasn't in my head was good.

Also, I also realized after the fact that the simple act of writing helped me think more about what I was angry about - because when you write, you have to find the right words to describe things, and finding the right words means you have to think about them. Leaving things unwritten meant the rage could just be this nebulous ameboid energy in my head, but trying to write about it meant I had to use language, so those nebulous rage thoughts went from being a shapeless sort of euuugrrhraggherragaghhaaaable to being "GOD I hate how I'm treated at my job". It was a way to give a shape to the shapeless rage, and let me see more clearly what I was angry at - and doing that was usually the first step towards figuring out what to do about it.

So yeah, try journalling. But in a total freeform way - no rules, just you and a pen and some paper and you can write whatever. As big as you want, as messy as you want, as long as you feel like you need to. Even if you just end up writing the word "FUCKSTICKER" over and over again for three pages. (One of my very first forays into journaling was when I was fifteen and my orthodontist told me I had to keep my braces on for another six months after all; I still have the six-foot-long piece of receipt paper I'd stolen from my father's office where I wrote down "DR. OLIVER IS A SHITHEAD" over and over after we got home.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:47 AM on April 8, 2022 [30 favorites]

Check for depression, plus are you still at home in your tiny house that doesn't really have office space? I can't HELP with that, but it seems like a good reason why you're mad that you might be overlooking here.
posted by kingdead at 8:40 AM on April 8, 2022

Seconding the journaling suggestion. Getting that stuff out of your head so you can look at it from the outside, as it were, can give you some breathing room. Plus, the act of writing can give you something else to focus on in addition to the things you are writing about.
posted by JohnFromGR at 8:48 AM on April 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

In the past, what's been able to motivate you to do things that get your heart rate up (whether or not exercise was the point)? Maybe a pricey class or cool experience or a gadget like Wii Fit/Nintendo Ring Fit Adventure or a coach/trainer? Throwing money at that might help you at least try out more strenuous activities to check whether they help with the anger.
posted by brainwane at 8:56 AM on April 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

This may be too basic, but are you actually angry about something? I was RAGING, and patholgizing/medicating it did nothing, because it turns out it’s not a psychological disorder to be mad when the circumstances call for it. It’s not really relevant but in my case I was in an abusive situation and the moment I left it my mysterious disorder/personality flaw/“early menopause” disappeared.

For mitigation that’s not exercise: can you do something loud like sing or play drums?
posted by kapers at 9:01 AM on April 8, 2022 [13 favorites]

Drumming can be very therapeutic. Also gardening (aka soil therapy). Both are also physical activities that can get you to a flow state. I recommend and second all the up-thread suggestions to do physical things - completing the stress cycle is very important for mental health.
posted by sockpuppetryarts at 12:32 PM on April 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

Although it's not part of the DVM criteria (for historical reasons), emotional disregulation is a prominent symptom of ADHD. Check out this video from the "How to ADHD" YouTube channel.

Since this diagnosis is recent, you're also going through a lot right now, and it makes sense that your feelings are in a disarray. In CBT for Adult ADHD Drs. Ramsay and Rostain say: "Patients often express a sense of relief at learning their chronic difficulties fit the ADHD symptom profile and that there is a coherent and nonblaming explanation of ...their struggles. Some patients are moved to tears as they gain an emergent understanding of how their longstanding troubles make sense as a consequence of having lived with undiagnosed ADHD, at times expressing anger that these issues were not identified earlier. Others experience a complex grief reaction in which they mourn the loss of possible life goals they failed to achieve....[or] describe going through the full array of reactions described above." (emphasis mine)

Above and beyond this, if you've been masking for your whole adult life, you've probably been hiding away a lot of your feelings due to the pressure of presenting a more "normal" face to the world. Those habits can be hard to break, and those feelings (and the feelings about the feelings) can take a long time to process. Ideally you have a therapist who can help you work through some of this stuff, but I've also found that journalling can be really good as a safe space to put those anti-social feelings (anger, self-pity). Exercise can help (and don't diss walking, walking is great!), but if you're just using it as an excuse to beat yourself up, then it's better to take it off the table for now. Actually, try telling yourself you're forbidden to exercise--honestly sometimes the only thing that can get me to do something is to tell myself I don't have to do it. Or if you've been running away from your anger, try diving into it instead; really wallow around in it, crankily hating everything in the world for a while. Go outside and yell at the clouds for a bit, those damp bastards.
posted by radiogreentea at 2:09 PM on April 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

Are you me? Major empathy.

Things that have helped in the short term: Journalling, intense gardening (ripping up blackberries, chopping tree limbs into tiny pieces - check out local parks volunteer groups if you don’t have a garden), intense exercise (lots of good bodyweight, plyometrics, HIIT stuff that can be done at home with zero equipment), long, effortful walks or hikes where I mutter angry conversations I’d like to have with myself or others, getting in a car and driving somewhere remote and having those angry conversations out loud at full volume. Getting off social media completely and limiting myself to news once in the morning and once at night also helps.

Things that have helped longer term: trying to figure out what my boundaries are and to see where I or others are violating them, since I think a lot of my anger wells up from violated boundaries, getting involved in volunteering, yoga/dance practices where I’m getting in touch with my body and my breath and removing my brain’s ability to get distracted or worry or judge, getting up the courage to tell my partner what I’m afraid of and angry about, including getting into couples’ therapy, reading up and trying to transform my own relationship to anger (raised to believe it was a failure of character - trying to see it now as my internal systems trying fiercely, if not always effectively, to protect me and the people/things I care about). Tara Brach has a lot of podcast talks on anger that have been really helpful for me - she’s a white lady who teaches from a Buddhist perspective, but with humility and respect, incorporating lots of other spiritual and humanist wisdom, which works for atheist, non-spiritual me. Sending care and confidence in your ability to help yourself to greater ease.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 2:27 PM on April 8, 2022 [3 favorites]

I empathize with you, and today's world has a ton to be angry about. And helpless. So avoid doom scrolling (easier said than done), go for walks in nature, meditate a.

When I am super angry, I escape into violent computer games. I play on super easy difficulty so I don't die too often (makes me angry) but chopping off heads of cyclops or whatever is super satisfying. God of War franchise is my go to. It's based on myths and doesn't use modern day weapons, so doesn't overlap with reality.
posted by Yavsy at 7:32 PM on April 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

Sometimes it helps to go lay in the grass and look at a tree, or at least it loosens my grip on the anger enough to see it turn into another emotion instead. Helplessness seems popular lately.
posted by Lady Li at 8:05 PM on April 8, 2022 [3 favorites]

Walking counts as exercise. Even better if you can do it in a natural setting. Sometimes I do that and just let all the badness bubble to the surface and ooze into the underbrush.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:08 PM on April 8, 2022

Sometimes when my kiddo gets keyed up what she needs most is some physical tussling: wrestling with her dad, getting caught by me in a hug trap, getting squished under a big pillow. As a grownup those particular interventions become either physically or socially impossible, but I think the biology doesn’t change and I think that’s why you’re getting a lot of advice about running, weightlifting, rage-gardening, etc. Letting your joints and muscles and heart and lungs feel the struggle and become exhausted by it is sometimes the most efficient way to give it a rest.

A therapist once recommended an activity to stimulate the diving reflex — to cover your face with a wet, ice cold rag and hold your breath for a minute or so. It’s something else you can try when in the grip of a strong feeling.

Rage sucks! Been there. I hope one of these works for you.
posted by eirias at 2:41 AM on April 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

Decades ago I hung a rug over a fence and threw thrift-store plates at it. The smash was very satisfying.
posted by goofyfoot at 3:22 AM on April 10, 2022

Consider if anger is an unconscious habitual thing your brain does to give you the stimulation that you need to go about your day and get things done. I'm guessing you probably feel more angry when you're struggling to do or handle something? (E.g. work task and someone interrupts you, the sensory stimulation of people being loud, just like having had a difficult day of trying to do lots of things). The podcast Something Shiny which is by two therapists who have ADHD turned me in to this idea, and it makes tons of sense to me. Mine is anxiety which I cannot recommend. If it is this mechanism operating that is why you are angry, trying to calm down and chill out is the opposite of the answer. You have to get the stimulation somewhere else and make a habit of doing so - medication, exercise, being excited about things, increasing the number of stimulating activities and reducing draining ones, and trying to make draining tasks less draining by slow and painful practice. The podcast suggested even just jumping up and down to try to break out of it. At the same time you have to honour that things are really just difficult and give yourself credit for doing the best you can.
posted by lookoutbelow at 10:32 PM on July 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

This podcast episode specifically.
posted by lookoutbelow at 10:47 PM on July 27, 2022

I know this is really old but in case it's helpful, ice recently discovered as a person diagnosed with ADHD and also diagnosed with autism (but not via neuropsych eval), that rage is a form my meltdown warnings take. Basically it can mean I am overstimulated. My brain uses anxiety to stimulate itself per the ADHD and anger is usually a clue that I need to get away from too much light/sound/unpleasant textures/etc. Also, two people I care about talking to me at the same time will push me to rage very quickly as I get overwhelmed easily by that particular scenario.
posted by crunchy potato at 2:17 PM on September 30, 2022 [1 favorite]

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