John, a young man in his early thirties once came for treatment for an unusual problem. He was addicted to sex. Despite being married, his sexual drive was so strong that he had to engage in masturbatory activities many times a day. Nothing was of help to him. He was taken aback when I explained to him that it was due to rage that was locked up in his body. He was not convinced till he started doing the exercises that I advised him. He noticed a vaxing and waning of his sexual drive that was directly linked to his experiencing an arousal and calming of his anger states. Eventually, his drive became manageable. This is an example of anger that was ready to be released.
Anger when suppressed to the extent that the person develops defences around them by distracting themselves of angry thoughts, can make a person emotionally cold. Such people exhibit ‘psychopathic’ behaviour, as it is termed in psychiatry. These people are ruthless in attaining their own goals. Many such people are found in senior positions of power in every sphere of life. If their anger is stripped off, they lose their ruthlessness, which rarely happens. People who are in positions of power have a lot to lose if they were to lose their anger.
A gentleman who is a reformed alcoholic prided himself into attending Alcoholics Anonymous for three times a week over last 18 years. He came to me for the treatment of non-ulcerative dyspepsia. This is a condition in which the stomach produces excessive acid. I jokingly remarked that he would stop going for the meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous by the time he is finished with his treatment. Initially he found it unbelievable. But as his anger has reduced with treatment, he is now attending the meetings once a week on an average.
All addictions are due to suppressed anger. Anger when held back has an interesting quality. When it is not released in time, it starts affecting the nervous system. The person may then engage in self-destructive activities like taking alcohol and drugs that are out of control or gambling of some kind or sex addiction. In my experience, other than providing medical treatment to such individuals, they have also to be helped in dealing with their anger.
Depression is a common psychiatric condition. That the nervous system is slowed down in depression- is a myth. Depression is also the result of suppressed anger. During a depressive state, the nervous, hormonal and muscular systems of the body are under tension. When the body is unable to bear this tension, it gives in and features of depression appear. The stress hormones in depression are increased, not decreased.
Anger when combined with guilt can lead to drastic behaviours like completed suicides. It is a known fact in psychiatry that extremely depressed people do not kill themselves because they do not have the energy for suicide. Those who kill themselves have anger and a sense of self-blame. Combination of these two emotions forms a deadly cocktail.
In most of the sleep disorders, one of the major causes for sleep disturbances is the bottled up anger. In a recent case, a lady was involved in a road traffic accident. She was also feeling let down by her boss at work. She had all the classical features of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In this condition a person has nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia, irritability and avoidance of any image or thought that reminds the sufferer of the trauma. During treatment, each time an anger issue was addressed, she would go home and sleep for 24 hours every 48 hours after the session. Anger is an emotion that prepares the body for fighting. So the mind has to be aroused to prepare the body to fight. From Mother Nature’s perspective, if the person would sleep when danger is around, the person would be killed. So the nervous system goes into an overdrive. It disturbs the normal sleep pattern.
When anger is suppressed, then stresses and strains in life can cause an explosion in its expression. During such strenuous times, a person may act irrationally and harm others. Many killings that occur within families happen because of such expressive explosions. The perpetrators in most of such cases are normal people.
Copyright Pradeep K Chadha 2006.
Pradeep K Chadha is a psychiatrist who specialises in helping patients with meditation and imagery using little or no medication. He is the author of The Stress Barrier-Nature’s Way To Overcoming Stress published by Blackhall Publishing, Dublin. He is based in Dublin, Ireland. His website address is http://www.drpkchadha.com.