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Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
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My wife and i have two kids . My 6 yr old girl and my 3 yr

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My wife and i have two kids . My 6 yr old girl and my 3 yr old son. Many times when she gets upset she screams and swears in front of the kids. She doesnt care if kids are there and gets violent with me. I already told her she needs help in controlling herself. She was giving previously antianxiety meds due to her anxiety attcks. I cannot live like this anymore im worried for my daughter and son because i dont want them to get emotionally affected.

Hi! I believe I can be of help with this issue.

First, let me say I can imagine that this is way too much and more than you bargained for when you married your wife. It sounds as though her anger is beyond acceptable bounds. And you are correct that you should not have to be required to live with this as if it were normal and acceptable.

The question is whether she is willing to get help for this. You seem to be going along with treating this as a medical problem she is having though you are questioning whether you can stay in the relationship, meaning that you recognize it to be something she needs to learn to control. And I think you're right. Certainly, it's important to rule out medical issues that might be exacerbating her anxiety. However, to explode in anger and profanities is not part of a medical condition. So you are correct in being frustrated that she is behaving this way and I can understand if you've had enough. We're back, then, to whether she is willing to get help for this. That is the key. And the help will have to be psychotherapy. There are no medications that somehow stop a person from giving themselves permission to explode in anger. A person has to work on their behavior in therapy.

So, I'll address this to her and hopefully she will be willing to use it as a springboard to getting help:

Hi. Clearly there is a lot that has happened behind your feelings of anxiety and explosions of anger. And it is all the intense events and emotions that are making you have outbursts of anger. Your anger is a problem that is hurting you and you know it's hurting your husband and kids.

That you recognize that this is not a good situation and that you need to do something about it is so very encouraging. Good for you. Use this recognition within yourself that you need to change the situation to motivate you to keep going in this direction.

The source of anger is the need to be in control. Anger is when things occur counter to how you want them to have occurred. They did not go as you wanted them to go, thought they should go, needed them to go, or demanded they go. They turned out some other way and you couldn't control things.

A classic example is road rage: someone pulls right in front of you in traffic and you have to put on the brakes suddenly. That jerk! How dare he! I've had patients in my office who have followed the person who did this to them all the way to that person's destination and gotten into a fight with him and wound up spending the night in jail. Seriously. What was the problem?

On the surface it looks like disrespect: they became angry because that person showed them no respect. But disrespect is just the result. It is a lack of control. Another example will show this:

Her kid spills the milk on the floor. She's upset. Why does he always do this when she's late! What's wrong with him? Why can't he be careful?

What's the same in both these examples? They are events you can't control. You can't control what someone else does. You can't control the guy in the car pulling ahead of you and you can't control a kid's clumsiness.

So the angry person says, he did that to me so I got mad. As if it was automatic. But it's not automatic. You CAN control how you react. Here's what I mean.

When you're cut off in traffic, when your kid spills the milk, the first reaction is to have heightened anxiety, to get startled and to be angry. Everyone feels this. But the reaction to that initial feeling of anger and anxiety is under our control. It's not automatic. There's no reflex that makes us scream at our kid. There's no reflex that makes us scream at the guy who cut us off. That's under our control.

Therefore, the goal of all anger management is to learn to make a pause between that initial feeling of anger at the event and the acting out of anger. The pause between the feeling and the reaction. That's the key.

Again, with controlling your anger, the principles above are the principles of all anger management: make peace with not being in control of what happens in the world. And second, pause between the feeling and the reaction to CHOOSE your behavior. This is the basis of all anger management classes.

Here is the web address for Psychology Today's therapist directory. You can sort by zip codes and when you see someone who seems like they might be helpful (they show you a photo of the therapist!) look at the listing and see if they list anger and anxiety issues in the areas they work with. Interview the therapist and make sure his/her values are similar to you and you feel confident and comfortable with him/her.

Good Therapy is a non profit directory. Same idea as the one above:

Okay, I wish you the very best!

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