Please Explain: Anger and Aggression

Friday, January 04, 2008

What actually is anger? And what does it do to you and to others? On this week’s Please Explain, Dr. William Gerin, of the Behavorial Cardiovascular Health and Hypertension Program at Columbia Universtiy School of Medicine, and Dr. Emil F. Coccaro, Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Chicago, take your questions about anger and aggression.

Weigh in: Leave your comments and questions about anger and aggression.


Dr. William Gerin

Comments [35]

Allan from NYC

I had saved this page as a favorite and just looked back at my comment posted on Jan 5...over 6 months ago. In early March I found a patient, caring and astute CBT-oriented therapist who also specializes in childhood sexual abuse survivors. Our chemistry is great and I work awfully hard in twice weekly sessions...the work can be gut-wrenching and fatiguing especially in the midst of daily stresses...and there are so many "triggers." But I thank this broadcast for setting me on my latest journey...things are improving/there are still bouts of rage...and it's nice to see how far I've come. If anyone else is checking this...there is a way toward a healthier life...there is a difference in the rage I experience now...I'm able to analyze it and get out of it more quickly...there is more good to look forward to. God bless all!

Jul. 26 2008 02:27 AM
Andrea Cisco from Brooklyn, NY

This a really informative show. It certainly dispelled some of the common held myths. I was particularly interested in this subject because of the anger I see in Youth and how it manifests. Your guests were very clear and helpful with the responses they gave callers.

I am sharing the podcast with some folks who are struggling with these issues in their families.

Thanks you

Jan. 05 2008 05:57 PM
Allan from NYC

Thanks so much...your show today comes at just the right time in my 50 years...and I am replaying it tonight, taking notes as well. Surviving severe childhood sexual abuses, dealing with violently angry family members, and having relultant Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has made life a difficult road via self-empowerment. It's often been easier to mentor my adult acting students, then deal with my own "triggers"...religion (prayer,forgiveness), Somatic work (channeling the trauma through the body) have been plus-es...I never personally did well with DBT or EMDR...I like what was discussed makes sense and I am ready for it...considering the SSRI's to increase serotonin's....and CBT (Cognative Behavioral Therapy) to adress problematic cognitions to decrease arrousals... are EXCELLENT tips...many thanks and blessed '08 to all!!!

Jan. 05 2008 12:38 AM
Rachel from Danbury

Does anyone remember the name of the anger management program that was mentioned at the end of the program? Life something?
The skills suggested seem as if they would be extremely helpful.

Thank you!

Jan. 04 2008 06:11 PM
Linda from Manhattan

A very dear person in my life is extremely manic depressive. Right now, (as many times in the past) he is an extremely manic phase, the most extreme i've ever seen.

he has no patience for anything, and as such, gets angry constantly. sometimes, it's even hard for him to listen to someone else on a neutral subject, much less listen to something he doesn't want to hear.

i want so much to help him but i just don't know how to approach him that will be effective. i've tried so many ways already and all have failed. often he just hangs up on me. how can i diffuse his anger enough to convince him want to change medication, not want to feel so angry, notice that it's him and not others that are the cause of his frustration/anger/impatience, etc.?

if you could forward this to dr. caccaro i wuld truly appreciate his advise. this person is under the care of both a therapist and a psychopharmacologist but has refused to let anyone contact either. he also hides as much of this as possible from them or fails to see them when he should.

thank you very much.

Jan. 04 2008 02:12 PM
Phyllistine Travis from New York, NY

How would I get a transcript of the program on Anger and Aggression. I did not get to hear all of it and really want to read all that was said.


The Lopate Show responds: Transcripts are not available, but the audio will be posted here later this afternoon and will be available in our online archives.

Jan. 04 2008 02:00 PM
Erin from Brooklyn

What is the best way to encourage someone (in this case my husband) to get help for his anger. His father is an angry person and my husband believes that he 'has' to express his anger because that's just the way he is. It is very detrimental to our relationship and I am considering a divorce. He doesn't want medication and he smokes marijuana to self-medicate. He yells all the time at me and our 3 year old son and I'm at the end of my rope.
Any suggestions are welcomed.

Jan. 04 2008 01:58 PM
Molly from Manhattan

My friends have made comments to me about how disturbing it is when I yell at friends or family- but I grew up fighting with my large family all the time. Sometimes I get angry or anxious and have a disturbing feeling of not being able to "let go" of the anxiety. I also have symptoms of an autoimmune disease. Perhaps dealing with anger will help me prevent autoimmune disorder. But I'm not sure how, aside from seeing a therapist, which I cannot afford right now.

Jan. 04 2008 01:57 PM
chestine from NY

Also does having outlets one loves have anything to do with easing the expression or even the arousal of it? I mean things like sports and hobbies

Jan. 04 2008 01:56 PM
erick from rochester, ny

What about how all of this relates to the "human condition" of consistently seeking to define an us vs. them paradigm. Your guests are saying that it is healthy to give people the benefit of the doubt rather than getting angry at them. We often see the exact opposite of this in the policies (especially foreign policy).


Jan. 04 2008 01:56 PM
Toni C. from New York

Great topic and guests. Can your guests talk about violent silence. I don't scream or throw things, I go very, very quiet, and suck all of the air out of the room. Internally, I am "spinning" with fury.

I don't explode because I don't want to hurt other people, but the silence is just as traumatizing on those around me.

Any suggestions?

Jan. 04 2008 01:56 PM
Shelli from New Jersey

Could you please go into more detail about how angry outbursts affect those around him, most specifically children (and spouses), both physically and emotionally.

Jan. 04 2008 01:56 PM

Re: Genetic differnces in anger.

I'm half-Irish, and to me the Irish seem to have a particular kind of anger, qualitatively different from other cultures, something that can arise instantaneously, and is almost a kind of trance of sheer, destructive (to self and anything or -body nearby) rage.

In Ireland's "Iliad," "The Cattle Raid of Cooley," Ulster's defender, Cúchulainn, goes into a "warp-spasm" in which he wades into battle, killing thousands. He's not very battle-inclined outside the "warp-spasm."

Sounds about right to me. "Cooley" seems to directly reference this kind of behavior. While other myths address anger, this "warp-spasm" seems to address an internal aspect of human rage I see in no other myths.

Jan. 04 2008 01:56 PM

My boyfriend constantly makes sarcastic digs and belitting comments, but in a very lighthearted way. if I try to say this is hurtful, he says I've misinterpreted him. I get so resentful that I do then blow up at some point. And then he tells me I am a very angry person.

But I feel manipulated. I think he is angry and makes me act it out. Thouths?

Jan. 04 2008 01:55 PM
Sallie from NJ

Can testoserone lead to increased anger? My husband has an anger problem but has 3 testicals. I wondered if this might be the cause and if so, what can be done about it?

Jan. 04 2008 01:55 PM
Raconteuse from Brooklyn Heights

You know what gets me angry? Writers such as John A. (4) who cannot seem to use the appropriate singular pronoun when describing an individual!

Jan. 04 2008 01:55 PM
Doris from Brooklyn

What about taking fish oil supplements to help lower anger? I have read that some studies show that it helps

Jan. 04 2008 01:55 PM
barry from Manhattan

But seriously, do you thing the "take a walk" theory of dealing with anger.
Leave the scene when you feel the tripper point approaching?

Jan. 04 2008 01:54 PM
Sarah Chinn from Brooklyn

Is there a neurological difference between righteous anger and interpersonal anger. I get REALLY angry about the Iraq War, various kinds of injustice etc, but I rarely get personally angry at my partner, kids, and other people. It definitely FEELS different, but is the brain doing something different?

Jan. 04 2008 01:53 PM
chestine from NY

Hey how about people having limits and anger having to do with that? I mean limits to what pressures they can tolerate in life, what abuses, disempowerments, etc.?

Jan. 04 2008 01:52 PM
barry from Manhattan

Are you guys talking about my wife?

Jan. 04 2008 01:51 PM
Frank De Canio from Union City, NJ

Between suppressing a dynamic anger and expressing a dynamic anger there is the true sublimation of anger- the problem is confusing a mobilized anger that is suppressed with a sublimation that transforms the energy that would have otherwise informed the anger into useful, constructive energy.

Frank De Canio

Jan. 04 2008 01:49 PM
Anne Fernald from Jersey City

Thanks for this segment. My resolution is to be less angry in the mornings when I'm trying to get everyone off to school (2 kids, 5 & 1 1/2 & both of us work). "Great idea!" cheered my 5-year-old daughter, so it's needed--and I don't want to pass this on to her.

My mom seems genetically predisposed AGAINST anger. She broods. I get angry and brood.

I wasn't that angry till I married: I'm interested in the combination of genetic & situational roots of anger. I think I have a short fuse and I happened to marry an otherwise wonderful man who lights it.

I also suspect that living with small children is tough on me, much as I adore them.

Jan. 04 2008 01:48 PM
Patricia Klein from Larchmont, NY

I certainly don't approve of anger, but the fact is that my father, who was often very angry--shouting, getting red in the face-- died just short of his 96th birthday.

Jan. 04 2008 01:44 PM
Lucia from Manhattan

What effect does meditation have on anger? I suspect meditation (or mindfulness) eliminates the rush to react allowing an individual to separate from the experience and thereby respond more productively.

Jan. 04 2008 01:42 PM
Rikki from W. Hempstead

Does a lot of crying contribute to this affecting the body? Someone who is very emotional and cries over movies, life situations, family, etc.

Jan. 04 2008 01:41 PM
michael from brooklyn

i throw or break things in the middle of an arguement consciously and intentionally. i do it away and free from endangering the other person. i feel better almost immediately. is this healthy or what about anger management or drugs?

Jan. 04 2008 01:40 PM

in my experience, oi learned that anger is fear and mostly fear of loss of control. when i learned that i could ask the questions to be more intelligent of "expressing" my anger. also i study yoga now (hatha) and as my physicl form confines to the ideal, my insides have been rewired.

Jan. 04 2008 01:37 PM
Lauren from Brooklyn

To what extent is anger "contagious"? For example, a healthy person goes up in the situation just mentioned and says "Did you say you would meet us at the car?" And the unhealthy person responds: "What are you accusing me of, you &#!@" And then the healthy person does...NOT get angry??

Jan. 04 2008 01:36 PM
RC from queens

Sometimes when I drink (get drunk) my anger can come out. I would like to stop this and realize I have to cut back or stop drinking entirely. I am either very energetic and angry or very calm but then have physical issues in terms of being tired.
Whatever fear I have evaporates.

What is the affect of alchohol on anger?

Jan. 04 2008 01:35 PM
chestine from NY

How about suppressed anger? What does IT do?
Anger must exist for a reason

Jan. 04 2008 01:24 PM
John A. from NJ

A family member states the need to vent their feelings in sometimes loud, angry ways.
The adults and children near this person can't stand the needless yelling.
The yeller says they have to yell, they are not built to keep things in, and it causes them even more stress to keep things in.
Is there a way to accomodate both sides of the family, the yeller and the yellees?

Jan. 04 2008 01:24 PM
Robert from Manhattan

Although I don't know the specifics of this segment yet, I have a feeling it applies to me. I don't consider myself an an angry or mean spirited person. Most who know me would probably use words like laid-back and quiet to describe me, however I find myself becoming enraged in public probably a half-dozen times a year (usually some place crowded like the subway).

The level of anger rises so fast that before I know it I'm in a screaming match with a stranger over something that I just should have let go. Afterward, I feel stressed, traumatized and embarrassed. There are physical symptoms such as a racing heart and red face followed by a crash where I lose energy.

One New Year's resolution is to just let these things go and to avoid all public disputes this year over these petty and inconsequential matters. Hope you can provide some suggestions to help with this.

Jan. 04 2008 01:13 PM
Alan from Brooklyn

On a previous segment it was mentioned that steroids have immunosuppresive qualities. I know cortisol is a steroid produced by the body in stressful situations.

Is cortisol or some other steriod also involved in anger and aggressive behavior, and, if so, are there long-term deleterious effects of production/ exposure to these chemicals in our bodies?

What are the physiological benefits, if any?


Jan. 04 2008 01:06 PM
irina from New York

Is it ok to be angry when there is a reason?

Jan. 04 2008 12:04 PM

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