Everyone gets angry, yours truly included. Whether it's a silly spat over who left a pile of laundry in the middle of the floor or something serious that requires a sit down chat, human beings are, well, human beings. And that means we all have the ability to fly off the handle every now and then. But what are some signs that your anger might be a window into a larger issue? Or how might you notice red flags that your partner's anger is something more? Experts say there are some key things you'll want to keep in mind.
Almost 9 percent of American adults — or approximately 22 million people — have a history of impulsive angry behavior and have easy access to at least one gun, MinnPost noted about a 2015 study published in the journal of Behavioral Sciences & the Law. On the other hand, 24 people per minute — more than 12 million women and men — are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States over the course of a year, according to The National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Put simply: Anger can be a serious topic. Whether your relationship requires anger management therapy or you are scared for your well-being, it's time to explore your options for help. If you need help, get in touch with an organization such as The National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233) to make a safety plan that is supported by outside agencies.
1. They Blow Up Over Little Things
Raffi Bilek, a therapist and director of the Baltimore Therapy Center, tells Romper one sign that your partner's anger is something more is when it is totally out of proportion to the provocation. "Do they blow up about seemingly minor problems?" he says. "Have you faced a temper tantrum for forgetting to turn off the lights or showing up three minutes late?" Bilek says if you're seeing big anger in response to small issues, then there is probably something going on under the surface that needs more exploration. "Talking out what's really going on for your partner can be helpful," he says. "Often this takes help from a therapist who can help uncover the issues beneath the surface."
2. They Go From Zero To 60
Bernard Golden, the founder of Anger Management Education in Chicago and the author of Overcoming Destructive Anger: Strategies That Work, tells Romper that while anger is a natural emotion, anger that intensifies rapidly, perhaps going from“zero to 60” within seconds, may be a hint at a bigger problem. "Other people might describe them as a hothead," he says. Anger that occurs several times a week and difficulty letting go of anger are also red flags, Golden says.
3. It Extends Beyond Legitimate Anger
Laurie Endicott Thomas, author of several books, including Don’t Feed the Narcissists! The Mythology and Science of Mental Health, tells Romper that in order to figure out what your partner’s anger means, "you have to figure out why they are angry and think about what they are doing about their anger." In general, Thomas says there are three types of anger: legitimate anger, the "sin of wrath," and anger as a result of a brain disorder. "If your partner has legitimate anger, he or she may need your cooperation in solving a problem," she says. "But if your partner is indulging in the sin of wrath (anger that is uncontrolled or aimed at the wrong target), he or she needs to grow up." As for anger related to a brain disorder, your partner will need some sort of medical treatment that possibly includes medication.
4. They Always Place The Blame On You
Kandee Lewis, executive director of Positive Results Corporation, says one of her top red flags includes blame and shame. "Abuse is the imbalance of power," she says. "When a partner says things like 'It's all your fault,' when angry, they are placing blame and shame on one person." Eventually, Lewis says, the person who is being blamed becomes responsible for everything, and the abuser is no longer accountable or responsible for their actions. "This makes the victim question everything they do," she says. "They eventually lose perspective on their value in the relationship, and as a person. Thus, their self esteem becomes a distant memory, and it becomes harder to leave when other forms of abuse occur.
5. They Threaten Your Life
Lewis says threats and fear are also big red flags. "A partner who says in anger, 'I'm going to kill you' is disarming you, and keeping you in fear for your life — and the life of everyone you hold dear," she says. "You never know when this threat will become real, therefore you are in a state of heightened awareness, similar to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)." Beyond the obvious, Lewis says those kinds of words are especially dangerous because you most often do not know if the abuser is seeking attention or if the threat of death is imminent.
6. Their Verbal Cues Concern You
Kelli Dillon, a well recognized domestic violence survivor and counselor based in Los Angeles, tells Romper that some of the most telling red flags occur in non-verbal language. "Domestic violence victims are often groomed to get 'in line' with subtle body language cues, long before violence occurs in the relationship," she says. "Cues may be a certain look or a boyfriend tapping his feet while otherwise friendly and relaxed. Dillon says cues can be very specific to an abuser or a couple — so specific and subtle that they can occur in public without anyone else understanding." This is where Dillon says you have to trust your body's alarms. "Your survival instinct and spirit will not fail you," she says. "If you feel like you better 'hop to it' or feel off balance from a communication or a sense that your partner’s anger is building, there is a good reason. Pay attention and trust yourself."
7. They Make You Feel Scared
If you do feel scared or intuitively sense something is off/not quite right, then these are huge red flags, Heidi McBain, a Texas-based licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Romper in an email interview. "Having a safety plan in place is very important," she says. "Who do you call when you need to leave a situation quickly? Where will you stay if your partner needs time to cool down?" McBain says therapy can also be very helpful in these situations. Support groups for women, anger management groups, couples counseling, and individual counseling are all great ways to get support. "Therapy can also be a great way to learn healthy ways to manage anger as well," she says.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.