Anger Management and Your Mental Health While On the Road Anger Management and Your Mental Health While On the Road

Anger Management and Your Mental Health While On the Road

You are minding your own business, driving along and singing to your favorite 1970’s songs on the radio. All of a sudden the car behind you starts honking their horn.

You look in your rear view mirror and see a crazed driver, waving his hands at you and mouthing words. You assume they are ugly words based on the scowl on his face. All of a sudden he whips his car to the left and starts passing you. You have every intention of waving to him as he passes to show him you are friendly and obviously sorry for whatever it is you have done to make him so angry. You begin waving and this seems to irritate the driver even more. He is still yelling at you. It is probably a good thing you can’t hear what he is saying.

He flips you the bird. What? How dare him. You didn’t do anything to deserve that. You start to feel disturbed by this gesture and return one of your own. The other driver becomes irate and tells you to pull over. You kindly deny his offer, mainly because deep down you avoid conflict like the plague. But for a brief moment, being in a separate car, you had a boost of courage. You start to regret that boost.

He starts to swerve at your car pushing you off of the road and onto the shoulder.

You become nervous. You decide it is best to pull over before someone gets hurt. Plus, you think you can talk some sense into this raving lunatic, another bad boost of courage. You both pull over. The other driver jumps out of the car and runs towards you. Just as you start to say, “Sir, I think you need to calm down…” boom, you get punched in the eye. Before you can emerge from a mild state of shock, the other driver is back on the road. You are left stunned, wondering if what just took place was real. Then the pain of the black eye hits. Oh yeah, it was real. What was wrong with that guy?

Bullying on the Road

They see their victims as targets, not as people, and get caught up in their views of the victim as weak and annoying.

Some call it road rage or aggressive driving.

Others call it a traffic tantrum. Rage disorder, explosive personality disorder, and anger disorder are a few more names associated with road rage. The medical and psychiatric professionals give it a diagnosis, intermittent explosive disorder. This disorder affects millions of people. In the medical world, intermittent explosive disorder is considered a brain disorder.

A good definition is offered by the National Institute of Health, who defines road rage as aggressive behaviors exhibited by the driver of a motor vehicle. The aggressive behaviors can include screaming, yelling and even using their vehicle as a weapon to harm the person who angered them.

The characteristics of this disorder include angry outbursts that seem to come out of nowhere and happen over situations that people without the disorder think are no big deal, like waiting in line at Wal-Mart.

This can be very frustrating to many people.

I mean, there are fifteen checkout lines and only two are open on black Friday.

Some people are not bothered at all and wait patiently until it is their turn. But to the person with intermittent explosive disorder, it makes them want to punch the store clerk or crash their cart into the manager.

They get fiercely mad and you can literally see their anger in the redness in their face and the huffing and puffing of their breaths. They begin to mumble about the problems with the store, getting louder over time, until eventually they are yelling and cursing and throwing items. They may even get so frustrated that they leave the store altogether, which is a relief for all of the other customers and staff. Most likely the Wal-Mart line is not what set them off.

It was just the icing on the frustration cake they had been eating all day, and combine that with impulse control issues; a disaster is waiting to happen.

Oh No They Didn’t!

If you are a regular driver, you have most likely had an experience with a road rage type of driver.

They are the ones that pass on a double line going 75 miles per hour and then have to force their way back onto the right side of the lines to avoid hitting oncoming cars.

They are the ones that get into or cause accidents more frequently than others. You may have even ridden with a person who has road rage. Once they start getting frustrated they curse other drivers, call them bad names, or hit the steering wheel. Traffic jams and red lights really anger them, especially if they are slow moving and cause a long wait time.

It is in your best interest to avoid riding with this person so you can avoid getting injured or being a part of a criminal offense.

Yes, that’s right.

In some states road rage is a criminal offense and people can be sent to jail for years, giving them a lot of spare time to think about their anger. How embarrassing to say you are in prison because someone turned their blinker on but never turned. Or, you are sitting in the jailhouse jumper because granny was driving too slowly on the highway and you needed to get home two minutes faster. Sounds silly after the fact, right? Well, these situations happen every day. Some people even end up killing another driver over poor impulsive decisions. Instead of being home with their families, they are in prison for murder.

It is just not worth it.

An ordinary driver, one that does not have road rage, has to be very careful of how they respond to incidents on the road because you just never know how a person will react to something you have done, even if it is an accident.

If you use hand gestures, block another car from getting into your lane, steal someone’s parking space, honk your horn for someone in front of you to move, tailgate or flick you lights at someone, these can trigger that person into a fit of rage.

That fit of rage can lead to much worse, in some cases death.

Road Rager Types

Are you thinking you may have road rage tendencies? Or know someone else who does?

The good news is that it is never too late to change. The first step is admitting what type of road rager you are.

The most dangerous types are the road warrior and the rage-aholics. This type usually has a criminal side and uses the highway as just another place to act out their criminal behaviors. They are mostly angry in all areas of their lives. Other types are the road royalty and road rangers.

They think they are better than everyone else and will even go to great lengths to tell you what you are doing wrong as a driver. You know, that lady that follows you to the fast food joint to tell you that you should have used a blinker at the stop sign three miles back.

The road rebel is said to be passive aggressive. You know who you are. You are not going to let the person who is trying to pass on the right side of you get the best of you so you speed up so they can’t get around. Finally, you may be the distracted driver. As a distracted driver you are too busy doing other actions in your car so it is hard for you to pay attention to the road. These drivers are definite multi-taskers, but in a dangerous way. From putting on makeup to eating to conducting conference calls, all are done while driving.

But don’t be discouraged.

These types do not define YOU. You may not even feel angry most of your days. It may only be when you drive that you experience anger of some sort. Figuring this out will help you in finding the right solution for your situation.

The Good News

Road rage is totally curable.

It takes a little effort but every ounce of energy a person puts into getting help for their anger while driving is worth it. The benefit of being able to drive peacefully will not only help the person with road rage, it will also help those who he or she might encounter on the road.

It has been reported that the biggest problem or obstacle in helping people with road rage is that the person resists getting the help. Once they do finally agree to help and participate in their treatment, however, their problems begin to decrease.

One type of treatment for intermittent explosive behavior is counseling with a specialist who has a proven plan on how to handle your anger.

This can typically be cognitive behavioral therapy, where you will work one on one with a therapist who has a specialty in anger management. There are also many support groups for those dealing with anger issues. Both the counseling and the group sessions follow a specific guide, with activities, worksheets and discussions, to help overcome the problems of anger and rage.

Another type of treatment is the use of medications. The medications used are mostly anti-depressants that increase the levels of serotonin in the brain and research surrounding these medicines has shown positive results. It makes sense, increase the chemicals in the brain that cause happiness and that in turn will decrease negative emotions. The happier someone feels, the less angry they will be.

No matter what method you choose to fight anger problems, be proud of yourself for getting help.

Starting the process is potentially the hardest part.

Once you begin working the programs provided, you will notice small changes each day that allow you to take back control of your life and your emotions. In doing so, you will improve relationships with friends and family members and be able to see driving in your car as a positive experience, not one to dread or fear.

The Better News

There is a ton of research being done on aggressive behaviors.

This research shows positive results where people who have been suffering from explosive anger outbursts are being treated successfully and with great outcomes. Some researchers have found that inflammation inside the blood can lead to feeling angry.

This is good news because there are many proven ways to reduce inflammation within your body, from diet to medications.

Other researchers have found that road rage is just a symptom of other issues that may be happening at home or at work and if you are able to identify those and deal with them promptly, then you will find your anger while driving will automatically decrease.

Road rage is not a permanent problem.

You have it within you to find the solutions that will work for you. For most people, this means seeking professional help to learn how to control your anger so that your anger is not controlling you.

While attending counseling or an anger management support group is preferred, it is not the only way to gain skills in this area.

If you don’t like going to talk to a counselor in person, or you can’t find the time during the day to go to an anger management support group, there are many online resources out there with valuable guidelines. If you follow these guidelines, you will be on your way to great success in overcoming your outbursts.

You can even start with online self-assessments through the American Psychiatric Association.

Just click on the assessments that deal with anger specifically and you will be one step closer to overcoming this obstacle. Make yourself a priority and get help for any anger issues you are struggling with as a driver or in other areas of your life. You deserve to be happy and that includes being a happy driver.