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Could It Be Alzheimer’s?

Anger is a natural, healthy emotion. But frequent outbursts can be harmful to your health. You could have some emotions you need to sort through, or there could be a medical reason. A number of conditions and some medical treatments have rage as a side effect.

As this form of dementia progresses, people tend to lash out in frustration. It can be especially tough on the caregiver to deal with sudden bouts of fury. Anger is a common symptom, so caregivers should take a step back and look for the immediate cause, whether it’s physical discomfort or trouble communicating.

Could It Be Anxiety Drugs or Sleeping Pills?

Benzodiazepines are widely prescribed for a number of anxiety conditions such as panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Doctors also may use them treat insomnia. Fits of anger are a rare but harmful side effect of these drugs, especially for those with an already aggressive personality.

Could It Be Autism?

Anger is not unusual for people on the autism spectrum. The rage can come on suddenly, seemingly from nowhere, and then vanish just as quickly. Triggers include stress, sensory overload, being ignored, and a change in routine. A person with autism spectrum disorder may have trouble communicating, making things even harder. They may not even realize they are acting out of anger. Part of the solution is becoming more aware of themselves and situations.

Could It Be Cholesterol Medicine?

Statins are widely prescribed to lower cholesterol. But some studies show that these drugs are connected to aggression as well. Experts say that low cholesterol also lowers levels of serotonin (your happiness hormone), which can lead to a short temper and depression.

Could It Be Depression?

Irritability often goes along with despair. Depressed men in particular are more likely to have violent explosions. It’s often described as “anger turned inward,” but it can be turned outward, too. This mood disorder is treatable with medication and therapy.

Could It Be Diabetes?

When you’re told you have a serious illness like diabetes, you’re likely to have a lot of emotions, including anger. People might resent having to change their lifestyle. They might also be scared about how it will affect their future. With diabetes, there is a link between lower-than-normal blood sugar numbers and flying off the handle. This is because the hormones used to control your glucose (sugar) levels are the same ones used to regulate your stress. Keeping your glucose in check will help.

Could It Be Epilepsy?

An epileptic seizure is an electrical disturbance in the brain. It can cause uncontrollable shaking and even loss of consciousness. That can be scary and confusing for someone. It’s rare, but sometimes people lash out right after having a seizure. People with epilepsy are also more likely to feel self-conscious, depressed, and anxious. Sometimes anti-seizure medicines can cause behavior changes or outbursts, particularly in kids.

Could It Be Liver Failure?

Chinese medicine ties chronic anger with poor liver function. Left untreated, inflammation, the early stages of diseases like cirrhosis and hepatitis, can damage the liver. When this organ fails, it stops removing toxic substances from the body. The buildup of poisons can lead to hepatic encephalopathy, a brain disorder that causes personality changes and loss of control.

Could It Be PMS or Menopause?

Some men might joke about it, but the agitation felt during a woman’s period is real. With premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a more intense but less frequent form of PMS, anger can be extreme. Levels of estrogen and progesterone (hormones) fall the week before a woman’s period. This in turn can affect her serotonin levels. The drop in hormones is also the reason for the moodiness associated with menopause.

Could It Be a Stroke?

A stroke can physically damage the brain. And if it strikes the area responsible for emotions, this can lead to changes in behavior like a rise in irritability. This new shift is typical after such a life-changing scare.

Could It Be an Overactive Thyroid?

Hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. This hormone has a direct effect on a person’s mood, linking the condition with a rise in tension and anxiety. It’s treated with medication.

Could It Be Wilson’s Disease?

This rare genetic defect causes a buildup of copper in the liver or brain. If the disease attacks the frontal lobe of the brain, which is tied to personality, it can cause aggravation and fury.

If you think one of these conditions or treatments might be causing your rage, talk to your doctor.

Need help managing your anger? Ask your doctor to refer you to a counselor.

Here are some other useful tips:

  • Try deep breathing and positive self-talk.
  • Talk through your feelings and seek the support of others.
  • Keep a log of your angry thoughts.
  • Learn to assert yourself in healthy, productive ways.
  • Look for the humor in situations.

By Trish Cruz, RN


SOURCES: Alzheimer’s Association: “Aggression and Anger.”Synapse: “Anger & Autism Spectrum Disorders.”While, A. European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, published online March 2012.Golomb, B. Oxford Journals, published online March 2004.HelpGuide.org: “Depression Signs and Warning Signs.”American Diabetes Association: “Anger.”Vermont Department of Health: “High and Low Blood Sugar.”Epilepsy Foundation: “Partial seizures.”American Liver Foundation: “The Progression of Liver Disease.”Canadian Liver Foundation: “Hepatic Encephalopathy.”NHS: “Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) Symptoms.”Women in Balance Institute: “About Hormone Imbalance.”Institute for Optimum Nutrition: “Vicious Cycle: Understanding the Science behind PMS.”Toxipedia: “Benzodiazepines.”Stroke Association: “Emotional Changes after Stroke.”Thyroid Foundation of Canada: “The Thyroid and the Mind and Emotions.”Wilson Disease Association: “About Wilson Disease,” “Symptoms.”