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It’s been almost a year since a troubled 20 year old took his mother’s life and then went on to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, murdering 20 young children, 6 educators and then himself. While we’ll never know Adam Lanza’s exact motives for firing more than 150 rounds of bullets in less than 5 minutes, we do know that he had serious mental health and anger management issues. His mother was aware of them and worked closely in ways she felt appropriate to best handle his behavior. According to emails from her computer, she found violent pictures in his bedroom just a few weeks before the incident occurred. She was upset about the finding and was considering how to confront him about it prior to the massacre.

Of course this is an extreme situation, but it provokes the question, when is anger normal and at what point should another adult step in? Often times people have anger management problems but they don’t think that they do, so they don’t take any action. Or, they know they have issues but don’t know where to even begin to improve their behavior. As a good friend, loved one, caregiver or parent, you can start the discussion by asking the individual to take an anger management assessment. These evaluations help to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses in impulse control and decision making abilities. Participants will get an idea of how their ability to manage stress measures up, what their capacity to understand the effects of their anger is on others, how effective they are at communicating feelings and showing empathy for others, and how appropriate their angry reactions are. Once completed, a licensed therapist can evaluate the results and make suggestions on how to proceed.

Some signs of anger problems include:

1. Do you find yourself in arguments with those around you either at work, at school, with friends, or at home on a frequent basis?

2. Do you often blame other people for your problems?

3. Do you have trouble forgiving people or getting over things that people did to you in your past?

4. Do you lose physical control or emotional control when you get angry? This includes blood pressure rising, clammy hands, fogginess, headaches and/or yelling, screaming or hitting.

5. Are people afraid of you when you get angry?

6. Do you regret your actions when you get angry?

7. Does your anger cause you to feel depressed or anxious?

8. Do you use alcohol or drugs when you feel angry?

9. Do you get enraged when driving?

10. Have others told you that you need help?

There is no need to go through life with feelings of chronic anger. Answering these questions honestly and clearly can help identify how to appropriately tackle the problem. Taking an educational anger management class or one-on-one therapy can teach individuals how to retrain their brain to think in a more positive way. Don’t wait until relationships are crumbling around you or the legal system gets involved, address anger management issues today!

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