Anger is not a primary emotion; it’s a secondary response we have that makes it easier to cope with our original feelings. For instance, something first scares you and then you become angry as a response to that fear. If you have PTSD, you may response to other threats in the same manner you did when you went through the original trauma. Your response may be the same whether the threat is small or large. In essence, you respond to all stress as if you were in survival mode. This automatic response of irritability and anger can create serious problems in the workplace and in family life.
In the past, the best response to danger was to act aggressively as a form of protection. Many trauma survivors never learn any other way of handling threatening situations. A person with PTSD may think or believe that threat is all around, all the time. He or she may not even be fully aware of these thoughts and beliefs. For example, a combat Veteran may become angry when his wife, children, or coworkers don’t “follow the rules.” He doesn’t realize that his strong belief is actually related to how important it was for him to follow rules during the war in order to prevent deaths.
Anger causes certain reactions in the body: blood pressure rises, muscles tense, and your awareness of danger increases. If you have PTSD, this higher level of tension and arousal can become your normal state. The emotional and physical feelings of anger are more intense, and you may often feel on edge, keyed up, or irritable. You may be easily provoked. This high level of arousal may cause you to actually seek out situations that require you to stay alert and ward off danger. Aggressive behaviors include complaining, being late or doing a poor job on purpose, self-blame, or even self-injury. On the other hand, you may also be tempted to use alcohol or drugs to reduce the level of tension you’re feeling.
If you see yourself reacting in anger toward others, especially the ones you love, please consider getting some help. The VA offers Anger Management courses that can help you manage your anger.


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