This blog I prompted by a headline in the Daily Mail today “Experts who think anger can be cured with an aspirin.” It is not the first time that press have raised the prospect that anger could be “cured” by a pill so it is worth addressing now.
The headline is a little misleading. When you read the detail of the article it is based upon research from Chicago University that tested 70 people with Intermittent Explosive Disorder (yes there is a diagnosis and that alone is scary). In the detail it goes on to draw a link between cytokines which are produced by the body in a response to inflammation and infection and which trigger the immune system. People with IED showed significantly higher amounts of cytokines in their bodies than the rest of us. The article went on to suggest that this increased inflammation may be a cause of anger, rather than a result of it.
The article was reasonably balanced and brought in criticism from other parties including discussion about depression being “over diagnosed.”
Let’s address my fears about news such as this.
The first is related to the comments in the Telegraph about over diagnosis of conditions such as depression. When behavioural issues are brought closer to medical conditions there is often a move from numbers of people that do not wish to take responsibility for their own feelings and emotions. That move is towards taking a pill to solve their problems rather than taking responsibility for them. In the last 5 years I have only encountered one person who I knew I could not work with and who I referred elsewhere. All the rest of my clients have learnt to acknowledge and accept their issues, take responsibility for their behaviour and as a result developed healthier relationships.
A pill removes accountability and gives and excuse for poor behaviour.
Those of us that develop an unhealthy relationship with anger will do so for a wide variety of reasons including the past, stress, self esteem issues, control issues, role modelling and plain habitual behaviour. None of those factors will be addressed without the individual taking responsibility and choosing to change.
My role in helping others change is one of both empathy and accountability. This is where I am empathetic at the same time as holding them to account. As they grow and develop and change they start to hold themselves to account and take responsibility for their actions. A pill wont do this for them.
So my message to any one reading this is that change is possible, you have to decide to change and we are here to help you.