Anger Experienced by Returning Veterans

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Due to the recent war in Afghanistan and Iraq, there are many veterans returning homeCapture and experiencing anger problems during reintegration into civilian life.  A recent study done by Miranda Worthen and Jennifer Ahern, published in the Journal of Loss and Trauma in 2014, investigated how veterans understood the causes, process, and social impact of their anger issues during reintegration.  In this study, the researchers had an open interview with each veteran in order to further understand the individual and the reasons causing the anger problems.

The researchers found three distinct patterns of anger problems: (1) loss of structure during reintegration (i.e., living in a less predictable and organized environment), (2) moral injury from being exposed to acts that disagree with one’s moral beliefs, and (3) post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which is triggered by a traumatic experience (National Center for PTSD, 2012).  While veterans reintegrate into civilian life, PTSD and moral injury caused persistent anger problems.  These anger problems can lead to marital issues, social isolation, and issues holding a job.

There is specialized help available for veterans who suffer from moral injury and PTSD.  These feelings are common and seeking help is highly encouraged.  It is important for each veteran to find what process or method works best for them to reintegrate into civilian life.

For those veterans who are looking for help, here are two useful resources:

By Gretchen Klefstad
Gretchen is a a sophomore majoring in Psychology and minoring in Public Administration. She plans on graduating in May 2017 and continuing on to graduate school.

Tuesday Tip: Sleep

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indexI’m not encouraging you to go to bed angry.  You’ve probably heard not to do that and that’s actually pretty good advice.  However, getting regular, healthy sleep is an important part of managing anger.

A lack of sleep diminished activity in the area of the brain- the frontal lobe- associated with impulse control.  Consequently, sleep deprivation makes it harder to control your angry impulses and you’re more likely to do something you regret when you get angry.

Four Questions on Entitlement with Dr. W. Keith Campbell

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Dr. W. Keith Campbell is a Professor and head of the Psychology Department at the kcampbell06University of Georgia.  He received his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.  He began studying narcissism in graduate school and then began to focus, specifically, on entitlement during his postdoc.  He published his first pager on the topic, Psychological Entitlement: Interpersonal Consequences and Validation of a Self-Report Measure, in a 2004 issue of the Journal of Personality Assessment.

You can learn more about Dr. Campbell here.

1.     What is entitlement and how is it associated with anger?

We have defined “psychological entitlement” as a pervasive sense that one deserves more than others or special treatment. Our approach is a trait approach that comes out of the narcissism tradition. There are other way to look at entitlement, including some who conceptually separate entitlement from deservingness, and others who focus on more socially legitimate forms of entitlement vs. more pathological.

With psychological entitlement as with narcissism anger is usually triggered by some ego threat. So, for example, if a highly entitled person is not treated with what he considers appropriate deference – or his needs are no met rapidly – anger is likely to result.

2.     What would you estimate is the most common misconception about entitlement?

I think the challenge is knowing when a person should feel entitled and should not. There is a balance is life about being treated fairly and reasonably, which most of us want, and being treated better than others, which people with high levels of entitlement want. In general I think high levels of entitlement are a problem, but low levels can possibly be a problem in some circumstances.

3.     If there was one thing you would want people to understand about entitlement, what would it be?

Being entitled can sometimes get you special treatment — demanding a special hotel room or service at a restaurant sometimes works. But, in general, people don’t like entitled people and entitled people are not all that happy.

4.     Do you have advice or other thoughts for people who feel entitled or who live, work, etc. with someone who is entitled?

Sometimes thinking in larger terms helps reduce entitlement: There are 7 billion people sharing this planet right now and each of us is only one. Most of us are not that special and shouldn’t expect the world to treat us as such.

Dealing with entitled individuals is a challenge. Often, people will just exclude them from activities, not want to work with them, etc. If it is a friend, a discussion about selfishness might be useful. And I am a fan of nature as a teacher. Nature doesn’t care who you are — it treats everyone the same way.

Tuesday Tip: Be Aware of the Catharsis Myth

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The “Catharsis Myth” is the idea that venting anger is good for you.  The idea is that by acting aggressively, viewing aggressive content, etc. we release our anger in a way that is healthy and safe.

The problem, of course, is that catharsis doesn’t work. In fact, the research on catharsis shows that it increases anger rather than decreases it.  According to Bushman and colleagues (1999), it increases cardiovascular disease risk and increases the likelihood you will become aggressive toward those around you (including innocent bystanders).

To learn more about the “Catharsis Myth,” see Four Questions on the Catharsis Myth with Dr. Brad Bushman.

 

Fact Check: Do women use gossip as a form of aggression more often than men?

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indexWe have likely all heard people say that men typically express their aggression physically while women express their aggression indirectly using gossip. Gossip, or talking about people without their knowledge, is something that surrounds us every day. It starts in the hallways of middle school, follows us through college, and is present in our workplaces; it is nearly impossible to escape. That said, gossip isn’t always bad, as researchers often talk about “positive gossip.” Positive gossip helps individuals understand peer groups, learn who to trust, and build social connections by sharing personal information. It can sometimes, however, become a tool for aggression.

But do women gossip more often than men? To answer that question, we’ll turn first to a 2014 study conducted by Dr. Francis McAndrew, who investigated the distinct way women express aggression. McAndrew found that gossip was used in an effort to eliminate, damper, or constrict the social network of others. McAndrew also discovered that women were more likely to gossip about other women rather than men and he argued this was because women are seen as more direct competition.

Another study that looked for a concrete difference in aggression between males and females was a 2006 study by Dr. Nicole Hess and Dr. Edward Hagen exposed men and women to the same aggression-evoking stimulus. Specifically, participants were told that their group members had reported that they had not done any of the required work on a group project. Hess and Hagen found that women, in response to this provocation, had a stronger desire than men to aggress indirectly through gossip. One other interesting aspect of this study is that they controlled for social norms and approval and still concluded, “Young adult women reported a significantly stronger desire than men to retaliate with gossip against a reputational attack, even after controlling for social norms and approval” (p. 242).

Anger and aggression can be expressed in many different ways. The studies presented here don’t suggest that women are more angry, temperamental, or aggressive than men. However, they do seem to confirm the idea that compared to men, women use gossip more frequently as a form of aggression.

By Gretchen Klefstad
Gretchen is a a sophomore majoring in Psychology and minoring in Public Administration. She plans on graduating in May 2017 and continuing on to graduate school.

On Being Hangry

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We’ve all been there. We haven’t eaten all day, so we try and grab a quick bite only to find out there’s a wait at our favorite restaurant. BAM, we snap.

Jimmy Johns

YOU’RE DEAD TO ME, JIMMY JOHNS!

You’ve been struck by “hanger,” the combination of hunger and anger, an insidious little monster that works its way into our lives and destroys relationships with both our loved ones…

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and our favorite fast-food employees.

Mcdonalds

YES I WANT FRIES WITH THAT!

No one should be surprised by the existence of hanger. In fact, we should be surprised that we took so long to come up with a word for it.

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COME ON!

We recognize hanger in kids with no problem. In fact, a cursory glance at most parenting books will tell you that the vast majority of child crabbiness is explained by sleeplessness, hunger, or both.

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So what causes hangriness? Well, unlike shark anger, which remains a mystery despite my efforts, scientists actually know the answer to this one.

Here’s the key. Comparatively, food is fairly important when it comes to sustaining human life. We don’t live very long if we don’t eat, so our evolutionary history has provided us with a fairly simple set of eating reminders (stomach contractions and growling, low energy, difficulty concentrating, headaches, etc.). These reminders get more extreme the longer we go without food and feeling cranky, irritated, or frustrated falls in that moderate to severe food deprivation range.

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Don’t Make Me Hangry…. You Won’t Like Me When I’m Hangry.

More specifically, it has to do with blood sugar. When our blood sugar gets too low, we get anxious, uncomfortable, and irritable. Ultimately, glucose helps regulate self-control in the brain. Without it, we have a more difficult time controlling our emotions and behaviors.

This means that hunger affects anger on both the front end and the back end of the experience. People get angry when they appraise a situation as unfair or unpleasant. They get even angrier, though, when they’re in a negative state (tense, anxious, hungry, etc.) right before the unfair or unpleasant event (the front end). But, since glucose helps us regulate our behavior, hunger also makes it harder for us to control that anger, and we’re more likely to lash out (the back end).

bill-oreilly-angry-pointing

Can someone get Bill a sandwich or something?

So, can we avoid it? Yes, by eating.

Maya Cooper Michele Perchonok

I’ve cured hunger!

If you’re looking for more than that, here are some helpful resources.

If none of those work, though, there’s always this:

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Texas Standard: Online Outrage Over Racism at Fraternities

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On March 11th, 2015, I did an interview with Texas Standard on “Online outrage over racism at fraternities – how much are official responses dictated by social media?”  For some background on the story, read University of Oklahoma Expels Two Leaders for Racist Singing.

You can listen to the show at Listen: Texas Standard for March 11, 2015.

Survey: How Angry Are You Online?

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Do you ever wonder if you vent online more than others?  Do you ever ask yourself how you compare to others when it comes to sending angry emails, calling people names, or even using social networking sites as a way of getting revenge on people?  Find out by taking the Online Anger Consequences Questionnaire, where you answer just 12 questions about how you express your anger online.  We’ll give you your scores and provide you with information about how those scores compare to others who took the test.

Tuesday Tip: Imagery

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Learning to relax is obviously a useful strategy for dealing with unwanted anger.  There are lots of ways to relax, however (see here for examples of mediation, deep breathing, and taking timeouts).  One of the best is to use visual imagery where you visualize a relaxing experience from your memory or your imagination (a trip the the beach, a hike in the woods, etc.).

In fact, if you’re not good at coming up with visualizations on your own, you can even find a few websites with free visualization scrips for you to practice with (see here for an example).