Anger Management Tip: 4 ways to stop ruminating

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ACS SurveyRuminating is the tendency to go over and over an angering event in your mind.  We think about what we could have said, should have said, etc. Though ruminating isn’t all bad (it helps us process negative events to make sense of them), it’s not particularly good for us and it is important to find ways to keep it under control. Here are four strategies to stop ruminating.

  1. Engage in activities that foster positive thoughts (e.g., exercise, a hobby).
  2. Problem solve by coming up with one concrete thing you can do to address the angering situation.
  3. Think less about the event and more about the core feeling that might be driving the anger (e.g., are you feeling angry because you are hurt, sad, scared, etc.).
  4. Practice mindfulness.

Can Hostile Personality Traits Lead to Health Problems?

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In short, yes, but it is more complicated than it seems.

angry driverIt has been long argued that hostility leads to health problems, but to some it seems far-fetched that a personality trait could really be capable of having long term effects on one’s well-being. This article aims to explore the belief that those with hostile personalities are more prone to health problems, especially cardiac related issues.

In their 2004 literature review published in the Journal of Personality, Smith and colleagues found that hostility was not only associated with coronary heart disease, but also with premature mortality.  They defined hostility as “a devaluation of the worth and motives of others, an expectation that others are likely sources of wrong-doing, a relational view of being in opposition toward others, and a desire to inflict harm or see others harmed.’’  Their review found that hostility is not only associated with developing coronary heart disease, but that it also affects the severity of the disease. Research has shown increased recurrent myocardial infractions in women who had higher levels of hostility.  Men with increased levels of hostility, who had already experienced a cardiovascular event, showed risks of cardiovascular death five times higher than those with lower levels of hostility.

Hostility has also been associated with health issues in younger generations. In their 2003 study published in Health Psychology, Räikkönen and colleagues found a correlation between hostility and the risk for metabolic syndrome in children and adolescents. Metabolic syndrome, which they defined as, “having at least two risk factors above the 75th percentile of the distributions of scores for the same age, ethnicity, and gender groups” including BMI and Insulin Resistance was assessed initially and also at a three-year follow up.  Their study found that children who had high levels of hostility were more likely to have metabolic syndrome during their follow-up.  Räikkönen and colleagues outlined the importance of evaluating behavioral risks as a means for early intervention and prevention.

Although there is ample research to support the link between hostility and coronary heart disease, there may be factors aside from hostility that play a role in this link (I told you it was more complicated than it seems). In a 2004 meta-analysis, Smith and colleagues also discussed other potential reasons for the link between hostility and coronary heart disease. They suggested that the correlation could potentially be due to hostile people having a less healthy lifestyle. A third-factor variable, in this case an unhealthy lifestyle, would then be the cause for the link between hostility and coronary heart disease. They also point out that hostility is not the only thing linked to coronary heart disease; depression and lower socio-economic status are linked to the disease as well.

Although not all research supports the link between higher levels of hostility and coronary heart disease, most researchers agree upon the notion that cognitive and behavioral interventions can help to reduce anger and hostility. One specific way to help reduce hostility is to forgive more. Nava Silton and colleagues (2013) found a negative correlation between forgiveness and hostility in their study published in the Journal of Adult Development. That is, when forgiveness increases, hostility decreases. Whatever the method may be, it is important to decrease hostile behavior early in life in order to lessen the likelihood of developing coronary heart disease or other health related problems.

By Nermana Turajlic
Nermana is a senior majoring in Psychology and minoring in Human Development. She plans on graduating in December 2016 and attending graduate school the following year.

Räikkönen, K., Matthews, K. A., & Salomon, K. (2003). Hostility predicts metabolic syndrome risk factors in children and adolescents. Health Psychology, 22, 279-286.

Silton, N. R., Flannelly, K. J., & Lutjen, L. J. (2013). It pays to forgive! Aging,             forgiveness, hostility, and health. Journal Of Adult Development, 20, 222-231.

Smith, T. W., Glazer, K., Ruiz, J. M., & Gallo, L. C. (2004). Hostility, anger,             aggressiveness, and coronary heart disease: An interpersonal perspective on             personality, emotion, and health. Journal Of Personality, 72, 1217-1270.

Fact Check: Does Alcohol Cause Violence

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I’m sure many of us have been exposed to media’s portrayal of the drunk guy who is all 8552231637_824c2c5821_bmuscle and suddenly becomes overly aggressive after having a few beers.  But how much truth is there to the stereotype of drunk, angry men, or women for that matter?

The truth is, alcohol does not cause aggression.

It is relevant, though, just not necessarily the way you would think.  Back in 1990, Bushman and Cooper researched this and concluded that alcohol does indeed facilitate aggression in individuals who already tend to be aggressive.

This is how it works, according to a 2012 study by Newberry and colleagues.  For people who normally feel aggressive urges when sober, there is a part of the brain that keeps those urges in check.   When in a potentially violent situation, there is an increase in adrenaline throughout the body, which help the individual decide whether to fight or flee.  Anxiety and fear aid in this decision by determining whether or not the individual has a chance to survive the situation, and usually will decide that fleeing is the safer route.  However, alcohol reduces these inhibitions and the anxiety and fear that would normally take part in preventing the fight response, or aggression.

In contrast, for those who are not typically aggressive, being intoxicated does not increase aggression; aggression simply remains stable.  Ultimately, it is attitudes toward drinking and aggression that are important influencers on an individual’s actions when intoxicated.  Subra and colleagues in 2010 explains that societies often justify aggression when intoxicated and say the individual is not responsible for their actions because “everyone knows” that alcohol increases aggression.

These beliefs have become so engrained into the minds of today’s society that even exposure to alcohol-related cues tends to increase both aggressive thoughts and behaviors without any consumption of alcohol.  This finding from Subra and colleagues suggests that it’s not necessarily the alcohol that causes aggression, but the attitudes toward drinking that can facilitate aggression.

It is not only our attitudes toward drinking and violence that facilitates of violence, but the environment in which we choose to drink can also have a significant impact on our actions while intoxicated.  According to the 2012 Newberry and colleagues study mentioned earlier, temperature, noise, and population density may be contributing factors to aggression.

In summary, there are many different factors that are likely to contribute to aggression when one is under the influence of alcohol.  To say that alcohol causes aggression is not the complete story.  The environment and the people present can contribute to aggression just as genetic factors might.  Furthermore, society’s perception of alcohol-induced aggression plays a large role in actions of an individual while intoxicated or even in the presence of alcohol.

By Chelsea Giles
Chelsea is a senior planning to graduate in May of 2016 with a major in Psychology and minors in Human Development and Spanish. She plans to attend graduate school to earn her Ph.D in Counseling Psychology.

References

Bushman, B. J., & Cooper, H. M. (1990). Effects of alcohol on human aggression: An integrative research review. Psychological Bulletin, 107(3), 341-354.

Newberry, M., Williams, N., & Caulfield, L. (2012). Female alcohol consumption, motivations for aggression and aggressive incidents in licensed premises. Addictive Behaviors, 1884-1851. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2012.08.009

Subra, B., Muller, D., Bègue, L., Bushman, B. J., & Delmas, F. (2010). Automatic effects of alcohol and aggressive cues on aggressive thoughts and behaviors. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36(8), 1052-1057. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0146167210374725

 

Debunking Pro-Gun Arguments: “I Just Feel Safer With a Gun”

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There are various versions of this one (e.g., “I need to be able to protect my family,” “It’s dangerous to be a single woman without a gun”) but they all boil down to this:

Having a gun makes you safer.

Ultimately, though, it’s the easiest claim to take down because, quite simply, having a gun doesn’t make you any safer.  In fact, in most ways, having a gun makes you less safe.

And here’s how we know.

As it turns out, there’s a big difference between feeling safe and being safe.  For instance, most people feel safer in a car than in a plane but, as I’m sure you all know, you’re way more likely to get hurt riding around in a car than flying in plane.

The same thing is true with owning and carrying around a gun.  You may feel safer, but you are actually way more likely to get hurt or killed with it than without it (and so is anyone who spends time with you).

Here are three reasons why:

  1. Having a gun makes you (and those, particularly children, around you) more likely to die as the result of a gun-related accident.  States with more guns see more accidental gun deaths.  This is particularly true when it comes to the safety of children, which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics says, “the absence of guns from children’s homes and communities is the most reliable and effective measure to prevent firearm-related injuries in children and adolescents.”
  2. You’re also more likely to kill yourself intentionally if you have a gun.  This 2014 study meta-analysis (which means it’s a study that looks at many already published studies) found that access to guns was a substantial risk-factor for suicide.  Their conclusion was that “access to firearms is associated with risk for completed suicide.”
  3. In the very unlikely circumstance (less than 1%) that you find yourself in a situation where you are the victim of an attack and need to defend yourself, a gun offers no safety advantage.  According to a 2014 study, your chances of being injured in that attack are approximately 11% whether you have a gun or not.  That same study points to running away, hiding, or calling the police as the options least likely to result in injury.

This is the point when most gun-enthusiasts point to the need for gun training and safety measures.

Fine, lets talk about training and safety measures.

First, there’s almost no research on the topic, probably because the National Rifle Association (NRA) has successfully prevented the Center for Disease Control (CDC) from doing research related to guns.

The data we have provides some evidence to suggest that safety training will lead to a decrease in accidents, but that is it.  No evidence to support the idea training leads to a decrease in suicide (we wouldn’t expect it to) or an increased likelihood of defending oneself with a gun.

The really tragic part of this story, though, is the research we have says we could cut down on accidental gun death by simply implementing mandatory training requirements across the nationA few states, less than ten, have those requirements already.  Not surprisingly, though, the NRA is opposed to such mandates.

By Ryan C. Martin

Click here to see more pro-gun arguments get debunked.

Metal Music Makes You Angrier, Right?

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shinyhappymainhjaker.jpgMost of us are familiar with the claim that listening to extreme metal music makes listeners angrier and potentially more aggressive, but how much credibility does this claim actually have?  This idea is exactly what Leah Sharman and Dr. Genevieve Dingle aimed to investigate in their recent study on extreme metal music and anger processing.  Surprisingly, their research found evidence suggesting that extreme metal music may in fact have the exact opposite effect on listeners.

Their study, published in the Journal of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, defined extreme metal music as “characterized by chaotic, loud, heavy, and powerful sounds, with emotional vocals, often containing lyrical themes of anxiety, depression, social isolation and loneliness.”  Sharman and Dingle used 39 participants who reported listening to extreme metal music at least 50% of the time. They placed the participants in either the extreme metal music group or the control.  Both groups were given an interview to elicit anger and were then asked to either listen to extreme metal music of their choosing for 10 minutes, or to sit in silence for 10 minutes. During the experiment, participants were asked questions about how they felt at that exact moment and were also asked to rate 10 emotional words. Participants were asked to answer these questions before the anger induction interview, after the anger induction interview, and lastly after they were either promoted to listen to their own music for 10 minutes or to sit in silence for 10 minutes.  Simultaneously, participants were also hooked up to a monitor that tracked their heart rate during the study.

The results showed that contrary to the belief that extreme metal music elicits anger, those who listened to extreme metal music showed decreases in hostility and irritability that were equivalent to the decreases seen in control group. The results also showed that listening to this type of music increased relaxation (which initially decreased during the anger induction). This study provides evidence that listening to extreme metal music is as effective at relaxing participants as sitting in silence, refuting the notion that extreme metal music causes anger.

By Nermana Turajlic
Nermana is a senior majoring in Psychology and minoring in Human Development. She plans on graduating in December 2016 and attending graduate school the following year.

Anger Management Tip: Yoga

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YogaRelaxation has been long-known as a treatment approach for anger problems.  Muscle relaxation, meditation, deep-breathing, etc. are part of almost any standardized treatment approach.  One particular type of relaxation (though, it’s much more than that) is yoga, which includes all the important treatment components of relaxation.

For some specifics, take a look at this 2013 Huffpost article: Yoga For Anger: 3 Moves to Help You Calm Down

Debunking Pro-Gun Arguments: “But what about Chicago”

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Last time, I wrote about Switzerland, and how they really don’t have lax gun laws and shouldn’t be used as a pro-gun argument.  Today, in “Debunking Pro-Gun Arguments,” I’ll take on the opposite of that:

But what about [insert name of city, state, or country]. They have strict gun laws and some of the highest gun violence rates in the world.

Again, there are a lot of versions of this one, but lately gun enthusiasts seem to move directly to Chicago with things like this.

Chicago-Gun-Control

OK, so let’s get into why this and other arguments like it are nonsense.

First of all, yes, there are a lot of murders in Chicago, and many of them involve guns.

Second of all, yes, Chicago has stricter gun laws than much of the United States (though, they’ve been weakened as of late).

So, at face-value, such arguments are sorta, kinda true (or at least rooted in something that is sorta, kinda true).  Lots of murders despite strict gun-control.

But… Chicago does NOT have the highest murder rate in the country.  In fact, it’s not even in the top ten.  What the argument above skips is that the number of murders in an area is not the “murder rate” for that area (at least that’s not how experts calculate it).

The murder rate, or homicide rate, is the number of people murdered per 100,000 people in that region.

When you look at Chicago’s actual gun-homicide rate, things get much more clear.  In 2014, Chicago ranked 19th in the country with regard to gun-homicides,  In fact, the gun-homicide rate (15.1 murders per 100,000 people) was less than half of every city in the top five (St. Louis, Detroit, New Orleans, Baltimore, and Newark).

But wait, there’s more.

This only includes those cities with populations of 200,000 or more… so just 80 U.S. cities.  What happens when we look at the gun-homicide rate in those areas with smaller populations?  Well, it looks like this (red is high, blue is low, white means there isn’t enough data; if you want to look closer, click on the map and it will take you to an interactive version).

Gun homicide rate. nationalWhen we do that, Chicago’s gun-homicide rate is approximately the same as most of the south and southwest.  This isn’t just fun with statistics either.  Of course areas with more people are going to have more murders (just like they have more car accidents, more suicides, more cases of chicken pox, etc.).  That’s why we need to control for the size of the city.

Here’s the other thing you need to know about Chicago’s gun-homicide rate: The guns that are used to kill people in Chicago are usually bought legally somewhere else.

At the time I write this, there are no guns stores in Chicago (they were banned until just recently).  Chicago doesn’t have a wall around it, though, and every gun used in a homicide, suicide, etc. is bought outside of Chicago and brought there from some other city or state.  According to a recent report, 60% of guns used to commit a crime in Chicago were bought legally in states with more lax gun laws.  Indiana, for example, contributed 19% of the guns that were involved in crime (and while we’re at it, note that Indiana has seven counties with gun-homicide rates as high or higher than Chicago’s).  Mississippi, a full 600 miles from Chicago, contributed 6.7% of those guns (again, note per the map above that almost every county in Mississippi has a gun-homicide rate as high or higher than Chicago’s).

In other words, Chicago’s gun-homicide rate is, in part, the result of other states’ lax gun laws.

But this isn’t just about Chicago.  The point of the meme is to suggest that when you have gun control, only bad guys have guns and the murder rate goes up.

That’s not even sorta, kinda true.

Gun Ownership vs. Gun Deaths by StateThis chart shows a clear relationship between gun ownership and gun deaths.  And since I mentioned them earlier, I highlighted both Indiana and Mississippi so you can see where they are relative to Illinois.  Both have more guns and, expectedly, more gun deaths.

By Ryan C. Martin

Click here to see more pro-gun arguments get debunked.

Juvenile Offenders and Mental Health

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Previous research has demonstrated a clear link between mental illness and juvenile delinquency.  A recent study, however, looked more specifically at the role of trauma.  The 2015 study, conducted by Caldwell-Gunes and colleagues, focused on relationships between trauma and mental health issues such as anger/irritability, somatization, substance abuse, anxiety, and depression. The participants included 381 juvenile offenders who completed a series of group-administered psychological tests.

Results from the study showed a significant positive relationship between trauma and mental health issues among the juvenile offenders. Those who had witnessed high levels of violence also had more aggressive coping styles and were more likely to engage in violent behavior. There was a significant relationship between trauma and feelings of anger, irritability, and frustration. However, the strongest relationship in the study was with trauma and depression. This study emphasizes the importance of considering the role of trauma and mental illness in the prevention and treatment of anger and violence in juvenile offenders.

By Taylor Stelter
Taylor is a senior Psychology major at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

Guns on Campus: A Terrible Idea (and what we can do about it)

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Here in Wisconsin, two legislators have proposed a bill that would “allow students and faculty to carry concealed guns inside public university and college buildings.”

To clarify, though, there’s already a law that allows that.  Wisconsin has a “carrying concealed weapon law” that has been on the books for almost three years.  However, that law allows business or property owners to limit or prohibit the carrying of concealed weapons on its premises.  Most, maybe all, public universities in Wisconsin have prohibited weapons on their campus.

In other words, this law doesn’t actually allow people to carry concealed guns so much as it bans public universities from being able to do what everyone else gets to do, prohibit weapons on their property.

Almost everyone reading this knows this is a terrible idea so I’m going to skip that for now and focus on what we should do about it (see my talking points below for some ammunition- pun intended).

  1. Write the two legislators, Jesse Kremer and Devin LeMahieu, and tell them this is a terrible idea.
  2. Write your own legislators (you can find them here) to tell them this is a terrible idea.
  3. Write these three legislators, Chris Taylor, Terese Berceau, and Melissa Sargent, to thank them for countering with a bill banning weapons on Wisconsin campuses.
  4. Write letters to the editor, explaining the multitude of reasons why this is a bad idea.
  5. If you work on a college campus in Wisconsin, encourage your various governance bodies to pass resolutions opposing this terrible idea.

Ok, so here are some talking points:

  1. Guns do not make people safer in self-defense situations.  This is not an opinion.  It’s a fact (and here’s the recent study that proves it).
  2. The more guns in an area, the higher the rate of gun violence. Again, not an opinion (and here is the data that proves it).
  3. Gun access increases the suicide rate.  This point is often lost in the gun debate Access-to-guns-and-risk-of-suicide-chartbut it’s really important.  Access to guns is a significant predictor of suicide (and if they say, those people who kill themselves with a gun will just kill themselves some other way if they don’t have a gun, point to the chart on the right and say, “No, they won’t, and this is not an opinion, it’s a fact”).
  4. College campuses are supposed to be safe environments where people challenge themselves and each other.  We share controversial ideas, and engage in the stressful, emotional process that is learning.  For all the ways that learning is wonderful and colleges are extraordinarily special places, there’s also the fact that sometimes what goes on here hurts.  Sometimes people fail.  Sometimes we offend each other.  Sometimes we get angry at each other.  And we need to be able to feel those things without the threat of danger.  Adding a gun to that mix of emotions and stress is a terrible mistake.