Diagnosed With PTSD? Here's What You Need To Know About Anger

7 October 2015
 Categories: , Blog


The Department of Veterans Affairs says that anger is a common complaint of people who are diagnosed with PTSD, which is an anxiety disorder. And researchers from Cordova University believe anger and anxiety are related. If you have been diagnosed with PTSD or other anxiety disorder, it's important for you to understand anger.  

Serotonin & amygdala

People with anxiety have a heightened sense of awareness to what they perceive are threats. When they feel threatened they have anxiety attacks and/or flashbacks. Researchers believe they may have found the cause of flashbacks and it has to do with serotonin, which many people recognize as a hormone that makes you happy. 

However, serotonin has also been found to play a role in the storing and processing of events in long-term memory. The part of your brain that stores memory also handles emotions is called the amygdala. When the amygdala interacts with serotonin, it makes the person have stronger emotional feelings towards the traumatic events when they are triggered. Because of this, many people who have been diagnosed with PTSD are prescribed psychotropic medication, including antidepressants, that alters the way the brain utilizes chemicals, such as the use of serotonin by the amygdala.

Due to the way psychotropic medication inhibits the amygdala from using serotonin, it is an appropriate way to manage anger and other symptoms of PTSD. However, it's important to understand the various forms and behaviors of anger that you may experience. 

The conflicting behaviors of anger

Surely you have seen cartoons that display angry characters by showing steam shooting out of their ears and their faces becoming bright red. However, that's not always what anger looks like. Here are a few differences. 

Out vs. in – Many people react violently with physically and verbally aggressive behavior when they are angry. Anger doesn't always get directed outward. Sometimes, anger is kept in and suppressed but the individual still feels the effects of anger (increased heart rate, inability to concentrate) without openly showing angry behavior or even realizing they are angry.

Aggressive vs. passive – Aggressive anger is what most people think of when it comes to anger behavior. It's volatile, explosive, and sometimes retaliatory. Passive anger is displayed as apathy or sarcasm and is difficult to identify. Some people who have passive anger may not realize it or want to admit it. 

State vs. trait – State anger is the current feeling of anger and comes and goes largely depending on PTSD triggers. Trait anger is when anger is felt over time and in response to a variety of situations and triggers. Someone who has trait anger would have an extremely difficult time learning how to control their anger because they don't have the ability to allow the feelings of anger to diminish. 

For further information or assistance, contact mental health professionals, such as those from Comprehensive Behavioral Health Associates Inc.