OCD and ANGER!
Okay so let’s talk about anger.
I know a lot of us are very good at judging our feelings. 'I shouldn’t feel that way, I should be doing this instead. I can’t admit to feeling angry at this. Who am I to feel this way? I should be better at coping! It shouldn’t be getting to me this much’. It doesn’t affect others that way.'
I know that when those of us with OCD get angry, these are the sorts of questions that haunt us and send us spiraling into a negative cycle.
As a person with OCD, who has experienced quite a bit of anger (and her fair share of rage), I thought it would be good to share what I’ve learnt (you can jump straight to that here), but first, a little about my experience with anger.
Anger and me.
I have a looooooong history of feeling angry. When I say that it feels like a guilty confession but it really isn’t. Adverse life effects, mistreatment, injustice – anyone who has experienced any of these things is likely to feel a great deal of anger.
The things I’ve felt anger about in the past:
Losing my mum and dad (esp. when I’d just had Will).
A hospital error during my mum’s stay.
How hard it was to get the correct treatment of OCD!
My recovery taking too long.
Have I mentioned OCD!?
That feeling of anger was made so much worse if there was an element of feeling helpless about it. Or that there was no solution. Anything that involved inequality or the mistreatment of someone by anyone else would magnify this anger also.
I’ve felt such gut-gnawing anger at times in my life and I’m not ashamed to admit it (as a recovered people pleaser this is hard to admit to).
I know a lot of us with OCD have a very keen sense of justice so I’m guessing that’s a real trigger point for you guys reading this too. It’s so good to know I’m not alone there 😊.
I also know that anger has been the thing that has helped me out a number of times. It’s acted as a call to action when nothing else would. I credit anger with my mum getting the help she needed in the hospital and for getting myself the help I needed for OCD.
It was anger that made me make those phone calls, write those letters and have those conversations. When people ask me what finally encouraged me to start Taming Olivia, I often answer: Rage.
But anger has to be dealt with in a way that doesnt hurt us or others. It can consume us and make our recovery work that much harder. I find it helps to question my anger and to work out what it's trying to tell me. I do this my asking questions. I've written them below.
I hope it helps.
1) What’s causing your anger? Anger and rage can be caused by feeling intense emotions such as sadness, frustration, impatience worry, stress. It can also rise as a result of your biological/ emotional needs being met. It’s important to consider what might be causing the anger.
2) Is there something you can do to change it? If there’s a quick fix, deal with it – I know that sounds obvious but the number of times I’ve put off a quick job even knowing it would help me feel better is ridiculous. Speaking to others, I know a lot of us do that too.
3) What would help the most here? Is it a chat with someone? It is investing time into learning something new. Is there a particular part of your recovery work that you think could do with a refresh? Or a new skill you think will help you. Take into account the time, money, energy expenditure but remember, if it’s helping you to address the source of your anger, it’s probably time very well spent.
4) If you can’t stop what’s making you angry, can you remove yourself from it? Five minutes on twitter and I can feel my stress levels rise. I get angry at what I read on Twitter but I use it for Taming Olivia so I’d prefer not to remove the app (I would be prepared to do this if I needed to though). I’ve used the mute button, more than any other on that site I reckon. I don’t scroll, I use it only to put my Taming Olivia things on or to respond to comments/messages. Can you do something similar?
5) Can I change my thinking around my anger? Yes of course you can! In fact, our therapy and CBT work can be a big help here! Take this paragraph from the beginning of the blog for example.
I ‘shouldn’t feel that way’ I ‘should’ be doing this instead. I ‘can’t’ admit to feeling angry at this. Who am I to feel this way? I ‘should’ be better at coping! It ‘shouldn’t be getting to me this much’. It doesn’t affect others that way.
There’s a whole heap of unhelpful thinking styles in there. Before you read further see if you can identify the styles in the passage above.
In green we have a whole load of critical words such as should, shouldn’t and can’t.
In purple we have the critical voice and in blue we have comparisons with others. All of these things are going to make us feel terrible and that’s without taking into account the thing that made us feel angry in the first place! Learning to identify and challenge these thoughts will help across the board from OCD through to dealing with anger.
6) But what if we can’t change it? Some things we can’t stop, or change, at all. Some things we can’t go back to put right. If that’s the case, we need to know how to help process that anger and how to help our mind and body deal with those emotions. What would help you? Think about the time you have available to you and what is accessible. Take into account whether you’ve got kids, work a 9-5 or both! How are you going to create that time?
Spend some time working out what works for you. I’ve had so many people recommend running as a great way of dealing with frustration and anger yet I never go. When I feel that way, I find it impossible to get ready and go out. What helps me? Drumming. I’ve got a cheap electronic kit and I play it. It occupies my mind and is hard work physically – it ticks the box. What sort of things would tick your box? Something light like yoga or meditation? Meeting with a friend? Exercise? There’s a whole community of people who listen to Heavy Metal to help with their mental health – is that something that might help you? As with all recovery work – it’s great to be inspired and motivated by what others do but we need to create our own patch work of what works!
Hopefully you can see from this that we all get angry. How long it lasts and its intensity depends on a range of factors such as how we view the problem, what it actually is in the first place, whether we can solve the issue and loads more.
But whatever the answer to these, there are always things we can do to help ourselves feel better. Whether that’s working on our thinking styles, looking after ourselves or trying to re-frame our outlook.
And just like everything else in recovery, the more we practice, the better we get.
Loads of love everyone,
Catherine x x