Oh we’re mad alright…mad as hell.

One of the DSM-V changes that has elicited little discussion is the expansion of anger as a focus of psychopathology.  Anger is included in the indicators of a range of disorders including both the depressive, and in children, the manic phases of bi-polar disorder, Intermittant Explosive Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Oppositional Defiance Disorder and the new Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder.

In popular culture and philosophy anger is almost universally seen as a negative emotion, causing harm to those who harbor it and clouding their reason and judgment.

 Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.

 Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.
Mark Twain

Anger dwells only in the bosom of fools.
Albert Einstein

Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding.
Mahatma Gandhi

A large body of research however has shown that in fact, anger is one of the most positive emotions we can feel. This research also reveals that there are reasons for governments, institutions and authorities to fear anger which have little to do with the risk of violence and everything to do with the risk of resistance.

Studies have found that anger is associated with a desire for change and to take action against a person or obstacle by “fighting, harming, or conquering it”,[1]that central to being angry is a belief that you can achieve your goals and that anger triggers such beliefs in all spheres, including health, social relations, career, social competence, and political concerns.1

The literature shows that in comparison with positive moods, “negative moods can improve judgement and decision making, supporting focused cognitive processing by narrowing people’s attention and prompting a more analytic search for causes.”[2] Interestingly, when people are angry they apply this strongly analytical thinking across issues not just those related to the one which prompted the anger. 2

In addition to more carefully considering the causes of events, anger prompts a feeling of certainty about what has happened and the belief that someone other than oneself was responsible for the negative event. Importantly it engenders a strong sense of one’s ability to influence a situation and optimism about ones chances of success in doing so.1

Studies suggest that anger influences not only what people think but how they think and that angry people believe they will prevail regardless of circumstances. Anger triggers optimism which in turn triggers a bias toward seeing oneself as powerful and capable.[3]

By contrast, where negative events are blamed on situational factors rather than on individuals or groups, sadness is dominant while a belief that one has triggered negative events oneself gives rise to feelings of guilt and shame.[4]

Consider those who wish to impose their thoughts, views or will on others. Anger, in that it generates resistance, challenge, critical thinking and opposition is a highly undesirable state or trait in its targets. On the other hand, happiness, which research shows involves less careful thinking with reliance on stereotypes[5] spontaneous, quick, general knowledge structures, or ‘‘rules of thumb’’[6] [7] [8] makes others more likely to accept the status quo or imposition of less favourable conditions.

Angry people are more likely to ask awkward questions, to refuse to comply and to take action to hold those in authority accountable for negative events. Happy people tend to assume that the authorities have their best interests at heart, know what’s best and could not have forseen or prevented harm that arises.

Research and experience tells us that attempts to persuade another person are often preceded by efforts to change their mood.[9] If we want someone to make a particular decision, behave in a particular way or tolerate our less than desirable behavior, we do things to make them happy and avoid approaching them when angry. Whether we are wanting to use Dad’s car, working to persuade the boss to give us a raise or hoping our partner will respond to our advances, we prepare the way by attempting to get them ‘in the mood.’

In pursuing or maintaining action that may have negative outcomes for others, those in control do not want to deal with people who carefully analyse their actions, attribute blame and feel confident in their right and ability to overturn the situation you have, or are attempting, to create.

In seeking  to persuade others to accept your view, your will, your desire, a happy population would be much easier to work with. While this could be achieved through providing everyone with the necessities of life and meeting some wants as well as needs, this is likely to require significant effort and huge expenditure.

How much easier would it be to get people ‘in the mood’ by persuading them that happiness is what they want, that no one need ever feel sadness or anger, that in fact any emotion other than happiness is disease and an indication of a defect and giving them drugs that blunt any emotions that may cause them to feel that their situation is less than ideal, that you are to blame and that they have the power to resist your control.

In pathologising and medicating anger, psychiatry and its partners in pharma and government socialize us towards apathy and compliance and reposition resistance from an ingredient of democracy to an indicator of disease.

Around the world there is an army of angry people whose loved ones have died from suicide. People who do not accept their child, spouse or parent’s suicide was inevitable. People who believe psychiatry is responsible for the death, who are committed to achieving change in the way emotional distress is addressed and who have confidence in their ability to overturn current paradigms of care. People who are comfortable with their anger and refuse to take their ‘happy pills.’

[1] Lerner, Jennifer S., and Larissa Z. Tiedens. “Portrait of the angry decision maker: How appraisal tendencies shape anger’s influence on cognition.” Journal of Behavioral Decision Making 19.2 (2006): 115-137.

[2]Schwarz, Norbert  Higgins, E. Tory (Ed); Sorrentino, Richard M. (Ed), (1990). Feelings as information: Informational and motivational functions of affective states. Handbook of motivation and cognition: Foundations of social behavior, Vol. 2. , (pp. 527-561). New York, NY, US: Guilford Press, xviii, 621 pp

[3] DeSteno, D., Petty, R. E., Rucker, D. D.,Wegener, D. T., & Braverman, J. (2004b). Discrete emotions and persuasion: the role of emotion-induced expectancies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86, 43–56.

[4] Neumann, R. (2000). The causal influences of attributions on emotions: a procedural priming approach. Psychological Science, 11, 179–182.

[5] Bless, H., Clore, G. L., Schwarz, N., Golisano, V., Rabe, C., & Wolk, M. (1996). Mood and the use of scripts: does a

happy mood really lead to mindlessness? Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 71, 665–679.

[6] Chaiken, S., & Trope, Y. (Eds.). (1999). Dual-process theories in social psychology. New York: The Guilford Press.

[7] Eagly, A. H., & Chaiken, S. (1993). The psychology of attitudes. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

[8] Petty, R., & Cacioppo, J. (1986). Communication and persuasion: Central and peripheral routes to attitude change. New York: Springer-Verlag.

[9] Schwarz, Norbert, Herbert Bless, and Gerd Bohner. “Mood and persuasion: Affective states influence the processing of persuasive communications.” Advances in experimental social psychology 24 (1991): 161-199.



  1. Maria, brilliant blog piece as usual. Mad as hell? Yes, especially at the (supposed) family doctor, whom after twice increasing the dose of Paxil to my teenage daughter, then refused to see her again as a patient, after discovering the girl had gone off the rails with alcohol and substance abuse. An incompetent doctor who is so well protected by her publicly funded malpractice insurer and her liscensing college, as to be impervious to professional accountability. This sort of injustice creates the worst sort of anger, in a bereaved parent, that can become a doctors worst nightmare. I believe the worst thing that one can do to an incompetent doctor is to drag them into a public inquest – which we did. The cost was high, both emotionally and finacially – this doctor no longer practices family medicine. Time to now let go of the anger.

    especially at at doctor who , after

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  2. No feeling in and of itself whether it’s anger or anything else is a problem or a “pathology” as well as a sign of health. Feelings are energies and every energy can be used either constructively or destructively. That’s all there is to it. It’s not anger that needs to be defined as “good” or “bad” but its specific use and expression. Anger can do many constructive things such as fighting social injustices and oppression if it is used constructively for the purpose of creating a better more consious society. It can also create a lot of destruction if those who act it out have questionable intentions. Some people who claim that they fight for justice simply use this claim as justification to dump their personal garbage on others. Their goal is not to build a better society but to make someone pay for their vitimization. In those cases, when anger turns into vengence, it doesn’t have any constructive purpose as it doesn’t solve any problems and certainly doesn’t make anyone’s life better.

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    • Your comment is very triggering for me, WiseMonkey.

      “It’s not anger that needs to be defined as “good” or “bad” but its specific use and expression.”

      I use words as a tool: see the word anger in danger?

      There’s a ladder of madness. I’ve talked about this before, here on MIA.

      From anger to madness to rage to fury to wrath to annihilation and obliteration.

      “Some people who claim that they fight for justice simply use this claim as justification to dump their personal garbage on others.”

      It feels like you’re talking about me. What you wrote really speaks to me. It is a trigger and will get me to DUMP.

      It sounds like a very bad situation and probably a very diseased and disordered person! In what you said, psych drugs immediately come to mind. Are psych drugs the answer or is the answer in HANDLING the garbage (oh, that’s an idea). And in actually HANDLING the garbage, there is justice in that. There is INJUSTICE in ignoring, judging, shunning or punishing a person for even having that garbage to dump it.

      Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding.
      Mahatma Gandhi

      Anger and intolerance are *obstructions*. I can pull up one of my online posts right now, where I’m “dumping” in public but my anger and intolerance were such a problem that no real progress could be made. I was getting more and more angry when people were responding to my anger and not to the problem that I DESPERATELY needed “help” with.

      But why on Earth would I bother to SHOWCASE what I’m talking about when there’s no real engagement and no support. There is no official, formal WORKGROUP. I haven’t won the millions yet to HIRE and EMPLOY people to work for me. It would be a waste of my time to SHOW people the DUMPING that I do and the SCREAMING that I do – because NOBODY is “helping” me with any of it. I’ve been doing it for YEARS, all over the internet, and in the faces of very many strangers.

      See the word PATH in pathology? The ANGER path and the psychiatry path are no valuable paths to travel, whatsoever. This ISN’T a “word game”. It is highly revelatory.

      Anger danger, danger can derange. Twisted paths, pathology.

      Obliteration – I lose my ability to form thoughts into sentences. My ability to communicate is diminished, destroyed.

      DESTROY DE STORY. The “story” is destroyed by obliteration when anger takes it’s death grip.

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