What situations make you angry for no apparent reason, especially when others handle the same situation calmly?
Is there a particular word that irritates you? Do you get annoyed when people only drive 70 on a 55mph road? Is it situations that leave you feeling disrespected? Ignored? Like you have no control? Personality type plays a big role in your pet peeves and trigger issues. Dr. Aimee Daramus shares her insight and expertise in this guest blog.
There are 10 basic personality types, some more prone to anger than others, each with slightly different things that make them mad. Some of the types that are particularly prone to anger are the paranoid, borderline, narcissistic, and antisocial or sociopathic types, and obsessive-compulsive types. When a personality type is taken to an extreme in which you’re experiencing multiple losses in life, such as losing jobs or relationships, or getting in trouble with authority figures a lot, it’s called a a personality disorder. Even for those of us with a fairly healthy personality, though, our type can influence what makes us angry, according to Neil Bockian, Ph.D., a Chicago therapist (www.bhawellness.com) who has written or co-written 3 books on personality disorders.
Someone with a paranoid type is always concerned that someone might be out to get them or take advantage of them. The healthy version of this type is realistically cautious. They’ll get angry when they feel taken advantage of. Anger management skills might include making sure that you actually are being taken advantage of before reacting, and learning some negotiating skills to be more effective at looking out for yourself.
People with narcissistic styles (the healthy version of this is someone with a lot of confidence) get angry when they feel inferior to someone else. According to Dr. Bockian, it might feel like unfairness or injustice. If this is your style, you might respond to anger by trying to prove you’re better than someone else or by ridiculing someone. It might help to focus on improving skills in order to feel less inferior, rather than focusing on your place in the hierarchy.
People with an antisocial type (at an extreme, they can be sociopaths or psychopaths), might get angry when they feel controlled or have to obey rules that seem arbitrary. And to someone with antisocial personality disorder, most rules seem arbitrary. healthy people with this type are adventurous and see rules as flexible. Some people with this type also use “instrumental aggression”: you may not actually be that angry, but you act like it in order to achieve a goal. Bullying is a form of instrumental aggression.
People with a borderline style often have unstable relationships and have unusually strong emotional reactions. They’re going to get angry when they feel rejected or abandoned. People with this style often turn their anger on themselves, but can also explode at others very suddenly. Emotion management skills (like those in Dialectical Behavior Therapy) and skills for healthy relationships might be useful along with specific anger management techniques.
While many people with domestic abuse issues are seen as sociopaths (and therefore the antisocial personality type), Dr. Bockian believes that many domestic abusers have a borderline style or disorder. He explains that since people with borderline style have unstable relationships and their anger is triggered by a sense of abandonment, this can lead to rejection or abusive behavior. This is followed by the classic abusive pattern of apologizing and trying to make amends before starting the cycle again.
People with an obsessive-obsessive-compulsive personality type value control and are often perfectionistic, so they might get angry over minor imperfections in themselves or others. They might also get angry when they feel disobeyed (even when there’s no logical reason for them to expect obedience in that situation). People with this type get angry at themselves as much as at others because of their very high standards. It can be useful to work on the idea of “good enough” instead of perfect, and to explore how much control you’re really entitled to in a situation.
It helps to know a little bit about how your anger triggers are affected by your basic personality type. If you’re concerned that you might have a personality disorder, a psychologist can help you figure that out. Even if your personality is healthy, knowing your style can help you manage irrational anger and draw on your personality strengths to manage tough situations.
Aimee Daramus, Psy. D., lives and works in downtown Chicago and can be reached at www.audeotherapy.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. She specializes in serious mental illness, such as anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, psychotic disorders, and PTSD.