ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Psychotic Anger

Jack Bragen
Friday January 12, 2018 - 04:59:00 PM

There are some people with mental illness who must be supervised and who are unable to handle their own responsibilities. And at the other end of the spectrum, there are some persons with mental illness who do better at most things than most non-afflicted people. 

A fairly common thread among those who suffer from psychosis is disproportionate anger. People who have psychotic tendencies, unfortunately, may get a bad rap as being a bully. However, the reader should understand that the brain of a schizophrenic or schizoaffective person is not entirely normal. 

Here, it is important for the reader to distinguish a person's intent, versus symptoms of mental illness that could at times override the person's basic intent. Most people with mental illness aren't criminals, don't do premeditated crime, and do not harbor ill will toward anyone. 

Many people with psychosis become very angry when feeling boxed in by a situation, when we are excessively frustrated or overstimulated, or, when we are in a situation that is too demanding. 

This is not the same thing as bullying, it is not the same thing as a quest for dominance, and it is not that people with psychosis are "haters." It is more like an instinct for self-preservation, an instinct to get out of a situation that is excessively painful; and it is sometimes linked to a fear of something.  

The stereotype created by mainstream media, that people with mental health problems are responsible for all of the crimes, is inaccurate, and it is a slam. Most people with mental illness are not dangerous. Many mentally ill people, when angry, may seem frightening, yet the worst most will do is yell at you. 

Most people with mental illness can learn ways of coping that don't frighten people. This entails taking care of oneself, not getting in people's faces, and, of course, not becoming violent. 

Removing oneself from a situation, taking a break, and giving oneself a chance to calm down, are good ways to start. Doing breathing exercises, being aware that the anger could be triggered due to psychosis in combination with environment, and deciding not to take out one's anger on anyone, constitute another tier of coping. 

A third tier to dealing with anger could be to gain an understanding of how anger is triggered in the mind. This could be asking a lot; yet with training, it is achievable.  

People with schizophrenia are better off when we have an escape route from situations that could be excessively difficult or too stressful. If we are stuck in an overwhelming situation, and if we have no choice about it, it can sometimes be a bad formula. 

The reader should distinguish what I've described above from premeditated acts of violence--a completely different category. 

My thing is that I can't handle retail scenarios, especially at night, and especially when I have to wait for someone else to finish up with what they are doing. Even if I tried to take a break, the only place of escape is a parking lot. This is not very good, if it is dark out, if it is hot weather, and/or if there is security in the parking lot; security personnel can frighten some people with paranoia. On the other hand, I've been harassed in parking lots by criminals. 

Other areas of difficulty include travel, can include going to some fancy restaurants, and may include some formal events. Furthermore, if one's home has a lot of noise pollution--such as a person nearby having a loud party every night, this can be a big stressor. 

People with a psychotic disorder may have a lot more sensitivity to environments. This can be hard for people unfamiliar with mental illness to understand; non-afflicted people may have no concept that it can be a problem. 

Recently I saw two men trying to park their cars who got in a conflict. I assume they weren't mentally ill and were idiots. A vehicle in front was blocking the car behind it because the driver was waiting for a turn so that he could get the parking space he wanted. The vehicle behind him was stuck, with no reasonable way to move his car anywhere.  

They both "flipped off" each other. The driver in back was apparently ready to have a colossal fistfight, and the driver in front went away. Then, the driver who'd been in back, and who seemed angry out of proportion, asked me if I had seen what had happened. I acknowledged it as simply as I could. As soon as we could, my wife and I left the parking lot and went home. 

You don't have to have a mental health problem to be infantile and violent. If the main goal in life is to prevent people from walking all over you, and if one makes oneself physically more powerful in order to be left alone, the consequence is sometimes that it will come back to haunt you.  

This is to point out the fact that infantile men and not people with psychosis or mania create most violent incidents. 

Insofar as "getting even," which is a motive some mainstream or uninformed people might attribute to mentally ill people, it is not applicable to me personally, and probably isn't applicable to most mentally ill people. Most of us are focused on our personal situations, on getting through another day, and on hoping for something better in the future.