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National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine-Ruth Buczynski, PhD- Webinar
posted: May 03, 2021.
In the Webinar, Dr. Buczynski spoke to anger being one the most challenging emotions that clinicians find themselves working with. In fact, what was interesting to learn had to do with how clients often fear their anger. However, one point that was made in the webinar related to that anger can also be beneficial which I had not considered before as I always tend to to view anger as destructive, or maladaptive. However, it is key for clients to process their anger, first and foremost. The key to this is to provide psychoeducation about the processes in the body and brain that transpire during an angry episode. Once clients learn about how anger impacts the body, it might lead to change, or clients making attempts to control angers as there are so many negative consequences. Essentially, teaching clients the way their anger is activated can be helpful and therapeutic. It is critical to show clients a diagram of the brain and indicate the back of the brain or the amygdala is where anger is first activated and then the hypothalamus becomes activated.
The hypothalamus is instrumental in activating and releasing corticotropin and the adrenal glands then discharge adrenocorticotropic hormone, finally releasing stress hormones like cortisol.
It is also critical for clients to explore the sources of their anger which might be fear or disappointment, for example. I found it fascinating to learn how anger impacts the brain in the sense that an increase in cortisol causes loss of neurons in the prefrontal cortex, hence causing poor decision making ensues. Short term memory can also result as an increase in cortisol in the hippocampus is instrumental in destroying neurons and interferes with the creation of new ones. Another important point that clients can be encouraged to consider is that elevated amounts of cortisol can decrease serotonin levels. Hence, clients will find they are depressed after an angry episode. The webinar pointed out the impact anger has on health. For example, it can have deleterious effects on the cardiovascular system as it increases blood pressure and heart rate among other problems which eventually result in heart attacks or strokes. I found it compelling to use a visual to discuss with clients the value of understanding how anger is activated as it can be a highly therapeutic way for the client to see the destructive nature of anger.