He’s become abusive

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Over the last couple of years I have struggled with stress and self confidence and have become increasingly emotionally and verbally abusive at home to both my wife and teenage daughter. I over react to things, have become overly critical, yell far too often and say very hurtful and regretful things when I have these outbursts. I feel horrible afterwards and try to apologize for such behavior and proclaim that it won’t happen again but it does. It has continued to get much worse and I feel like I have become a monster.

My wife has repeatedly talked to me about this to which I say that I will change and make it better, but it happens again. I realize I have not been able to control or stop such behavior on my own. I need help and would like advice as to what kind of counselling or therapy I should seek. It has ruined my homelife and I want more than anything to save my relationship with my wife and daughter. Please advise and point me in the right direction. I want to change and become a better person.

A: Thank you for writing. It’s a quality guy who steps up and takes responsibility. I think it’s possible you are suffering from a significant depression. Many people think that the symptoms of depression are only sadness and generally being “down.” But for reasons we don’t yet understand, some people instead get very, very irritable and even aggressive.

The first thing you need to do is get an evaluation from a mental health professional. If you don’t know where to look, talk to your primary care physician and ask for a referral. If I’m correct that depression is the problem, you would probably benefit the most from cognitive-behavioral therapy. However, please pay attention to what the professional who does the evaluation has to say about diagnosis and recommendations for next steps. He or she has the advantage of being able to talk to you. I’m only going by your letter.

As you know, if you could fix this by yourself, you would have already done so. Please take the next step and make an appointment. You and your family have suffered more than enough.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 26 Apr 2009

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). He’s become abusive. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/04/26/hes-become-abusive/