Constant Destructive Anger

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

My roommate seems to get angry at the littlest things. It’s like walking on eggshells with him. I am scared to mention almost anything to him, in fear that he will start yelling. When an electronic item messes up he will rip it from the wall and throw it on the sidewalk to break it. This morning he took a knife to his mattress and ripped it apart because it was uncomfortable for him to sleep on it. He then began yelling at the top of his lungs how if things don’t go his way no one will be happy. He is a very sweet guy when he is calm but I have noticed the anger coming out more and more. I never fear for my life or my safety as he is not threating towards me in any way shape or form. However, I am afraid that he is really going to hurt himself or hurt someone on the street who may look at him the wrong way. He was abused constantly as a child and I am sure this is where it stems from. I really want to know how I may be able to help him. What I may be able to do to calm him down or what I can say to him.

A: Since this sounds like a non-romantic relationship I would treat it more like a partnership. What I mean by this is that if this were an intimate relationship I would have very different suggestions. But as it is, I would approach it in a functional way.

If you feel safe enough to have the conversation, I would tell him that his outbursts make it difficult for you to be around him and that they are upsetting. Let him know that you do not want to continue having to deal with his anger because you worry for his safety, the safety of others, and your own anxiety.

Then give him a timeline that you will be using to decide if you can stay or not. This isn’t designed to blame him or manipulate him, this is designed to inform him of your needs. It sounds like he could use an anger management program. Many community hospitals have such groups and it might be worth it for him to look into these. The point here is to explain what you can and can’t tolerate. The work to fix it is on him.

If you don’t feel safe enough to have the conversation, make plans to leave as soon as it is possible. No amount of financial savings can offset you exposing yourself to that level of anxiety.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2012

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2012). Constant Destructive Anger. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/01/30/constant-destructive-anger/