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Anger Management and Communication

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From the U.S.: This is difficult to describe, since I am only aware of aspects of it after the fact. This may sound like a simple communication issue, however we’ve hashed this out repeatedly, and, despite an earnest attempt to fix it, we’re stumped.

We have been married for 6 years, and by nearly all accounts everything is great. Occasionally, 3-4 times a year, my wife and I have a knock-down-drag-out fight that gets us both shouting. The fight is always about something trivial that neither of us care enough about to merit such a row. And it usually ends with her in tears.

In the aftermath, I usually feel like I was right or justified and that my wife was overreacting. However, another hallmark is that there is always something that I had done or not done that was separate from the issue on which I was fixated. Once we are talking, I often see that she had a valid complaint or concern, but I steamrolled her on the trivial point that I was arguing about without really seeing any of it transpire in real time. I was seeing red, and I was arguing as though this insignificant thing was all that mattered.

I am disconnected from the events, and my wife will relate to me after the fact that I don’t look like myself while we’re arguing. She has described my eyes as glazed over, unfocused, wide. Outside of these episodes while we’re fighting I am a completely different person with a different affect and different demeanor.

In my adolescence, I was diagnosed with OCD, and I was medicated for a time. I haven’t taken medication for about 10 years, and the symptoms I still experience are minor and manageable. My wife and I have each done independent research to try to gain some insight into what the root cause is, and recently we have been thinking that my single-minded focus on some trivial aspect of a disagreement might be a symptom of OCD that is still affecting me.

I was hoping for some guidance as far as how to describe this better. Is there some obvious thing that I’m missing, or some term for describing this that will help when searching for resources online? What type of professional would be most helpful? I won’t outright refuse medication, but I’d prefer to try to address this without medication.

Thank you.

Anger Management and Communication

Answered by on -

A.

I can’t tell for sure, of course, but you may be on to something. One way to describe OCD is that the “enough” switch in the brain malfunctions. Once a person with OCD gets focused on something, he often can’t let go. In an argument, this can look like a relentless obsession with making a point. So it could be that you are correct that this is a remaining symptom of your prior OCD.

It could also be that because of the OCD is prior years, you didn’t learn how to argue effectively. Once triggered into a defensive mode, all you know how to do is insist on your belief that you are “right” by repeating the same points, even though they are trivial. If that may be the case, a question to ask yourself is why it is that you feel “attacked”, by someone you love who only wants to solve a problem. It may be that some experience in the past makes this kind of situation feel threatening. If so, it’s important to get to the bottom of it and to identify ways to feel safe when in a confrontation.

Or it may be something else entirely. Those are the best ideas I have with the limited information.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Anger Management and Communication

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). Anger Management and Communication. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 19, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2017/02/06/anger-management-and-communication/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.