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Struggling with Violent Urges Due Potentially Tied to Anger & Stress

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I’ve recently been struggling a lot with urges to hurt loved ones. They arent very common, and only ever really emerge when Im stressed or angry. I know this sounds normal but a recent event has led me to believe otherwise. It happened today and what happened was I had already had a really stressful day and was eating dinner when my dog started jumping on my leg, which hurt due to how long her claws were. It really upset me and while I didnt hit her or yell, I suddenly got this intense urge to grab her neck and squeeze. I wish it just stopped there but I ended up following through with this urge. I didnt do it out of a desire to hurt or kill her, I just wanted to squeeze until all these intense emotions just went away. I didn’t squeeze very hard at first, but as the intensity of my emotions increased so did the pressure. Thankfully it wasnt enough to actually choke her, and she honestly didnt even really seem to care, but it felt like I couldve just squeezed harder and harder. I immediately felt awful and cried at what had just happened. The guilt and regret was intense. It genuinely felt like part of me couldve killed my dog in that moment. I didn’t want to even in the moment but something in my head deeply compelled me to just squeeze until the anquish went away. Its probably worth mentioning that my mental health and life situation are both pretty awful. But its not the first time Ive had these urges however it is the first time Ive acted on them. I love my dog and I feel so awful. I feel like a monster. I will say whenever I get intense anger I always feel like I need to squeeze something. I dont know, Im just very scared and confused. Am I a monster?

Struggling with Violent Urges Due Potentially Tied to Anger & Stress

Answered by on -

A.

It may be normal in the sense that there is a certain percentage of the population who experiences violent urges but purposefully hurting an animal is never a “normal” response to stress. It is a maladaptive response. By maladaptive I mean it doesn’t help you, it doesn’t improve your situation or it hurts you. People sometimes develop these types of responses when they lack the skills to respond appropriately. They may have never learned how to handle strong emotions. If they knew a better way, they probably would have behaved differently.

I see this as potentially a problem of your lacking healthy responses to strong emotions. Though that’s my best educated guess based on only a small amount of information. I would need to interview you professionally to have a more concrete understanding as to why you responded in the manner you did. A professional evaluation would help to explain what motivated your reaction.

The good news is that you can develop more appropriate responses to strong emotions with counseling. People often need to be taught these kinds of skills. When they are lacking, people resort to negative responses which can include overeating, violence, self-harm, using drugs, alcohol, etc. Counseling is the ideal solution to this problem.

If you are truly sorry for what you have done, then you must do whatever is necessary to ensure that it never happens again. How you respond will demonstrate whether or not you are remorseful. Your writing to us here at PsychCentral is a step in the right direction. Your next step should include seeking treatment from a qualified professional. Depending on the nature of your symptoms and the level of control you have over your behavior, medication may also be recommended.

I would recommend consulting multiple therapists over the phone. Discuss these issues and ask how they can help you. Choose the one with whom you feel the most comfortable. Use your letter as a guide for describing your concerns. A therapist will not be shocked by the contents of your letter or think of you as a “monster.” A “monster” would not have felt remorse nor would they be actively trying to ensure that this type of thing never happens again. A “monster” would have never cared about hurting a dog or anyone else. Your seeking help would undoubtedly prove that you are as sorry as you say you are.

Once you find the right therapist, be as honest as possible. The more they know, the more they can help you. They will assist you in developing better responses to stressful situations. It is an important skill to learn. There are many problems that invariably arise and you need to have the right skill set for responding to difficult life circumstances. I wish you the best luck. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

Struggling with Violent Urges Due Potentially Tied to Anger & Stress

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist and Assistant Professor of Social Work and Forensics with extensive experience in the field of mental health. She works in private practice with adults, adolescents and families. Kristina has worked in a large array of settings including community mental health, college counseling and university research centers.

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2019). Struggling with Violent Urges Due Potentially Tied to Anger & Stress. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 22, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2019/10/23/struggling-with-violent-urges-due-potentially-tied-to-anger-stress/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 21 Oct 2019 (Originally: 23 Oct 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 21 Oct 2019
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.