There are many types of abuse and all are difficult to endure.
Physical, sexual, emotional, financial and verbal cruelties are among the various
forms of mistreatment that our society faces daily. Another type of brutality that is widespread
and difficult to address is domestic abuse. Domestic violence has been a
concern in our society for decades. It is an epidemic and affects individuals
in every community regardless of sex, socio-economic status, religion or race.
The devastating effects of domestic violence can last a lifetime and be a
repeated cycle for generations. Domestic violence can result in broken
families, physical injury, and psychological trauma and in severe cases even
death. Often times when evaluating a situation that resulted in domestic
violence, observers often attribute the violence to uncontrollable anger.
However, many studies suggest that domestic abuse is not the result of anger but
instead a strategy to maintain power in a relationship.
Anger is an emotion depicted by resentment, bitterness, and/or
hatred toward someone or something that we may feel has harmed us or done us
wrong. Though anger can be an intense feeling that is difficult to manage, it
can be a positive force. It can forge an outlet to communicate negative
feelings and engage in conflict resolution to solve problems. Conversely, excessive
anger can have potential negative effects that can include health problems.
Excessive anger has been linked to high blood pressure and heart problems as
well as familial and community deterioration. Holding back and/or stuffing
anger can eventually lead to an unexpected explosion. Often times, people
particularly men don’t realize when they are angry and suddenly become
overwhelmed with the intensity of the emotional reaction to the situation. The
body feels angry before the mind realizes it’s angry and what it is angry about.
When we don’t express our feelings we take a chance of becoming a walking “time
bomb” waiting to explode. Therefore, controlling and expressing anger in a
healthy manner is encouraged. The first step to controlling anger is to
recognize when we are feeling low levels of angry. Recognizing anger when it’s
in the early stages affords us the opportunity to manage it while it’s
containable. Identifying our personal body signals (chest pains, headaches, tension
in various body parts, dizziness) when angry is important in managing the
emotions early on then we are more likely to express ourselves effectively.
What’s the Difference?
In comparing domestic violence/abuse and anger, there are
several key differences. As mentioned previously, it is argued that domestic
violence is the result of the need to control and gain power in a relationship
versus uncontrollable anger. The feelings of being entitled to power may be a
driving factor for a person to disregard the feelings of their partner. Often,
the underlying drive for power can include feelings of inadequacy, low
self-esteem, fear of abandonment and guilt.
A person with anger management problems often are struggling
with a distorted thinking process and demonstrate skill deficits. When
confronted with their behavior, this individual is likely to accept
responsibility for his actions and accept the consequences that follow. While
an abusive person also struggles with an inaccurate thinking process and
exhibit a lack of prosocial skills, an abuser often externalizes their anger.
They blame others or their circumstances for their behaviors. Further, many
abusers don’t visualize their victims as people but instead as property or
Another difference between the two is that anger can be
expressed towards anyone or anything (i.e. God, others, situations, unmet
needs) whereas domestic violence generally occurs within an intimate
relationship. Further, anger can be expressed in a positive healthy manner via
coping skills assertiveness, problem solving and conflict resolution. Anger only
becomes a problem when it occurs too frequently, too intensely, lasts too long
and disturbs work or relationships. Contrastingly, domestic violence is always
a problem. It’s never useful or healthy. It harms both the victim and the
Both the person who engages in domestic violence and the
individual struggling with anger management should seek therapeutic assistance.
There are some differences between treatments but there are useful techniques
that are applicable for both parties. Domestic
violence/abuse programs tend to focus on the power/control philosophy, accepting
consequences and responsibility and changing behaviors. Anger management often
centralizes on developing methods to communicate anger in a healthy manner. In
addition to those techniques, both parties can benefit from learning empathy, identifying
triggers, developing a plan, use of coping skills and calming techniques, and
dismantling the distorted thinking process that occurs during the episodes.
Curtis, C (2016) Anger and violence a change in thinking
retrieved April 4, 2016
Hoy, L (2009) Anger Management and Domestic Abuse retrieved
April 15, 2016
Hoy, L (2007) Is it Anger of Abuse? Retrieved April 15, 2016
NVADC What is domestic violence? Retrieved April 15, 2016
American Psychological Association (2016) Anger. Retrieve
April 15, 2015