Everyone gets angry at times. It’s a perfectly normal emotion, but because of negative associations with anger like loss of control, aggression and conflict, many people believe it is wrong to express it.
Endeavour Foundation’s Specialist Behaviour Support Manager, Simon Wardale says the key is to experience anger in a healthy and functional way that is not damaging.
“We all get angry, but there will be a small number of people whose anger then transitions into stuff that can hurt others or can hurt themselves - it’s at that point in time that it becomes a problem,” says Simon.
“It’s important to support the expression of anger as a functional emotion but then identify the times when it becomes dysfunctional and work out how to deal with that.”
The good news is that there is help available.
“Be comfortable that there are good intervention approaches to support people who’ve got problematic experiences of anger,” says Simon.
“There are a number of clinicians who are really good at this work and are quite successful at bringing around positive outcomes for people.”
Anger management for people with an intellectual disability
People with an intellectual disability can find it particularly hard to manage their anger, which can lead to significant strain on their relationships, their work, their home life, or even their community.
For some, this anger can leave families struggling to cope and individuals isolated from the community.
Simon says that while the intervention approaches for people with an intellectual disability and people without a disability are conceptually similar, there are some important differences that you would want a clinician to be aware of.
“Make sure you’re seeking support from people who not only have expertise in issues around emotional regulation but particularly people who have knowledge of that issue as it pertains to people with an intellectual disability,” says Simon.
Simon says there’s a widespread misunderstanding about how to assist people with intellectual disability to regulate their emotional states.
“I think people can misunderstand the differences between how we experience anger and how people with intellectual disabilities experience anger and the differences in the sort of behavioural manifestations of anger,” says Simon.
“We know that people with an intellectual disability often haven’t had the opportunity to consider the nuances in their emotional states the way the rest of us do.”
“I think one of the fundamental things about talking about anger and emotions with people with an intellectual disability is giving them the opportunity to reflect explicitly the way we reflect implicitly, because that effects how people respond pro-socially,” says Simon.
Endeavour Foundation offers specialist behaviour services for people with a disability. Those eligible for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) should talk to their planner about their needs in relation to behaviour support, as this service can be funded under the NDIS.