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Anger Management: Nutrition and Psychotherapy

By Jurriaan Plesman BA(Psych), Post Grad Dip Clin Nutr

Anger behaviour ranges from mild to severe; from verbal abuse, assault, grievous bodily harm, domestic violence, murder and even mass murder.  Many of my clients with untreated anger management problems finished up in jail with unintentional murder charges. Thus anger management problems should never be underestimated.

Whether we are talking about domestic violence, sexual abuse or the more benign outrageous behaviour, most anger problems usually seem to result from a combination of a low self-esteem and a metabolic disorder. Uncontrollable outburst of anger are usually accompanied by other signs of mood disorders, such as depression, anxiety, insomnia or addictions. See also: Bullying – How can we stop it?

 Violent behaviour needs to be stopped and should never be tolerated. As a retired Probation and Parole Officer, explosive personalities are no strangers to me. When people appear before court involving an offense of violence, their usually reaction is that they cannot understand how they came to that point. “It was out of character”. “It is not me”. “There is something wrong with me”. These are good signs for treatment, because it shows first level “insight”, so necessary in psychotherapy. A violent person without “insight” will offer all sorts of excuses why he committed the offence.

There is often a gender factor in violent behaviour. Dr Louanne Brizendine (1) speculates that although we are all conceived with a female brain, the unborn male fetus soon start to develop a different brain structure due to testosterone flooding from the small testicles. Under the influence of estrogen females grow up to become more sensitive and are more able to express their emotions by verbal means. In conflict situations they tend to negotiate for a resolution, whereas males with their “fix it up brain” are at risk to act out their frustrations.

Genetic predisposition towards violence can not be ignored. It is common to observe that violent behaviour runs in families, which would seem to be evidence for instilling violent behaviour in children through some form of learning process. However, this does not explain similar behaviours emerging from siblings brought up in different foster homes. Some behaviours re-appear in grandchildren although not brought up by their grandparents. Quoted from Dr Chriss Reading.(below)

Many offenders are embroiled in “domestic violence”, and often alcoholism is involved.

Most of my clients joined my “rehabilitation” group, in which I taught basic social skills. The program is set out in my book “Getting off the Hook”, which is freely available on the internet here.

Most uncontrollable violent people or people with anger control issues are found to have hypoglycemia. See Studies below.

See: 22 JOM Studies connecting violent behaviour to hypoglycemia here.

This is a sugar handling problem and means that people with anger problems have Insulin Resistance . This can lead to hypoglycemia: a prediabetic condition not often recognized by doctors. Loss of anger control is one of the many symptoms of the hypoglycemic syndrome.

It can be tested with four hour Medical Test for Hypoglycemia.

An alternative home test is the Nutrition Behavior Inventory Test(NBI). Another useful test is

Hypoglycemia Questionnaire.

If you score high you are likely to have a metabolic disorder and most probably hypoglycemia.

The reason why hypoglycemia can contribute to irrational anger, is because hypoglycemia tend to expose people to excess adrenaline secretion. This may be due to a sudden drop in blood sugar supply to the brain, causing brain energy starvation. Whenever the brain senses energy starvation it will trigger the secretion of adrenaline from the adrenal glands.

This of course happens in a hypoglycemic dip, when out of the blue (hyperinsulinism), there is a sudden drop in blood sugar levels, threatening the brain with energy starvation. The person is flooded with adrenaline to feed the brain again, but also with the fight/flight hormone. (See image) The function of adrenaline is to convert sugar stores in the body (glycogen) into glucose. People with high levels of adrenaline and other stress hormones cannot feel good about themselves. They  tend to become defensive and aggressive. Alcohol can also bring about a hypoglycemic dip, hence aggression/murder/ violence is often associated with alcoholism.

Thus if we want to stop us from losing control over our anger, we need to treat hypoglycemia. Fortunately this can be done without recourse to drugs, by going on a Hypoglycemic Diet.

The other aspect of anger outburst has to do with a low self-esteem, that puts a person into an eternal self- defensive mode. When you are bombarded with stress hormones (adrenaline) – perhaps dating back to childhood AND most probably inherited from your parents [there is often a family history of violence] – it is no wonder that you are on edge at the slightest hint of personal criticism and extreme jealousy. Hypoglycemia is inevitably associated with a low self-esteem. In addition, a low self-esteem often leads to a self-fulfilling prophesy, whereby a person’s behaviour leads him to believe that he is “unloved”.

Thus a person with an anger problem has FIRST to treat his metabolic disorder and THEN re-learn social skills. I can say with some confidence that treating the metabolic disorder is much easier than re-learning social skills.

The latter may take longer, but on the other hand it can be fun and soul inspiring. This course should preferably be done with both partners in  a relationship. It will teach them how the other partner thinks and what strategy he/she is using.

The latter course is covered at the web site at:

Psychotherapy Course:  See Summary of Psychotherapy Course.

Please discuss this article with your health care worker, doctor or nutritional doctor or therapist.

References:

22 JOM studies connecting violent behaviour with hypoglycemia.

Dr Chris Reading (2002), Trace Your Genes to Health, Vital Health Publishing, Ridgefield,CT

See also:

Studies on Violence and Aggression

Index to Specific Topics and Research

References to Mood Disorders and Nutrition


3 Responses

  1. Jenny says:

    This whole website is amazing. I have insulin resistance and have recently tried the glycerine for anxiety. It works and I haven’t had to take oxazepam and feel a lot better.
    I’m a former Probation and Parole Officer and current member of the AASW ( mental health ). I am amazed at all you’ve written and wholeheartedly agree.
    Thank you

    • Jurriaan Plesman says:

      HI Jenny, it is interesting to hear that you are a former Probation and Parole Officer. So am I!!
      Where did you serve?

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