DEAR MIKE: I am writing because my husband has a temper that causes him to throw things when he gets angry. It could be a pitcher, a child’s toy, a spoon, whatever is handy. Last month, we had an argument in the car and he threw a cup of scalding hot coffee at the dashboard. It splashed all over me and gave me a couple of nasty burns.
He is on probation for hitting me while when I was pregnant more than a year ago. He is in a mandatory program for men who batter women. He seems to show interest in what he is learning and has not hit me or abused me since entering the program. His control of his temper seems much better but he still seems to want to throw things when he gets upset.
I have asked the director of the program if he thought anger management would be more appropriate for my husband. He told me that anger management is for people who have road rage or lose control around other people. The program for batterers, he said, was only for people who abuse their spouses. He also said my husband shouldn’t get into an anger-management program until he finishes the batterers program, because it might overwhelm him.
I asked my therapist about this and her answer was that people can’t turn bad habits off like a light switch. She said I should regard the fact that my husband is not hitting me as progress, even if he is still throwing things.
I personally think he needs to be evaluated for depression and anxiety but people warn me that it will not work because he needs anger management. Do you have any suggestions? — Mary
DEAR MARY: While your husband is showing some signs of progress, he is still in the very critical stage of working out his problem. Throwing things means he is still out of control and needs as much help as he can possibly get.
I do not buy the idea that too much help will overwhelm him. Right now, he needs to be completely covered with services, the more the better.
I would recommend you seek out a therapist who deals with mental-health issues, like depression and anxiety, and anger management. Your husband also should have a full medical exam to make sure there is nothing going on physically that is causing problems.
You description of some of his symptoms suggests he may indeed be dealing with depression, or that he may be bipolar. He needs to be fully evaluated before a determination like that could be made. After evaluating him, the therapist may suggest that he see a psychiatrist for a medication evaluation.
None of this can be determined until he is examined by the proper professionals. For your sake as well as his, I strongly suggest you take these steps and not worry about overwhelming him.
On a side note, anger management is not just for people with road rage or who get angry in public. Anger management is for people who can’t rationally respond to things that anger them. There is nothing wrong with getting angry about anything; it is your response that can be wrong. Good luck. — Mike
Michael Hayden is a certified anger-management counselor who runs Bay State Anger Management and Counseling in Chelmsford. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 978-606-3955.