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Rage (emotion): Wikis


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Rage, Tacuinum Sanitatis casanatensis (14th century).

In psychiatry, rage is a mental state that is one extreme of the intensity spectrum of anger. When a person experiences rage it usually lasts until a threat is removed or the person under rage is incapacitated. The other end of the spectrum is annoyance (DiGiuseppe & Tafrate, 2006). Psycho-pathological problems such as depression increase the chances of experiencing feelings of rage (Painuly et al., 2005).



The fight-or-flight response to threatening stimuli shows this (Hill, 2002). Both men and women experience an overwhelming release of hormones when confronted with a threatening situation that will result in physical violence or fleeing from the threat. The threats faced in modern society have evolved since the origin of the human race but the fight or flight response remains the same. Rage is also a state of mind in which large amounts of epinephrine are released and the body, as previously stated, reverts to a more primal instinct. In this state of mind one doesn't think clearly; the brain processes one idea at a time and thus is unable to accomplish more, though in this state of mind it is motivated by emotions rather than personal goal.


Rage occurs when oxytocin, vasopressin, and corticotropin-releasing hormone are rapidly released from the hypothalamus. This results in the pituitary gland producing and releasing large amounts of the adrenocorticotropic hormone, which causes the adrenal cortex to release corticosteroids. This chain reaction occurs when faced with a threatening situation (Jezova et al., 1995; Sapolsky, 1992).

Health Complications

Some research suggests that an individual is more susceptible to having feelings of depression and anxiety if he or she experiences rage on a frequent basis. Health complications become much worse if an individual represses feelings of rage (Begley, 1994). Cardiac stress and hypertension are other health complications that will occur when rage is experienced on a regular basis.


According to psychologists, rage is a behavior that every person exhibits in some form. Rage is often used to denote hostile/affective/reactive aggression (as distinct from predatory/instrumental/proactive aggression). It denotes aggression where there is anger present, that is motivated by causing harm to others, and that is characterized by impulsive thinking and a lack of planning. This is a behavioral side that many would not like others to see, but does often persist in extreme situations. Some psychologists, such as Bushman and Anderson, argue that the hostile/predatory dichotomy that is commonly employed in psychology fails to define rage fully, since it is possible for anger to motivate aggression, provoking vengeful behavior, without incorporating the impulsive thinking that is characteristic of rage. They point to individuals or groups such as Seung-Hui Cho in the Virginia Tech massacre or Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold of the Columbine High School massacre, and suicide bombers, all of whom clearly experienced intense anger and hate, but whose planning (sometimes over periods of years), forethought, and lack of impulsive behavior is readily observable (DiGiuseppe & Tafrate, 2006). Rage stems from anger, in that, in certain cases where there is anger present, the ultimate push will create an outrageous occurrence. Many of the effects that stem from anger and how a person reaches the point of expressing rage is a fine line associated with these behavioral tendencies. Much of the behavior experienced from anger has been studied extensively, but most do not know what causes the next step, rage, or why some people go the extra emotional mile. Rage is considered to be an emergency reaction, in which we as humans are pre-wired to possess. Rage tends to be expressed when a person faces a threat to their pride, position, status or dignity (Anderson, 2001).

Expression of rage can be very intense, often distinguished by distorted facial expressions and by threat (or execution) of physical attack. Rage is associated with individuals who experience psycho-pathological issues. This can lead to physical violence resulting in serious injury or death (Greene et al., 1994). Self-esteem is another factor of one feeling rage; evidence has shown that individuals that suffer from low self-esteem will compensate by inflicting physical harm onto others (Walker & Bright, 2009). Psychologists have seen rage as caused by being more of an attack on one’s self than of others. This leads to rage being more intense, less focused and longer lasting. This same idea suggests rage is a narcissistic response to one’s past injuries. How does one tell the difference between rage and normal amounts of anger? Anger is explained by current dissatisfaction in one’s life. This amount of anger or frustration is common. Rage, however, is caused from built up anger from past traumas. These accumulated angry dispositions are locked in our mind and bodies (King, R. 2007). One can mask rage by appearing overly dominant, or by being depressed.

The Cannon-Bard theory

Can a person be held accountable for their actions in a moment of rage? Rage-driven murders or crimes of passion are committed by individuals that lose their ability to control their actions (Cartwright, 2001). One would argue that his or her actions are a result of stimuli, but this theory believes one’s actions are based on the emotions experienced from the stimuli. The Cannon-Bard theory holds that emotions are experienced before the appropriate physiological reaction is shown. These reactions include increased heart rate and sweating (Gorman, 2003, p. 111).



Types of therapy

Evidence has shown that behavioral and cognitive therapy techniques have assisted individuals that have difficulties controlling their anger or rage. Role playing and personal study are the two main techniques used to aid individuals with managing rage. Role playing is utilized by angering an individual to the point of rage and then showing them how to control it (Willner et al., 2002; Lishman et al., 2008). Multi-modal cognitive therapy is another treatment used to help individuals cope with anger. This therapy teaches individuals relaxation techniques, problem solving skills, and techniques on response disruption. This type of therapy has proven to be effective for individuals that are highly stressed and are prone to rage (Gerzina & Drummond, 2000).

See also


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