Monday, June 23, 2014

Finding a therapist who knows about anger overload

I have been struggling to find out what causes my 8-year-old's anger issues since he was a toddler. I recently discovered an article written by you about "anger overload" and it seemed like you were writing this about my son. I have never felt like anything else has explained his behavior before so reading your article really helped me feel like we're not alone. I also just purchased your manual on amazon and I should receive it Wednesday.

I am emailing you for advice because after my son's anger outburst last night I have realized that our family needs help. It's not fair to our family or my other son (10 years old) to spend our lives walking on eggshells because we're afraid to set off our 8-year-old son. Therefore, I'm now online researching therapists or counselors who can help us get a handle on the situation. None of the ones I see use the words "anger overload" in the descriptions of the types of issues they treat. How do I find a therapist who knows about anger overload??? I really feel like that 'diagnosis' is 100% accurate. It's uncanny to me how on the money it is.... But if a therapist hasn't heard of it, I wonder if they can help?

Any advice is appreciated.

Hi, I coined the term "anger overload" about 15 years ago after seeing a number of children with this problem, and finding that there were no books to help parents with this issue.  It has not been covered in the mental health manual put out by the American Psychiatric Association, though the new 2014 diagnostic manual comes closer with the diagnosis of "disruptive mood dysregulation disorder" (abbreviated as DMDD).  You could ask if the therapists in your area have worked with children who have this diagnosis or with children who have "repeated angry outbursts."  In my manual I explain the difference between anger overload and disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, but the psychological treatment approaches would overlap.  

Also, I would suggest showing the therapists my manual and ask if they use some of these strategies in their work.  Most child and family therapists who have some background in "cognitive behavioral therapy" will be familiar with some of these techniques.  It is important that you pick someone who strategizes with parents (or with the entire family)  in addition to talking with your son, because children often have trouble implementing the strategies on their own at home.  Their anger occurs so quickly and so intensely that they need assistance for a number of months in order to learn to change their mental set quickly before their anger reaches the overload phase.  

You will see in my manual that the first half teaches parents how to implement strategies without the direct involvement of the child in the planning stages.  The second half of the manual has strategies that parents and children work on together.  All the best, Dr. Dave Gottlieb

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