Pandemic rage: It's time to seek help when not getting that last chicken wing makes you throw a chair
SINGAPORE — Poor customer service, traffic hold-ups, road rage , people who cut queues, long waiting times for takeaways or deliveries, booking and wedding cancellations, postponement of events, as well as constant changes of and confusion over Covid-19 regulations.
who threatened to run down a security officer outside Red Swastika School last month.Mental health professionals who spoke to TODAY are not surprised to hear of such explosive incidents, given the stress of the prolonged pandemic.People who have difficulty controlling anger and displaying increased irritability are commonly seen in his practice even before the pandemic.
Ms Sophia Goh, principal counsellor and psychotherapist at Sofia Wellness Clinic“I think that could have contributed to many of such cases (of hostile behaviour) occurring,” Ms Goh said.“If you put someone under immense pressure, which might be the situation for those individuals… it is normal for the person to crack.Read more: TODAY »
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There are plenty of situations and experiences to get one riled up and frustrated while going about daily living during the pandemic. And when boundaries are crossed, tempers flare. Anger is a natural emotion, but the real trouble starts when rage takes over and it goes out of control, hurting the feelings of others and causing harm along the way because of what one says or do. In the past two years, reports of quarrels and aggressive behaviour have become more commonplace, such as the case of a who threatened to run down a security officer outside Red Swastika School last month. There have also been reports of healthcare workers and service workers being at the receiving end of anger outbursts, not to mention the countless cases of people verbally abusing or assaulting public servants. Mental health professionals who spoke to TODAY are not surprised to hear of such explosive incidents, given the stress of the prolonged pandemic. A sense of helplessness, feelings of a lack of control, the frequent airing of polarising viewpoints on social media and poor anger management skills are some reasons for poorly controlled anger, they said. Dr Marcus Tan, a consultant psychiatrist at Nobel Psychological Wellness Clinic (a member of Healthway Medical Group), is among the healthcare professionals who have seen more people seeking help to control their temper. This is especially when their anger gets them into trouble at work or affects their relationships. People who have difficulty controlling anger and displaying increased irritability are commonly seen in his practice even before the pandemic. However, since 2020, Dr Tan has seen a 5 per cent to 10 per cent rise in the number of people each month who seek help specifically to manage their temper. “ The entire experience of the pandemic makes us constantly feel that our existence, lifestyle and sense of well-being are being threatened. It may not take a lot to trigger someone and make them feel a sense of being threatened, which leads to anger. Ms Sophia Goh, principal counsellor and psychotherapist at Sofia Wellness Clinic ” Ms Sophia Goh, principal counsellor and psychotherapist at Sofia Wellness Clinic, explained that anger is an emotional response that occurs when there is a perceived sense of injustice or threat. “In the past two years, the entire experience of the pandemic makes us constantly feel that our existence, lifestyle and sense of well-being are being threatened. It may not take a lot to trigger someone and make them feel a sense of being threatened, which leads to anger. “I think that could have contributed to many of such cases (of hostile behaviour) occurring,” Ms Goh said. Dr Tan said that most people would have faced changes in their lives at some point during the Covid-19 crisis. “I think most of us can agree that the pandemic has gone on for far too long and we are tired of it. With restrictions in activities, travel and work-from-home arrangements, some people — especially those living in crowded households with little personal space — may find it challenging to find a suitable outlet to ventilate their pent-up feelings,” he added. Ms Goh, who now sees an average of two cases of anger management problems a month, believes that many anger outbursts occur unintentionally and are not necessarily a reflection of “bad” character. “If you put someone under immense pressure, which might be the situation for those individuals… it is normal for the person to crack. “But from a bystander’s view, it’s very easy to see that action as a representation of the person’s character or personality, as compared to seeing it as an outcome of the external environment or other factors,” she said. “My guess is that the incidents came from a sense that nothing is really going well (in their lives). So this very small thing, whether it is about getting their way in a situation, it may be a subconscious way to get back a little bit of control in their lives.” STRESSED OUT AND IRRITABLE Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist at Dr BL Lim Centre for Psychological Wellness, said that Singapore is a fast-paced society with an over-emphasis on efficiency. “With Singaporeans not only always being on the go but rushing all the time, impatience leading to anger issues and road rage is very commonplace. When stressed out, irritability is amplified,” he said. “ The first thing many people tend to do during conflicts is to pull out their smartphones to start recording… But this invariably agitates the other side and aggravates the situation with people ‘attacking’ one another with video recordings. Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist at Dr BL Lim Centre for Psychological Wellness ” From the patients he sees in his clinic, Dr Lim has observed that irritability and anger towards spouses, partners and family members seemed to have gone up in the past two years. Most of those seeking help are in their 30s to 40s, and are usually stressed out because they are overworking and cannot cope. Certain groups of people are at a higher risk of having anger management issues. Ms Goh said that lack of positive role models during a person’s younger years may also affect how one responds to stressful situations. Anger management issues are also often a symptom of underlying mental illness such as depression and anxiety disorders, or personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder, Dr Lim said. “Anger often leads to a vicious circle of anger followed by regret and feelings of guilt, further negative and stressful feelings, and even more festering anger,” he added. “It is important to assess and treat any underlying mental illnesses. Even if not related to mental illnesses and just due to transient stress, anger can affect one’s functionality, rationality and result in rash decision making.” Uncontrolled anger can also have a negative impact on health, sleep and blood pressure. SOCIAL MEDIA RAGE With social media amplifying rage incidents and being a hotbed for polarising viewpoints and scrutiny, people who use social media more frequently may experience more angst. For example, Dr Lim pointed out that the trend of going online to seek “social justice” could worsen conflicts. “The first thing many people tend to do during conflicts is to pull out their smartphones to start recording, perhaps to protect themselves and seek redress later. “But this invariably agitates the other side and aggravates the situation with people ‘attacking’ one another with video recordings.” Commuters on an MRT train looking at their mobile phones. Social media amplifies rage incidents and people who use social media more frequently may experience more angst, a psychiatrist said. Dr Tan also pointed out that bad news tends to attract more attention than good news. “Our curiosity tends to be piqued more when an individual is shown or exposed to be at his or her worst behaviour, compared to when we hear of people doing good deeds. “Furthermore, the proliferation of social media platforms and smartphones with video recording capabilities allow such incidents to be documented and shared more easily.” A new study by Yale University in the United States, published in August last year in the journal Science Advances, explains how online networks encourage people to express more moral outrage over time. After analysing more than 12 million tweets and assessing the behaviour of social media users, the researchers found that expressing outrage online typically garners more “likes” than other interactions. This could