Nearly 10% of Americans Have Impulsive Anger Issues and Easy Access to Guns

WEDNESDAY, April 8, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Almost one in 10 Americans has a history of impulsive and angry behavior and ready access to guns, new research indicates.

The serious mental health issues that would legally prevent someone from purchasing a gun — such as involuntary commitment to a psychiatric ward for schizophrenia or bipolar disorder — only account for about 4 percent of U.S. gun violence, noted study author Jeffrey Swanson.

“There is a potentially much larger group of individuals in our society who struggle with pathological impulsive and destructive anger that would not normally turn up as serious mental illness on a background check,” said Swanson, a professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C.

Online Anger Management classes needed for 10% of U.S.

1 in 10 in U.S. Angry with Access to Guns

Yet these people — mostly young or middle-aged men — break and smash things and get into fights when they get angry, his study found.

The study of more than 5,600 adults found that 8.9 percent of them were admittedly short-fused people who had guns at home, “which I would say is something of a wake-up call,” Swanson said. And 1.5 percent of them also carried their guns outside the home.

Private citizens in the United States own upwards of 310 million firearms, according to background information in the study.

“More than 306,000 people have died in a domestic setting as the result of a gun shot, whether homicide, suicide or accident, over the last 10 years,” Swanson said.

“The idea that the solution is to simply fix our mental health care system to better identify serious mental illness is a little bit of a red herring,” he added.

Reviewing a prospective gun buyer’s history of misdemeanor convictions, including violent behavior and impaired driving, might more effectively prevent gun violence than screening for mental health treatment, Swanson and his colleagues said.

Emma Beth McGinty, an assistant professor in the department of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, agreed.

“These prohibiting criteria likely do a much better job at capturing the subgroup of individuals with impulsive anger issues that lead to violence than mental illness-focused firearm criteria would,” said, McGinty, who was not involved in the research.

“In layman’s terms, impulsive anger is concerning in that it’s characterized by repeated episodes of aggressive or violent behavior,” said McGinty.

These episodes can “flare up” quite suddenly, leading to violent situations that were not premeditated, she explained.

Swanson’s findings, published online April 8 in the journal Behavioral Sciences and the Law, stem from a fresh analysis of a large mental health survey conducted by Harvard Medical School between 2001 and 2003.

To explore to what degree gun ownership and anger management problems overlap, the investigators pored over survey responses from a nationally representative sample of more than 5,600 men and women.

The respondents were asked about tantrums and other bursts of angry behavior. They also underwent diagnostic testing for relatively common mental health conditions such as anxiety and personality disorders, and were asked how many handguns, rifles, and/or shotguns they owned. All were also asked how many days they had carried a firearm outside the house in the prior month — apart from going to a shooting range.

While less than 10 percent of the quick-to-anger gun owners had ever been hospitalized for a serious psychiatric issue, this group had an elevated risk for more common mental health conditions such as personality disorders, alcohol abuse, anxiety and post-traumatic stress, the researchers said.

The study authors said these elements indicate inherent risk of violence.

Should everyone who gets angry lose their 2nd Amendment right to bear arms?

“No, that’s ridiculous,” said Swanson. “But even people who disagree over the politics of gun control tend to agree with the basic notion that people who are dangerous shouldn’t have access to guns.”

Efforts by HealthDay to reach the National Rifle Association for comment on the study were unsuccessful.

SOURCES: Jeffrey Swanson, Ph.D., professor, psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, N.C.; Emma Beth McGinty, Ph.D., assistant professor, department of health policy and management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore; April 8, 2015, Behavioral Sciences and the Law, online

Copyright © 2015 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Your Top Tip to Let Go of Old Anger

Dr. John Schinnerer Guide To Self Executive coach A difficult skill to master is letting go of old, stale anger. In this post, I will share with you a great tip I recently came up with to teach you to let go of anger. Old, stale anger is anger that we hold onto, often because […]

Continue reading...

What You Need to Know About Anger and Attention

Dr. John Schinnerer Guide To Self Anger and attention are tightly woven together such as when you shuffle a deck of cards. What you pay attention to influences what you feel. How you feel influences that to which you attend. Note: When you think of anger, think of it as existing on a scale of […]

Continue reading...

Skewed – The profound impact negative media has on our lives

I was recently included in a documentary called Skewed, by director Paola Bossola. The movie includes one of the most cited psychologists of all time – Albert Bandura from Stanford. He brilliantly lays out the four ways in which today’s media (i.e., TV, music, video games, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Kik, texting, Twitch, Instagram, movies, radio […]

Continue reading...

Funniest Websites – When You Really Need a Laugh!

Everyone knows ‘laughter is the best medicine.’ It’s an ancient saying yet recent studies have pushed it up to the pinnacle of credible clichés. Laughter is known to have all sorts of health benefits. It aids in relaxation, improves cardiovascular health, increases pain tolerance, releases powerful painkilling endorphins into the bloodstream, and of course, improves […]

Continue reading...

Happiness Habits #3 – Self-compassion

And here is the third video in the series of Happiness Habits. It’s on a critical skill that is more closely linked to happiness and life satisfaction than any other of which we know…self-compassion.      Cheers, Dr. John Schinnerer Positive Psychology CoachAnger Management Specialist Award-winning author of Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing […]

Continue reading...

New Pixar Movie – Inside Out – Due June 2015

Continue reading...

Happiness Habits #1 – Best Possible You

Hey guys! I’m working on a new video series that teaches the latest proven tools and tips (via positive psychology) to increase your satisfaction with life. It’s called Happiness Habits and I’m going to put several up here …for free. Take a look and let me know what you think! Cheers, Dr. John Executive coach, […]

Continue reading...

Anger as effective as sympathy in motivating people to volunteer

Researchers found anger to be equally motivating to sympathy. Professor Robert Bringle from Appalachian State University stated, “Although there are many reasons why individuals help, empathy is prominent. Empathy occurs when an individual has a similar response to a suffering person and this is usually sadness. Empathic sadness motivates a person to help in order […]

Continue reading...

Chronic Anger and Stress Damage Your Heart

Recently, I received this comment on my anger management blog (http://webangermanagement.com) which stirred something deep inside of me… ‘John, I want to let you know that your online anger management course is incredibly helpful! These tools to a better life are working. There has been a change in my outlook on life already. I AM […]

Continue reading...