Posted by: Dr. Justin D'Arienzo, Psy.D., ABPP
Is anger more of a problem during the COVID-19 Pandemic? Great question, right? Let’s face it, when 2020 came ringing around the corner, most of us had that giddy feeling that comes with the excitement surrounding a new year. Some people were looking forward to weddings, vacations, graduations, job advancement opportunities, etc. That all started to crumble before our eyes as COVID-19 came out of the left-field. COVID-19 unexpectedly started to destroy all of our plans or goals that we made for the new year. People started grieving the loss of normalcy and security in their daily lives. With the current circumstances, The United States started to witness increased anger levels among the population. Anger is one of the middle stages that occur in the psychological stages of grief. Former psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler Ross formed this concept. These stages include denial, bargaining, anger, sadness, and acceptance. Since COVID-19 has been an epidemic in the United States for several months, many individuals are or were at the anger stage of the grief cycle.
The form of anger that is a highly common coping mechanism is known as displacement. Displacement is a mechanism that an individual uses to transfer their emotions on a particular issue to another person or issue. When people engage in displacement, they usually do not realize that they are doing it. An example of displacement would be an individual losing their job due to COVID-19 and coming home and engaging in domestic violence. This is not a far-fetched idea, rather, the number of domestic violence cases in the United States increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the shelter in place orders, the United States domestic violence contact rate increased by 15 percent compared to April 2019. About 10 percent of these cases reported that the Coronavirus somehow affected their situation. Twenty-four percent of victims reported economic or financial abuse being a part of their situation, which could also have links to COVID-19 and job loss predicament (NDVH, 2020).
Not only has there been a dramatic increase in domestic violence cases, but there has also been a dramatic increase in child abuse and pet abuse. It is common for abusers to isolate their victims from the outside world, with the current circumstances, it is easier than before for perpetrators to control their victims. Many violence victims report that the typical support that they were getting before the pandemic is not as easily accessible now. Schools, churches, and community centers have limited access or completely closed during the pandemic. Alcohol abuse can be a common factor in the abuse of any nature. With the closing of bars and restaurants, alcohol abusers have been extremely more likely to abuse alcohol within their own homes. Approximately 60 percent of homes where domestic violence has occurred, also reside children and/or pets. This makes children and pets significantly more likely to fall victim to physical and psychological harm (FSI, 2020).
After one can understand that they are experiencing anger and how they might be displacing this anger through their interactions with others, they can make healthier decisions about how to deal with their anger. Taking online anger management courses or talking with a psychologist or therapist through telehealth or in-person sessions can significantly reduce anger displacement or outbursts. Licensed mental health professionals can help you channel anger in a healthier, more productive manner that does not cause harm to oneself or others.
Campbell, A. M. (2020). An increasing risk of family violence during the Covid-19 pandemic: Strengthening community collaborations to save lives. Forensic Science International: Reports, 100089.
National Domestic Violence Hotline, 2020
Article written by Reema Sabella, UNF Psychology Graduate and Intern at D’Arienzo Psychology
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