My Father Has Always Had An Anger Problem

Reader’s Question

My father has always had an anger problem. He can be very angry at times. He will use inappropriate words and swear constantly. He usually refers to us, his kids, as pieces of sh** or ***holes, things like that. I am very confused with his behavior. I don’t know what to do. He feels no remorse for things he does and feels no guilt for yelling very loudly when my friends are over. The weird thing is he will clam down about an hour or two later and be perfectly normal. He seems to complain and scream about things that don’t really mean anything such as making things clean or if something is not in the right spot in the house. I sometimes think he is bipolar but I am not sure. I need a more professional opinion.

Psychologist’s Reply

What you are likely observing is a combination of personality and stress. When we have a childhood that has included domestic violence, cursing, yelling, and verbal abuse — we tend to continue that pattern in our life. Many parental behaviors are modeled from their upbringing. Certain types of discipline are found in families for example — such as face-slapping, throwing household objects, spanking with objects, threatening, namecalling, etc. In severe cases, individuals with these behaviors may have a personality disorder (see my introduction to personality disorders) — especially if they consistently show no respect for others, are abusive, feel entitled to abuse others, and have no guilt or remorse for treating others abusively.

Your father may also be emotionally and verbally unsophisticated. Fathering children doesn’t make you socially skilled. His anger problems may be related to poor coping skills for example. As you discovered, these factors combine and increase when he is under stress, making him more verbally abusive. Sadly, if this behavior is related to his childhood or background, he may have no understanding that the behavior is abusive or demoralizing to his children. In a weird way, he even justifies his behavior with something like “It (the abusive behavior) worked for me!”

Importantly, your father’s method of relating to you, and others in the family, is due to a problem he has, not a problem with sons, daughters, or other family members. While he appears aggressive, forceful, and controlling — he’s actually socially and emotionally inadequate, inarticulate, and unskilled. As you form your own family, you’ll begin to understand that you are more mature than your father. At that point, you’ll need to decide how much you’re going to allow him — and his bad behavior — into your life as an adult. Many adults have unsophisticated, socially inappropriate parents. As adults, they often separate their parents from their adult lifestyle and visit only with the understanding that Father will not change, will still call you bad names, and still act like he’s just been in a bar fight.

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By the way, this is not Bipolar Disorder. He will exhibit behaviors found in my “Identifying Losers in Relationships” article however. The more behaviors he has, the more you will need to emotionally distance yourself and your family from him as the years pass. It’s not likely a situation you can fix because he doesn’t have the social understanding to recognize that his behavior is wrong.

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