Anger Management: Different from Domestic Violence

I often get calls from women and men seeking anger management classes but on further investigation I determine that these individuals need domestic violence (DV) interventions. Callers are often confused by my referral to DV interventions which leads to an explanation of the difference between anger management and domestic violence. Here are the three most significant differences I have observed individuals with anger management issues and domestic batterers:

  1. Unlike the angry individual the domestic batterer often presents with a Jekyll and Hyde personality where the rest of the world views him as a nice guy while he terrorizes his intimate partners.
  2. While angry individuals way present with the same aggression and violence as a domestic batterer the person who only needs anger management will tend not to discriminate with their expression. In other words they are angry with everyone.
  3. Chronically angry individuals tend to express their anger as a response to perceived threats to values, beliefs or way of life. Domestic batterers however are continually seeking to exercise power and control over intimate partners through a series of actions that isolate, intimidate and manipulate their victims.

A word of warning to anger management providers: be careful not to inadvertently enroll domestic batterers into anger management classes because sometimes courts don’t know the difference and will sometimes order anger management when DV classes are warranted. Furthermore, domestic batterers are characteristically manipulative therefore teaching them anger management skills can further arm the batterer with knowledge that increases their ability to manipulate their victims—this obviously can be very dangerous.

More work is needed to sensitize the public and professionals that anger management and domestic violence are not the same. To my professional mental health colleagues what are some other quick distinctions between anger management and domestic violence?

Carlos Todd, PhD


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