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    Getting a Grip on Roadway Anger


    Deffenbacher, whose work is funded by the CDC and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is now studying the effects of treatment on students who drink and drive angry.

    The paper is very interesting but preliminary, says Richard Wetzel, PhD, professor of medical psychiatry and psychology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. He tells WebMD that in some respects, the studies are unrealistic. "These are not real patients; these are students from a psychology class ? people who are bright, they're willing to admit that have a problem, they have insight into it. ? They haven't been referred by the courts for treatment, which is very different."

    "These [relaxation] therapies are helpful in that they make people feel like someone is dealing with them," Mitchell H. Messer, MA, LPC, who established the Anger Clinic in Chicago three decades ago, tells WebMD. However, Messer adds that "these are people whose anger issues have not been dealt with for 19 years."

    "My bias is that they are not addressing the deeper underlying issues like they should," Messer says. "It's typical of anger management thinking in this country. ? It seems to be based on the premise that people get angry after they get in the car. Our finding is that they've been angry for [many] years. And that driving in the car reactivates and ignites angers of long standing that have not been identified or relieved."

    Getting people to question their belief systems is critical to treating road rage, says William H. Mueller, PhD, professor of behavioral sciences at the School of Public Health at the University of Texas in Houston. He says relaxation training may not have this effect.

    "You need to raise people's awareness about their thinking," he says. "What are the real consequences of a person grabbing my parking place? You need to get people thinking about the greater scheme of things."

    Vital Information:

    • Drivers who are hostile are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, get into accidents, and have speeding violations.
    • People who experience road rage can express it in many forms, from attacking other drivers to allowing anger to ruin their personal lives.
    • Two types of anger management programs shown to be effective in reducing the intensity and frequency of anger while driving are relaxation therapy and cognitive relaxation therapy.
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