Rage is an intense, short lived, period of anger that’s out of control.
Rage is used to describe a state where people are susceptible to making bad decisions due to a loss of control, caused by intense anger, which reduces their ability to think reasonably. The uncontrollable nature defines rage from other emotional states fuelled by anger. People can fly into a rage and make a situation worse from being unreasonable, and this often creates regrettable circumstances. So rage is seen as a crude, unthinking emotion.
As people experience intense emotions, their attention narrows to focus on the subject which is arousing them, so the amount of cues they can pay attention to is reduced.1 The psychological and neuro-biological processes shift to cortical regions that are most appropriate to process the perceived situation.2 People are less conscious of their behaviour, and they rely more heavily on automatic ways of relating to events. When emotions are reaching their limits of intensity, they progressively assume control over behaviour.3 At times like these people act more on instincts and learned dispositions (habits).
As oxygenated blood flow is instinctively increased to areas such as the muscles, heart, face and the hands, rage is physiologically characterised by increased heart rate and blood pressure. At the same time, blood flow to the intestinal tract, kidneys and skin is reduced and their functions suppressed. Natural (endogenous) painkillers are released from the brainstem to make bodily damage more bearable.4
The entire body responds in this way, so people are appropriately composed to engage with the perceived event. Although it does so automatically, rage does stress people’s systems to rapidly adapt. A healthy person can adapt to such situations with a moderate biological tax as long as these adaptive behaviours are not constantly engaged. If they are constantly turned on (due to a misperception or not), it will place serious stress on the neuro-biological components and even reduce people’s ability to fight infection.5 Such continuous stresses have accumulative effects over decades that are related to metabolic syndrome, primary hypertension (high blood pressure) and cardiovascular disease.6
Rage is highly associated with periods of intense frustration and perceived malicious injustice.7 Rage is commonly seen when people believe a person has cheated them. Especially when the person perceived to have cheated them is known intimately, feelings of betrayal mix with anger, and a sense of loss; this can cause jealousy which can then cause an array of negative emotions through envy and resentment. All these powerful emotions will create a cocktail of hormones and neurotransmitters that will tax thinking, making it turbulent and laboured. So the out-of-control nature of rage is highly associated with feelings of betrayal that erupt when a significant other is perceived to have acted maliciously.
Although rage will give people a brief state of heightened instinct to act upon in a physical situation, people will not be as tactical or reasonable in that state. They are blinded by rage. This is why it’s considered a liability when compared to furious anger or ferociousness as it’s possible to be astonishingly angry yet still in control of one’s faculties.
When in a state of rage, it’s difficult to defuse heated situations. The restriction on higher faculty thoughts whilst being swamped with intense emotions severely reduces thought capacity. If people saw a friend who became enraged in a heated social situation, it would be a good idea to keep an eye on any defusing points that arose as the enraged are more likely to miss them.
People can become rageful in an attempt to intimidate others into conformity, yet anger is more commonly used with rage acting as the extreme upon a continuum of escalation (see Anger).
Rage can be considered a choice of fight rather than flight and on a par of intensity with fury but uncontrollable.
Latin. Rabies = madness, rage, fury, be mad, rave.
1. Violent uncontrollable anger.
2. A fit of violent anger.