01/15/2014 06:17 pm ET Updated Mar 17, 2014

Raging About Road Rage?

Road rage continues to be a huge problem, as streets and highways are often where people's emotions, dramas, stress, and anxieties play out. I've treated clients who have been on both sides of this: the road rager and the victim. The perpetrator suffers from what is known as Intermittent Explosive Disorder, while the victim can often have a difficult time recovering and in the most extreme cases develops symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. Intermittent Explosive Disorder is defined as: repeated episodes of impulsive, aggressive, violent behavior or verbal attacks in which the reaction is grossly disproportionate to the situation. For example, screaming and yelling at a fellow motorist simply because he or she didn't use a blinker and may have cut you off.

Here's what to do if you are easily angered while driving:

  • Ask yourself: What do I gain by being angry? What could possibly happen if I am delayed 10 minutes due to traffic?
  • Know that you can play a significant role in whether an incident escalates to a level of violence/aggression or not. Aggressive acts usually occur in the context of other such acts or in reaction to them. Diffuse the situation by doing nothing.
  • Change your thinking. If you didn't have the car's armor to protect you and you were walking down the street and someone accidently cut you off, would you scream and yell like a madman or would you avoid confrontation?
  • Don't personalize other peoples' behavior. Just because someone cut you off doesn't mean he meant to or he did it to enrage you. Consider other possible explanations: The driver is a physician en route to an emergency or there's a crisis a parent is trying to get to at home. Or simply, the driver didn't see you.
  • Don't let someone's looks or the type of car they drive influence your opinion of them. Not everyone who drives a Cadillac Escalade with tinted windows is a drug dealer and not everyone who drives a Porsche is a drag racer.
  • Accept the fact that being on the road is unpredictable. Focus on what is within your control such as physical comfort. Is the seat position comfortable? Is the temperature right?
  • Do something productive rather than stewing in fury, e.g., listen to an audio book or soothing music, talk to a friend. Take relaxing deep breaths.
  • Finally, know the characteristics of an aggressive driver and stand clear: tailgating, unnecessary or excessive horn use, flashing lights, rapid lane changes, and of course, speeding.

For more tips on how to manage stress and achieve goals check out my book BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days.