Chris Brown and his violent tendencies were brought to light once again this week as he wreaked havoc on the set of Good Morning America. Images of the window he shattered quickly brought back vivid memories of Rihanna's face after he beat her a couple years ago.
The question is why. Why would someone with so much going for him have such deep-seeded anger? And why is managing that anger so difficult for him? I caught up with Dr. Rita Brown-Holloway, author of the blog Psych It to Ya!, to talk more about Chris Brown's behavior. It turns out anger might not even be the real problem ...
What do you think is wrong with Chris Brown?
As a psychologist working with children and adolescents with emotional and behavioral disturbances for over 15 years, Chris Brown's behavior is suggestive of a PRIMARY Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder characterized by his noted impulsive behavior, psychomotor restlessness/agitation, speeded speech patterns, racing thoughts, and prolific creations. ADHD is also consistent with the Superior cognitive and intellectual abilities and talents Chris Brown has clearly demonstrated in his professional life. (ADHD individuals typically have average or well-above average IQs.)
Secondary to his ADHD would come an Intermittent Explosive Disorder, which, due to his real difficulty controlling impulses, causes him to be hypersensitive and over-respond to external stimuli and any perceived criticism. This may particularly be the case when he views such as an attack on his character or feels cornered in any way.
Can he be treated, or will he always have anger issues?
Unfortunately, I believe the media has harped on this anger management "thing" when there are clearly more treatable underlying issues that have been left unattended. This youngster (and yes, Chris was a youngster/adolescent when the initial altercation took place), who is a survivor of trauma and domestic violence himself, may have been done a real disservice if these underlying issues were not addressed. Anger Management programs are not necessarily effective when there are larger underlying issues -- and clearly there are. ADHD on the other hand is very treatable and can provide Chris a way of channeling his excessive energies in a more positive direction.
What course of treatment would you recommend for Chris Brown?
First, Chris Brown needs to get a great therapist that has worked with young, African-American males in crisis that truly understands and "gets" the cultural underpinnings that makes this demographic much more susceptible to disproportionate amounts of stress, anger, and rage -- even if you've sold a million records, have $500 million in assets, and live in the "house on the hill."
A good therapist would first discuss the socio-cultural piece, then engage Chris in a Desensitization Therapy (which I've used with explosive, angry young men like Chris Brown for a decade) around specific, prioritized emotional triggers: i.e., Rihanna, thoughts of the incident, and the "mention" of the incident. Next, Chris needs to be supported in mastering a bag full of coping strategies and impulse control techniques to take with him on the road. Of course the "stress of success" would need to be thoroughly explored to help Chris ground his experience in the wild world of entertainment. Success with these targets would be 99 percent of the battle and preclude future outbursts and true success across the lifespan for this young talent.
How common are these kinds of problems and are there varying degrees of anger management issues?
Typically the "stress of success" predisposes African-American male celebrities and athletes, in particular, to a whole constellation of emotional difficulties that they hadn't anticipated and aren't emotionally or socially equipped to deal with. It can be a very sobering, depressing, and angering view from the top for many successful African-American men -- and women, for that matter. Chris Brown and others need the opportunity to tease these realities apart in a truly meaningful way.
I'm sure he -- like many other very young adults of all races -- doesn't yet know who he is as a person. Arguably such exploration has had to take a backseat to the pressures of sales, fans, paparazzi, and being pulled and grabbed in so many directions at such a very young age. Unfortunately, for most celebrities like Chris Brown, the TRUE psychological supports are rarely in place -- that is until they self-destruct beyond repair.
Do you think part of the reason Chris Brown exploded has to do with the pressures on young African-American celebrities?
Image via joeltelling/Flickr