Rage Rooms: Do They Help or Hurt Your Stress? 

Have you ever been so mad that you just wanted to smash something? Rage rooms give you that outlet.  

In case you aren’t familiar, rage rooms are businesses – usually inside of gaming complexes or axe-throwing bars – that allow you to put on protective clothing or eyewear in a designated room, grab a blunt instrument and smash objects like glassware and electronics into smithereens. It’s a venting method intended to relieve stress safely and constructively. 

Rage rooms have been relatively popular for a few years now, so expert opinions are starting to pile up. Is this type of outlet helpful or hurtful to a person looking to relieve stress?  

Aggression as an outlet for anger

An outdated Sigmund Freud theory on catharsis suggests that anger and aggression must be expressed to reduce feelings of aggression. However, modern research has mostly debunked this theory. Behavioral health experts over the years have found the opposite to be true, stating that venting in an aggressive way can cause a person to become angrier.  

Some studies say that imagining your agitator’s face on a pillow or punching bag as you throw a flurry of left and right fists is not advisable.  

Do rage rooms have benefits?

There isn’t a lot of documented research available on the topic of rage rooms. The endorphin release that follows a rage room session may make us feel better in the moment, but most medical professors and behavioral health specialists are skeptical that rage rooms can reduce long-term stress. 

Visiting rage rooms multiple times and repeatedly paying to smash inanimate objects could be a sign of a bigger problem, according to some experts. If you make this a habit, you may be conditioning yourself to react aggressively the next time you feel especially upset.  

Plus, rewarding distressed feelings with the type of instant gratification that comes from blasting an old TV set with a sledgehammer does not address the underlying cause of a person’s anger. It also doesn’t help people cope with these feelings in an everyday setting where these kinds of reactions are not only unacceptable, but are usually illegal.  

Healthy ways to cope with anger

Suppressed anger can be an underlying cause of anxiety and depression. It has the potential to disrupt relationships, alter our thinking patterns, and lead to passive-aggressive behavior. You shouldn’t suppress your anger, but you also shouldn’t make a habit of expressing it in violent and aggressive ways.  

The next time you feel particularly angry, try these mindful and constructive coping strategies:  

  • Assert yourself using “I” statements: Expressing your feelings in a pointed, nonthreatening way that is not defensive or hostile is typically the best way to communicate feelings of anger. Starting a sentence with “I feel angry when you…” is an example of assertive anger.  
  • Practice controlled, deep breathing and positive self-talk: Slowly repeat a calm word or phrase like “relax” or “take it easy” while breathing deeply.  
  • Seek perspective: Try to gain different perspectives by putting yourself in another person’s place. 
  • Think before speaking: Take a few moments to collect your thoughts before saying something that may escalate a situation. Allow others involved in the situation to do the same.  
  • Walk or run the anger away: Physical activity can help reduce the stress that leads to anger, which is part of the appeal of the rage room concept. If you feel your anxiety levels rising, take a timeout and go walk, run, or engage in the exercise of your choice.  
  • Know when to seek help: There is nothing wrong with seeking helping for anger issues if you are having an increasingly difficult time managing your anger. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) and Blue Care Network (BCN) have behavioral health support resources available to members. Blue Cross plans have a variety of options that work with your schedule and budget, including phone, online and in-person methods of support 

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Photo credit: Jennifer McCallion

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