Feeling a little enraged recently? You might not be alone, and you might be able to find an outlet for your rage more quickly than you think. Rage rooms—sometimes also called smash rooms or anger rooms—are becoming more popular. You could even say that they’re … all the rage.
So what exactly is a rage room, and where can you find them? And do they actually work? Are there health benefits to letting out all your pent-up anger in a controlled and safe environment like a rage room? Here’s everything you need to know.
What is a Rage Room?
The concept of a rage room is simple. You go inside the rage room and just let it all out. Scream. Yell. Smash. Throw a temper tantrum. Destroy everything in sight for some incredible stress relief.
Rage rooms are outfitted with items that you can destroy at whim. Some rooms are furnished to look like an average living room or kitchen. Some rage room facilities allow you to bring your own items to destroy (which might be a safer option if you’d planned on destroying all your ex’s old stuff with a sledgehammer in the garage).
Rage rooms often require you to sign a liability waiver because, while rage rooms are safer than just destroying your own living room, there are still some risks whenever you break stuff. For example, flying debris, falls and other injuries can occur. Additionally, rage rooms typically only allow you to participate in all the destruction if you’re over a certain age and if you’re free from any particular health concerns (such as pregnancy). You also usually need to wear safety gear such as eye protection.
When and where rage rooms began is a bit of a mystery. But, you can find mentions of the first rage rooms popping up as early as 2016. Articles mention cafes with spaces where you can simply go inside, lock the door and scream your heart out. There are also mentions of facilities where you can choose from a menu of smashing experiences, whether you want to take a baseball bat to a paper printer, a golf club to a television, or you just want to see how many plates you can break against the floor in your allotted time.
You can find rage rooms tucked into strip malls and in repurposed spaces long abandoned by chain stores, much like you might find the growing number of ax-throwing facilities or escape rooms.
The reasons for the trend’s growing popularity vary. Some participants want to let off steam or relieve stress. Some just want to try something new or are looking for a fun date night idea.
But if you’ve never been a particularly violent person or never really felt the need to hurl your laptop across the room after a frustrating meeting, you might find the rage room popularity a little puzzling. So are these rage rooms good or bad, or somewhere in-between?
Related: Are You Breathing Wrong? 3 Breathing Tips To Reduce Stress
The Drawbacks of Rage Rooms
According to Cleveland Clinic, rage rooms do come with some drawbacks. Those individuals suffering from real-life stress or anger issues may find short-term relief from the experiences offered by a rage room, but that relief isn’t going to stick around. The rage room isn’t going to solve any of the root issues causing the stress and anger in the first place.
But what about people who are just angry? Or who have violent tendencies that aren’t necessarily caused by any valid reason?
Cleveland Clinic further states that those with serious anger problems may find that rage rooms only reinforce negative coping methods, preventing those who need to seek real help from doing so. Rage rooms might be allowing some to avoid taking responsibility for their unfounded anger.
In fact, studies from as early as the 1990s have shown that, while it may feel cathartic at first to release your anger by destroying or hitting a physical object, you may just increase your anger in the long run. Some studies similarly found that those who take their hostility out on a punching bag when angry were also more likely to take their hostility out on innocent bystanders when given the chance. The more you release your aggression in the present, the more likely you are to release that aggression in the future, in unpredictable ways.
As early as 2017, just a year after the reports of rage rooms becoming popular first emerged, Psychology Today published an article titled “Rage Rooms Not a Good Idea.” The article seconded what those 1990s studies found, noting that “when you spend time thumping an inanimate object, like a pillow, or beating nonliving things in a rage room, you are conditioning yourself to become aggressive next time your anxiety levels rise quickly. So instead of opening up the escape valve on a pot of steam, you are rewarding your distressed feelings with the instant and fleeting pleasure of throwing dishes against a wall.”
The article went on to discuss how even items that can take the place of a rage room, like a Dammit Doll (literally a little cloth doll, a little like a voodoo doll, that you’re intended to beat the stuffing out of when you’re angry) are harmful, as it teaches one to take out their anger on things around them, versus responsibly processing their anger.
The Benefits of Rage Rooms
But rage rooms aren’t all bad. It all depends on how you use them.
The above-linked advice from Cleveland Clinic further noted that rage rooms are all fine if you’re just looking to have a good time and want to see what fun awaits in smashing a household appliance to bits. However, rage rooms should not be used as a therapeutic outlet. Instead, there are other ways to manage your rage better.
DIY Rage Rooms
If you want to try out the experience of a rage room, but you’re having difficulty finding a rage room nearby, you can make your own rage room relatively easily. In one article on rage rooms, a woman recounted her experience creating a DIY rage room for her and her family to use after a loved one’s funeral.
She thrifted various breakable items—think dishes and lamps—and set them up in a shed, and then she and her family got to work, smashing and even shooting every item in sight. Afterward, they did have to clean everything up, which is one downside to a DIY rage room, as “official” facilities take care of all the clean-up. Still, she did say the experience helped her and her family members process “difficult emotions.”
Do You Need Help Managing Rage?
For some, rage is a rare emotion. Annoyance or anger might be a little more common, but all-out rage? Not so much.
If you only feel enraged on the odd occasion when something really goes wrong or someone deeply hurts you, then you may not necessarily need to avoid rage rooms entirely as a source of therapeutic help. You might very well be able to beat out all your anger against your terrible coworker or boss by smashing a television and then go about your day feeling fine. The next time you’re in a meeting with that individual, you might be able to recall the smashed television and smile.
However, if you’re frequently feeling high-intensity levels of anger or rage, a rage room could, as the studies above suggest, do you more harm than good.
How do you know if you have an anger issue? You likely already know if you do. If your emotions feel out of control or frightening (to you or those around you), it’s a good indicator that you have a rage problem, and you should either seek help or practice better methods of managing those emotions.
Related: 31 Reasons To Start Breathwork Today
Better Methods of Managing Rage
So rage rooms can be fun and might even make a fun date night idea. However, they may not exactly be the best way to deal with underlying, rage-causing issues that could be harming your mental health.
If you’re not currently seeing a therapist who can assist with managing your rage, you might try a few of the expert-recommended anger-management methods from Mayo Clinic and the American Psychological Association.
While it may seem like a total pain and chore whenever you’re suffering from mental health woes, exercise can help you to release some of the stress and anger that may escalate into rage.
The next time you start feeling the anger building up inside, go for a quick walk around the block or a run, or even do a few minutes of yoga. Getting your body moving can help you reduce stress; obviously, exercise comes with many other health benefits.
Use relaxation techniques
Just like yoga can help you calm down and destress, other relaxation techniques can also come in handy when you feel your mood is shifting toward anger. Practice deep breathing, focusing on breathing from your stomach, not your chest, and letting out slow, mindful breaths. Use imagery or a mantra to help you relax; maybe it’s repeating a favorite phrase or motto or imagining yourself in a favorite, safe space.
Change the way you think
Sure, this one is way easier said than done, but if you can change how you think in the moment of anger, you can change the duration and intensity of your angry episodes. Rather than allowing your mind to spiral and turn to violent, absolute thoughts and language, use logic. Don’t let emotions take over. Instead, attempt to see the situation from an outsider’s perspective and examine the source of your anger from a cold-hard-facts angle.
Come up with a plan
If you’re frequently angry about the same ol’ things over and over again, you might just need to find a way to eliminate that source of anger. Whether it’s a coworker who’s constantly dropping the ball or a family member who rubs you the wrong way, you might need to communicate to them what’s going on and how you might want them to change their actions in the future. Maybe you need to ask your boss if you can stay off projects with that particular coworker, or you need to stop delegating certain tasks to them. Maybe you need to block that particular family member from your Facebook feed.
Change your environment
If the source of your anger is environmental, you might simply need to change your environment. Are you dealing with road rage every single day? Change your route. Hate that your child constantly leaves their toys strewn across the floor? Rather than fighting with them to pick the toys up every day, establish a no-toys-in-parental-space rule.
Know when it’s time for counseling
Mandy Kloppers, a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, says, “A rage room can be useful in the short term, but it doesn’t teach individuals how to manage their anger effectively in the long term. If an individual regularly uses a rage room, their behavior will, most likely, become a habit and they will feel even more motivation to strike out externally in the future when they feel anger. Repetitive behaviors reinforce certain neural pathways and a person could become addicted to dealing with their anger in an unhelpful way.”
She suggests, “A more effective approach would be to integrate rage rooms with an effective therapy that eventually weans a person away from destructive anger to self-regulated anger that includes activities such as mindfulness, restructuring their perceptions and thoughts and connecting with others.”
If you just can’t seem to get a handle on your anger, no matter which methods of reducing your anger you’ve been legitimately trying, it might be time to seek counseling. Working with a psychologist or other mental health professional can help you understand why you’re getting angry and what to do about it. In addition, they can help you learn healthy coping methods that leave you feeling better, benefiting your mental health and, as a result, your entire life.
Rage Rooms: All the Rage or A Better-Dead Fad?
While rage rooms can be fun, they’re not necessarily a healthful alternative to seeking real care and solutions for your anger. While they’re a good idea for a one-off bonding experience, corporate events or a date night, don’t rely on them to help you work out your emotions. A mental health professional can give you the help you need to reduce your anger in the long run.
You might also be interested in: Three Ways For You To Practice Mindfulness [And Find Peace]