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Rage rooms: Why recreational smashing could be good for your mental health

Have you ever wanted to smash something after a long day at work? 

Now, there's a more grown-up way to throw a tantrum. 

Rage rooms, also known as smash rooms or anger rooms, have opened in cities around the world, and they offer a safe place for people to shatter away their anger – literally. You can hurl a plate across a room, take a sledgehammer to an old computer or kiss a framed photo of your ex goodbye with a golf club. 

The first rage room opened in Japan in 2008, according to Vice. Since then, rage rooms have spread to countries from Serbia to the United Kingdom to Argentina. There are hundreds of rage rooms in the United States, and new ones have popped up in cities like Charlotte, North Carolina and Tuscon, Arizona in the last year. 

In October alone, rage rooms opened in Milwaukee; Rochester, New York; Hampton, Virginia and American Fork, Utah.

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Rage rooms are generally affordable, but like anything else, prices vary. In Glen Burnie, Maryland, you can pay as little as $15 for their BYOB package – that's bring your own breakable – if you want to destroy some keepsakes of your own. In New York City, you can pay $95 for the "Couples Therapy" package, which comes with two electronics, like a printer or laptop, and two buckets of dishes, like ceramic plates, mugs and bowls. In Los Angeles, you can pay up to $300 for the "Overkill" package, which includes 100 items like televisions, wine bottles and printers. 

In this Dec. 27, 2012 photo visitor Savo Duvnjak smashes furniture and other household items during a demolishing session at the Rage Room, in Novi Sad, Serbia.

Maxwell Luthy, director of trends and insights at TrendWatching, said rage rooms are unique because they allow consumers to make a memory instead of buying a product. The U.S. consumer base is also increasingly stressed, according to Luthy, from the headaches of daily life, as well as issues like climate change and politics. 

"So you have an anxious consumer who needs to let off some steam, and this provides an experience for them," Luthy said. "This is more substantial than a unicorn frappuccino." 

Why would I go to a rage room? 

Rage rooms are not just for when you're seeing red, according to Mary Babic, a co-owner of the Smash Room in Daytona Beach, Florida. She said customers have flocked to their smash room as a form of stress relief, not anger management. 

"When we talk about, it, we literally just talk about relieving that pressure you didn’t even know was there," Babic said. "We actually talk about the fun of it." 

Vantroy Greene, who opened The House of Purge in Charlotte, North Carolina, in May, also said the need to relax unifies his clients. 

"I feel like there’s a lot of people who need an outlet from family stress or just the stress of life," Greene said. "There’s a lot of people who work out every day or pray or meditate, but you might like to break stuff. That first time you smash a bottle, you’ll just get it." 

» World Mental Health Day: What is stress and how to overcome it

Kaki King, a guitarist from New York City, visited  Rage Industries in Seattle in October, while she was on tour. She said she was surprised that she enjoyed the experience, even though she does not think of herself as violent. 

"I was the most surprised by the fact that someone like me – I consider myself calm, peaceful, measured, not quick to anger at all – to actually be expressing anger physically, even against these inanimate objects,"

King called her 20-minute session "cathartic" and even cried in the middle of it. 

"I really got into it in a way I did not expect," King said.

Why are rage rooms so in demand? 

Rage rooms have become so popular because they offer a new experience that anyone can enjoy, according to Greene. He has had over 1,100 visitors since The House of Purge's opening in May, from bachelorette parties to company team-building events to families with children as young as 8 years old.

His most surprising clients? A 73-year-old couple who wanted to spend date night smashing a car. 

"They were out there breaking stuff to opera music," Greene said. "He was wearing a tux." 

Babic said another surprise has been that the majority of her customers are women, and Greene said women are up to "95 percent" of his. 

"I would have assumed it would have been men," Babic said. "It's funny how many women come in who never thought they would do it, but they want to relieve some stress and they think that's a good way to do it." 

Babic said she has also seen clients integrate rage rooms into their routines. She said some therapists have started recommending rage rooms to address anxiety. One man even keeps a monthly appointment due to stress at work.

However, some mental health professionals doubt that rage rooms are an effective way of expressing anger. Dr. Scott Bea, a clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic, said rage rooms can be fun, but they should not substitute communication or seeking help. 

"It's not particularly therapeutic for people who have anger problems," Scott said. "Just because they throw something doesn't mean they aren't going to throw something again in the future." 

King said she embraced going to a rage room as an anonymous way of handling the "pressures" of adult life, adding it to her own "mental health regimen," like seeing a therapist. 

"What's nice is the feeling of anonymity," King said. "I don't think the business model is set up on judging people or being curious about what their intentions are. It's a safe place to destroy things." 

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