What is Anger?
We all know what it’s like to feel angry. It’s a natural human emotion invoked when we experience hurt, injustice, fear, and frustration. We can quickly tell when we are angry by the robust physical response in the body, such as a rush of adrenaline, increased blood pressure, heart rate, and fast breathing that often takes over us. When we experience anger, our brains cause the body to release stress hormones, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. This physical response can lead to aggressive behavior at inappropriate times and will assist us in defending ourselves if we are being attacked. The feeling of anger is not a problem in and of itself; it is our body’s natural way of protecting itself. However, how we react to anger in non-life-threatening situations can lead to real problems.
Signs & Symptoms of Out of Control Anger
If we have trouble managing anger and reactivity, it can become destructive in many areas of our lives, work, and close relationships, affecting our overall sense of well-being. Some signs that it’s time to consider an anger management counseling course or group anger management sessions are:
- Feeling like you constantly have to “hold in” or repress your angry feelings.
- Frequent arguing with your family, friends, co-workers, or acquaintances.
- Trouble with the law or reckless disregard for rules.
- Physical violence, such as hitting, loud shouting, door slamming, etc.
- Threats of violence against people or property.
- Out-of-control behavior, such as breaking things or reckless driving.
Anger Management Counseling Sessions and Group Classes
If you are struggling with managing your reactivity and feelings of anger, it can and probably already has led to many negative behaviors that will wreak havoc on your life. Out-of-control anger destroys your essential relationships, career, and mental and physical health. Anger management classes can assist you in learning new and more productive responses to anger, allowing you to regain control of your life and relationships. An anger management counselor will teach you to recognize early signs of anger and respond better when anger strikes, allowing you to deal with adverse situations more positively. Through self-awareness and changes from reactivity to better responding to the difficulties in life, a highly angry person can begin to see results, moving closer to mid-range anger in 8 – 10 weeks.
Anger management courses aren’t about having you repress natural feelings of anger but showing you how to express anger in a healthy, constructive way. Managing anger well is a learned behavior requiring practice and persistence. Many circumstances and people evoke anger within us; that we can’t change. However, you can learn how to manage your reactions to them better. Anger management sessions (psychotherapy) can be done individually, with couples, or with family. Anger management group classes are popular and influential in allowing you to see how others cope with similar challenges. It’s helpful to hear others’ stories of failures and successes in better managing themselves under challenging situations. Generally, anger management classes teach you specific skills and ways of thinking to cope better with anger.
Self-Help Tips: Strategies for Successfully Managing Anger
Note: While practicing anger management techniques on your own can be helpful, for many, the most effective approach to anger management is to seek help from professional anger management counseling through individual counseling sessions or group therapy classes. In addition, if you have other mental health conditions, such as depression or addiction, you may need to work with a therapist on these other issues for anger management techniques to be effective.
Below are some tips that may help you manage your anger:
Be Self-Aware. You must learn to identify what situations trigger you to become angry. You do this by listening to your body and becoming attuned to your natural reactions. You are paying attention if you notice a pattern and if you have specific triggers. Can you identify where the anger begins in your body? Is anger a way to deal with embarrassment, hurt, or shame? Talk to someone you trust or an anger management specialist that can help you collect your thoughts to better deal with the difficulties in life. If you don’t know why you are angry, what is triggering you, or if you find yourself blaming everyone else for your emotions, it’s challenging to learn how to cope better when anger kicks in.
Slow Down. Notice when you start to get angry: do you get a knot in your stomach, a headache, or tense shoulders? Slowing down and implementing ways to relax, like deep breathing and peaceful imagery, can help slow down some of the physical symptoms of anger. It’s helpful to practice slowing down when you are not feeling upset. Meditating is one way to learn to slow down and relax your mind. Learning to slow down and talk yourself down before and during the heat of the moment is helpful.
Change Your Way of Thinking. Our way of thinking about a situation can intensify or reduce our anger. When you start getting upset about something, take a moment to check in with your way of thinking. Ask yourself, “Is getting upset going to fix anything?” Or, “Is this worth ruining my day?” Bring a more rational and objective perspective of looking at the situation. If someone cuts you off in traffic, instead of thinking, “They meant to cut me off; they saw me,” replace that thinking with, “They probably are in a rush and didn’t see me.”
Dig Deeper. Sometimes our anger and frustration are created by something in our past or a situation going wrong in our lives. Dig a little deeper if you notice yourself getting angry about the small stuff. Ask yourself, “What is so wrong in my life that I feel so angry, and what do I need to do to change the situation?” “Is something that happened in my past triggering how I currently feel?” By digging deeper into your angry feelings, you can use them as a sign that you need to work on something that is bothering you, and they can be used as motivation for positive change. However, it is important to recognize situations you can’t control or change. You may need to work on changing your perspective of the situation in those situations.
Make it Humorous. Have you ever gotten angry about something, and a few months later, you laughed about it? What made it funny just a few months later? Your more objective perspective of it! When it comes to managing our anger, the ability to find humor in a situation is a priceless asset.
When used to address a frustrating situation, humor can help you achieve a more balanced perspective. With the proper insight into the everyday frustrations of life, we can sometimes laugh about the craziness of it all. However, humor should not be used to mask anger or a way to act overly sarcastic because then it becomes another unhealthy expression of anger.
Take a Moment. If your anger seems to be building, remove yourself from the situation for a few minutes and do something else – take a walk, listen to some relaxing music, or meditate. Your chances of productively resolving the problem greatly increase when you approach it with a clear and rational mind.
Make Changes. While you can’t control most things in life, you can take steps to avoid unnecessary stress. Look at your daily schedule and identify activities, times of day, people, places, or situations that are a source of frustration and anger. Then make some changes. Find an alternate route to work; shut the door to your child’s messy room; set up a time when you’re not too tired and hungry to talk about important matters with your spouse; and, most of all, make sure you have some time to yourself daily.
Acknowledge the Gains of Anger. Anger in the short term produces at least one perceived benefit. We are receiving attention, getting our way, perceived respect, feeling powerful, and releasing tension. Most of the time, we don’t continue unhealthy behaviors unless they benefit us somehow. It’s important to realize that even though we gain something from getting angry, expressing anger isn’t helping us in the long run. Therefore, by letting go of those short-term benefits and keeping our eyes on the bigger picture, we can live a more balanced life with happier relationships.
Research has shown increased frustration, agitation, and anger throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. While anger in the short term is customary and even adaptive, in the long term, uncontrolled anger has health effects, including increased risk of hypertension, worse pain management, increased anxiety, weakened immune system, and headache.
Anger tells us that something isn’t right. Perhaps our safety is being threatened, injustice is happening, or some action is being required of us. If no one had felt anger about the pandemic, we may never have developed vaccines or instituted masking and distancing requirements because no one would care what happened to the people around them. Aggressive behavior and bottling-up anger are connected to hypertension and coronary artery disease. As a reminder, the emotion of anger is not destructive, as it signals to us that something is wrong that needs to be addressed. On the other hand, constantly suppressing anger can lead to the “pressure cooker effect,” resentment, and outbursts. Instead of aggression or suppression, practice expressing anger healthily through assertive communication techniques to articulate your feelings, needs, and desires.
Finding Help with Anger Management
If you or someone you know struggles with Anger issues, you are not alone. The ability to manage anger is a learned behavior and requires practice. There is help available. Support from an anger management counselor or group therapy sessions can go a long way in helping anyone improve their quality of life. Search the TherapyTribe therapist directory and find an anger management therapist or counselor that is right for you.
Brianna Hoge (2021). Feeling COVID rage? Five strategies for managing pandemic anger. Retrieved from: https://www.uab.edu/news/youcanuse/item/12313-feeling-covid-rage-five-strategies-for-managing-pandemic-anger
Duncan, A. (2009). Taming the beast: 9 keys for mastering your anger. Retrieved from: http://www.alduncan.net/TamingtheBeast.pdf
Chemicals that are released when you become angry. Retrieved from: http://stress.lovetoknow.com/What_Is_the_Name_of_the_Brain_Chemical_Released_When_You_Are_Angry
Brown, J. (2012). Growing Yourself Up: How to Bring Your Best to All of Life’s Relationships. Exisle, New Zealand.
Controlling Anger Before it Controls You. Retrieved from: https://www.apa.org/topics/anger/control