Anger management techniques can help you recognize when your anger is out of control and give you the tools to manage it. How does anger affect us, and how do we know it’s time to seek help controlling it?
What is anger?
At the most basic level, anger is a useful and necessary emotion (Damasio & Carvalho, 2013). Anger involves both emotional and physiological responses. It can bubble up when something conflicts with your values or when you feel that someone has done you wrong. Anger can be a good thing. It may stimulate us to solve problems or find ways to express negative thoughts or feelings. Unfortunately, anger can also be misplaced. Mismanaged anger can violate others’ boundaries and damage relationships. Anger that is more harmful than helpful is referred to as maladaptive anger.
When does anger become a problem?
Anger can be a useful, constructive emotion—so how do you know when it isn’t? Anger becomes a problem when you lose control of it and hurt yourself or those around you. Excessive anger can even impede your ability to understand information and control your behavior, hampering your sense of judgment (Alia-Klein et al., 2016). Understanding whether your anger has become maladaptive involves some self-reflection. Consider questions like:
- Can you put your anger to productive use, or does your anger control you?
- Is your anger isolating you from the people you care about?
- Does your anger make it hard for you to think straight?
- Do you ever regret your actions after your anger has subsided?
Some of these answers may indicate your anger is making your life worse. If you feel your anger is controlling your actions or pushing people away, it may be time to get help.
What causes anger issues?
Why do some of us get angry more easily than others? Often, maladaptive anger stems from underlying issues. These can be related to prior trauma, stress around your job, money, or relationships, or even chemical or hormonal imbalances. Anger issues can stand alone or accompany disorders and other mental health issues, such as personality disorders, mood disorders, anxiety, and depression.
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What is anger management?
It can be difficult to manage anger on your own. Maladaptive responses become ingrained over time, and developing healthier coping skills takes work. This is where anger management therapy can help. Anger management therapy refers to a program of training, exercises, and strategies to control and respond to thoughts and actions that lead to angry impulses.
Learning anger management strategies
Anger management techniques can help you manage your emotions and get your anger under control. It’s possible to learn to spot the triggers, events, or dynamics that set off your anger. Once you recognize these, you can take steps to distance yourself from it or work to change your response. Disengaging from anger can help you adopt a more rational, even-keeled view of the situation.
How therapy can help with anger management
It can be challenging to unpack your emotional history and manage anger alone. Your anger may be rooted in your environment, your past, or even your genetics. A credentialed therapist specializing in anger management therapy can help you understand your feelings and what makes you angry. They can also teach anger management techniques.
What to expect in therapy
Your therapist will ask about your life and feelings and help you uncover the source of your anger. You may talk about how your anger presents itself, what triggers it, how past experiences affect your anger, and how to manage your feelings. It may not be easy, but talking through your struggles is key to understanding and managing the feelings that arise from them. Your therapist may help you set tangible goals for self-improvement. Over time, a therapist can teach coping skills and help you express your anger in healthy ways. You may learn how to avoid triggers, discover positive outlets for frustration, and focus on not letting anger negatively affect your relationships.
If you feel your anger is affecting your life and pushing people away, it may be time to seek help from a clinician specializing in anger management therapy.
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- Ekman, P. (2016). What scientists who study emotion agree about. Perspectives on psychological science, 11(1), 31-34. https://www.paulekman.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/What-Scientists-Who-Study-Emotion-Agree-About.pdf
- Damasio, A., & Carvalho, G. B. (2013). The nature of feelings: evolutionary and neurobiological origins. Nature reviews neuroscience, 14(2), 143-152. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Marc-Tessera/post/Is_Chalmers_so-called_hard_problem_in_consciousness_real/attachment/59d63350c49f478072ea21a1/AS%3A273642187886592%401442252789184/download/2013FeelingsDamasio.pdf
- Alia-Klein, N., Gan, G., Gilam, G., Bezek, J., Bruno, A., Denson, T. F., Hendler, T., Lowe, L., Mariotti, V., Muscatello, M. R., Palumbo, S., Pellegrini, S., Pietrini, P., Rizzo, A., & Verona, E. (2020). The feeling of anger: From brain networks to linguistic expressions. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 108, 480–497. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2019.12.002