What is anger?
Anger is an emotion we’ve evolved as a response to threatening situations.
It’s normal to feel angry from time to time, but when anger runs out of control, it can be a serious problem. It can often mean we don’t think things through properly and end up doing things we come to regret later.
How people respond to feelings of anger differs greatly.
Some tend to take it out on others, shouting, swearing and even expressing their anger physically. Others turn it on themselves and experience feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing. Other people may become passive-aggressive, it really varies from person to person.
Frequent bouts of anger cause your body to release adrenaline, leading to a range of physical issues such as:
- Sweaty palms and feeling very hot
- A feeling of tightness in your chest
- Clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth
- A fast heartbeat or heart palpitations
- A pounding feeling in your head
- Needing to go to the toilet or having a stomach ache
Mentally you may feel:
- Nervous and tense
- Sad or depressed
- Like a ‘red mist’ comes over you
- Out of control
- Like you want to run away
Signs your anger may be getting out of control include:
- You are constantly frustrated or angry and unable to calm down
- Your anger has led to criminal activity
- You find yourself unable to control your temper around people
- You find yourself having problems in personal relationships
- You are unable to hold down a job because of anger issues
- Your anger has resulted in physical violence, such as punching things
The treatment for anger will vary from person to person, so a specialist will work with you to get a thorough understanding of your situation and what causes your anger.
It’s important to learn techniques to cope properly with anger, since letting it run out of control can lead to a range of knock-on problems - both physical and mental.
There are a number of different treatments that may help, which includes talking therapies, which will look into what causes your anger, and how you can manage it differently. This could include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), psychotherapy or counselling.
Anger management courses are also available across the country, which can involve group therapy, or one-to-one sessions.
If you need help with your anger, your first step is to see a doctor, who can then refer you for specialist treatment.
There are some self-help steps you can try to help you deal with your anger better.
The first thing to do is to be able to recognise the signs you’re becoming angry - these are the symptoms we’ve mentioned above.
If you recognise the signs, you can then try some methods to help calm yourself down, such as taking deep, slow breaths, which should help you relax. Also, try counting slowly to 10, giving you to time to think about the situation you’re in.
The mental health charity Mind has more tips on how to deal with your anger outbursts here.
In the long term, you should try to figure out your triggers - a GP or specialist can help you do this. Again, Mind have more information on how you can do this here.
It’s also important that you look after yourself mentally and physically, so you should make sure you get plenty of exercise and eat a healthy, well-balanced diet and get enough sleep. Also avoid alcohol and drugs, as these will not do you or your anger any good in the long run.
Becoming angry gets your body ready for action - putting it into ‘fight or flight’ mode. In the past, this enabled us to think on our feet and react quickly to dangerous situations.
However, it can often mean we don’t think things through properly and end up doing things we come to regret later.
What causes feelings of anger differs from person to person - and can range from road rage to being annoyed at yourself because of personal failings or reflecting on bad memories.
How you personally deal with anger could be down to a number of things, such as how your parents dealt with anger when you were little, something that happened in your past, such as a trauma, to your current situation, such as dealing with grief.
- Mind UK, How to cope with anger, 01/07/2018.
- Priory, Signs to look out for if you have concerns about anger management, 2018.
- NHS, Moodzone: How to control your anger, 03/01/2016.
Articles on Stress Management
Updated: August 22, 2019