Categories
Over-the-Counter-Medications

How to get angry

There are many reasons to believe that one of the dominant problems in the world today is an excess of anger. We know all about the very shouty and their antics: their tantrums, their lack of reason, their unwillingness to compromise. Furthermore, it threatens to get a lot worse; we seem locked into a set of dynamics (political, technological, environmental) which promises an ever less patient, ever less serene and ever less forgiving future.

But it may be rather more realistic, albeit odd sounding, to insist on the very opposite: that whatever the impression generated by a publically vocal angry cohort, the far more common yet (by nature) invisible problem is a contrary tendency, a widespread inability to get angry, a failure to know how rightly and effectively to mount a complaint, an inarticulate swallowing of frustration – and the bitterness, subterranean ‘acting out’ and low-level depression that follow from not allowing any of our rightful sorrows to find expression. For every one person who shouts too loudly, there are at least twenty who have unfairly lost their voice.

How to get angry

We are not talking here of delirious rage, the sort that injures innocents and leads nowhere. The point isn’t to rehabilitate barbarism, it’s to make a case for an occasional capacity to speak up – with dignity and poise – in order to correct one’s reasoned sense that something isn’t right – and that those around us need to take an opposing perspective on board.

We are – as a rule – hopeless at being angry from the very nicest of motives: in part, from a belief in the complexity of situations and the minds of other people, which undercuts enthusiasm for anything that smacks of self-righteousness or pride. We tell ourselves – in relationships or at work – that others must have their good reasons for behaving as they do, that they must be essentially kind and good and that it would be an insult to their efforts to raise our hand about a problem that we surely don’t even entirely understand.

We tend to import our modesty from childhood. It’s a privilege to allow a child to manifest their frustration – and not all parents are game. Some are very keen on having a ‘good baby’. They let the infant know from the first that being ‘naughty’ isn’t funny and that this isn’t a family where children are allowed to ‘run rings around’ the adults. Difficult moods and tantrums, complaints and rages are not to be part of the story. This certainly ensures short-term compliance, but paradoxically, preternaturally good behaviour is usually a precursor of bad feelings, and in extremes mental unwellness, in adulthood. Feeling loved enough that one can tell parental figures to sod off and occasionally fling something (soft) across the room belongs to health; truly mature parents have rules and allow their children (sometimes) to break them.

Otherwise, there is a species of inner deadness that comes from having had to be too good too soon and to resign one’s point of view without a flicker of self-defence. In relationships, this might mean a tendency to get taken royally for a ride for many years, not in terms of outright abuse (though that too) but the kind of low-level humiliation and taken-for-grantedness which seems the lot of people who can’t make a fuss. At work, an unwavering concern for politeness, empathy and gentleness may end up providing the perfect preconditions for being walked all over.

We should – at times – relearn the neglected art of politely being a pain. The danger of those who have never shouted is that they might, in compensation, end up screaming. That isn’t the point either. The goal is a firm but self-possessed protest: Excuse me, but you are ruining what’s left of my life, I’m so sorry, but you are cauterising my chances of happiness; I beg your pardon, but this is enough…

We think a lot about going on holiday and trying new activities. There’s a lot of enthusiasm for learning other languages and attempting foreign dishes. But true exoticism and adventure may lie closer to home: in the emotional sphere, and in the courage and originality required to give contained anger a go, perhaps tonight, after supper. We have the speeches written in our heads already. There is likely to be a spouse, a parent, a colleague, or a child who hasn’t heard enough from us for far too long – and who it would be of incalculable benefit to our heart-rate and our emotional and physical constitution to have a word with. The timid always imagine that anger might destroy everything good. They overlook – because their childhoods encouraged them to – that anger can also be a fertiliser from which something a lot less bitter and a lot more alive can emerge.

Support is also available if you’re finding it hard to cope with stress, anxiety or depression.

If you’re not sure how you feel, try our mood self-assessment.

Coronavirus advice

Get advice about coronavirus and looking after your mental wellbeing:

Symptoms of anger

Anger can cause many different symptoms. It might affect how you feel physically or mentally, or how you behave.

Some people become aggressive towards others when they’re angry. Other people hide their anger and may take it out on themselves.

It’s not always easy to recognise when anger is the reason why you’re behaving differently.

  • faster heartbeat
  • tense muscles
  • clenching your fists
  • tightness in your chest
  • feeling hot
  • feeling tense or nervous
  • being unable to relax
  • being easily irritated
  • feeling humiliated
  • resenting other people
  • shouting
  • ignoring people or sulking
  • starting fights
  • breaking things
  • self-harming

Things you can try to help with anger

try to recognise when you start to feel angry so you can take steps to calm down as early as possible

give yourself time to think before reacting – try counting to 10 and doing calming breathing exercises

talk to people about what's making you angry – speak to someone who is not connected to the situation, such as a friend, a GP or a support group such as Samaritans

exercise – activities such as running, walking, swimming and yoga can help you relax and reduce stress

find out how to raise your self-esteem, including how to be more assertive

consider peer support, where people use their experiences to help others. Find out more about peer support on the Mind website

do not try to do everything at once; set small targets you can easily achieve

do not focus on things you cannot change. Focus your time and energy on helping yourself feel better

try not to tell yourself that you're alone – most people feel angry sometimes and support is available

try not to use alcohol, cigarettes, gambling or drugs to relieve anger – these can all contribute to poor mental health

Further information and support

The mental health charity Mind offers more information on:

Where to get help for anger

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • you feel you need help dealing with your anger

They may be able to refer you to a local anger-management programme or counselling.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: how to contact a GP

It's still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:

  • visit their website
  • use the NHS App
  • call them

Anger management programmes

A typical anger management programme may involve 1-to-1 counselling and working in a small group.

A programme may be a 1-day or weekend course, or over a couple of months.

The structure of the programme depends on who provides it, but most programmes include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), as well as counselling.

There are also private courses and therapists who can help with anger issues. Make sure any therapist you see is registered with a professional organisation, such as the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy.

Where to get NHS help for stress, anxiety or depression

Referring yourself for therapy

If you need more support, you can get free psychological therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), on the NHS.

You can refer yourself directly to a psychological therapies service without a referral from a GP.

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • you’re struggling to cope with stress, anxiety or depression
  • you’ve had a low mood for more than 2 weeks
  • things you’re trying yourself are not helping
  • you would prefer to get a referral from a GP

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: how to contact a GP

It's still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:

  • visit their website
  • use the NHS App
  • call them

Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment or call 111 if:

  • you need help urgently, but it’s not an emergency

111 can tell you the right place to get help if you need to see someone. Go to 111.nhs.uk or call: 111

Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E now if:

  • you or someone you know needs immediate help
  • you have seriously harmed yourself – for example, by taking a drug overdose

A mental health emergency should be taken as seriously as a medical emergency.

Causes of anger

There are many different causes of anger and it’s different for everyone.

Some common things that make people feel angry include:

  • being treated unfairly and feeling powerless to do anything about it
  • feeling threatened or attacked
  • other people not respecting your authority, feelings or property
  • being interrupted when you’re trying to achieve a goal

How you react to anger can depend on lots of things, including:

  • the situation you’re in at the moment – if you’re dealing with lots of problems or stress, you may find it harder to control your anger
  • your family history – you may have learned unhelpful ways of dealing with anger from the adults around you when you were a child
  • events in your past – people who experience traumatic, frightening or stressful events sometimes develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which can lead to angry outbursts
  • substances such as drugs and alcohol – which make some people act more aggressively than usual

Some of the things that make you angry may not bother other people at all.

You might find it hard to explain why you feel this way but talking to someone could help you find a solution.

Important

If uncontrolled anger leads to domestic violence and abuse (violence or threatening behaviour within a relationship), there are places that offer help and support.

You can contact organisations such as:

More in Feelings and symptoms

Page last reviewed: 15 October 2019
Next review due: 15 October 2022

Anger tells us we need to take action to put something right. It gives us strength and energy, and motivates us to act.

But for some people, anger can get out of control and cause problems with relationships, work and even the law.

Long-term, unresolved anger is linked to health conditions such as high blood pressure, depression, anxiety and heart disease.

It’s important to deal with anger in a healthy way that doesn’t harm you or anyone else.

How common are anger problems?

In a survey by the Mental Health Foundation, 32% of people said they had a close friend or family member who had trouble controlling their anger and 28% of people said they worry about how angry they sometimes feel.

Even though anger problems can have such a harmful effect on our family, work and social lives, most people who have them don’t ask for help. In the same survey by the Mental Health Foundation, 58% of people said they didn’t know where to seek help.

Sometimes people don’t recognise that their anger is a problem for themselves and for other people. They may see other people or things as the problem instead.

What makes people angry?

Anger is different for everyone. Things that make some people angry don’t bother others at all. But there are things that make lots of us feel angry, including:

  • being treated unfairly and feeling powerless to do anything about it
  • feeling threatened or attacked
  • other people not respecting your authority, feelings or property
  • being interrupted when you are trying to achieve a goal
  • stressful day to day things such as paying bills or rush hour traffic

Anger can also be a part of grief. If you are struggling to come to terms with losing someone close to you, the charity Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland can help.

How we react to anger

How you react to feeling angry depends on lots of things, including:

  • the situation you are in at the moment – if you’re dealing with lots of problems or stress in your life, you may find it harder to control your anger
  • your family history – you may have learned unhelpful ways of dealing with anger from the adults around you when you were a child
  • events in your past – if you have experienced events that made you angry but felt you couldn’t express your anger, you may still be coping with those angry feelings

Some people express anger verbally, by shouting. Sometimes this can be aggressive, involving swearing, threats or name-calling.

Some people react violently and lash out physically, hitting other people, pushing them or breaking things. This can be particularly damaging and frightening for other people.

Some of us show anger is passive ways, for example, by ignoring people or sulking.

Other people may hide their anger or turn it against themselves. They can be very angry on the inside but feel unable to let it out.

People who tend to turn anger inwards may harm themselves as a way of coping with the intense feelings they have. Young people are most likely to self harm.

The difference between anger and aggression

Some people see anger and aggression as the same thing. In fact, anger is an emotion that we feel while aggression is how some of us behave when we feel angry.

Not everyone who feels angry is aggressive, and not everyone who acts aggressively is angry. Sometimes people behave aggressively because they feel afraid or threatened.

Alcohol and some illegal drugs can make people act more aggressively.

If uncontrolled anger leads to domestic violence, or threatening behaviour within your home, talk to your GP or contact a domestic violence organisation such as Refuge, Scottish Women’s Aid, Abused Men in Scotland, The LGBT Domestic Abuse Project or Survivor Scotland.

How to get angry

Would you describe yourself as angry? Probably not all the time, but everyone has experienced feelings of blind, red hot rage at an injustice or aggression, real or imagined, aimed at them at some point in their lives. If you haven’t gotten angry, you aren’t human.

Anger has an awfully bad rep. We are largely taught to believe being riled up is a bad thing — an overwhelming negativity that possesses us and, left to fester, can only erode at any positive feelings and vibes we harbor. Messages abound that anger is something to fear and avoid, like the flu. Even Buddha was anti, touting this adage: “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

As anger is part and parcel of everyday life and a basic component of the human condition, it might behoove us to take a closer look and see if we can’t better understand how it might serve us in positive ways.

Can Anger Be Good for Us?

In “When Anger’s a Plus?” an article published by the American Psychological Association, cites a 2002 study where almost half of a control group experienced “positive long-term effects of angry episodes” — where only 25 percent considered their long-term outcomes negative.

Scott Wilson, a clinical psychologist and adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Teachers College Columbia University, agrees there’s good that can come of anger.

For one, it’s a catalyst for communication. “We are hard-wired to pick up facial cues related to anger, and perception of these cues is an important aspect of social communication. The experience of, or expression of anger, communicates to others that we are unhappy with their behavior, or that we perceive their actions to be unjust or unfair,” says Wilson.

How to get angry

How to Stop Complaining

He also feels anger has a vital role to play in any relationship. “A lack of expression of anger in relationships can actually be detrimental,” he explains. “The feedback anger can deliver is very important in social relationships and actually can make them healthier — as long as the anger is not too intense.”

What’s more, there’s evidence that anger can make you more rational. Scientists studied college students to determine how anger impacts thinking and decision-making, and discovered that anger made the participants more rational and analytical, concluding that anger-induced action can come from “clear-minded and deliberative processing.”

The feedback anger can deliver is very important in social relationships and actually can make them healthier — as long as the anger is not too intense.

“Like all emotions, anger is a response that organizes our thinking, our physiology, and our behavior so that we can most effectively face a particular type of challenge,” he says.

It also serves as a means to an end, prepping us for confrontation, so the “fight” in our fight-or-flight systems kick in. As anger often strikes when we feel challenged, it gives us the strength we need to get assertive and make ourselves heard. “Since anger doesn’t feel good subjectively, we are motivated to try and resolve the situation as quickly as possible,” adds Wilson.

Related

Social Studies How You Handle Confrontation May Give You the Upper Hand

An article published in Scientific American, cited research that proved anger was also capable of providing a creative boost, largely because of this boost of adrenaline. But when asked, one of the authors of that study, Mattjas Baas, Assistant Professor at the department of Work and Organizational Psychology of the University of Amsterdam, says anger-as-creative-fuel usually only leads to a fast burn out.

“Anger leads to more creativity, though perhaps only in small doses,” he explained. “This is because anger is stimulating and energizing. However, this creative advantage of an angry mood doesn’t last for long. The experience of anger is relatively exhausting. Thus, although angry people initially generate more creative ideas, their performance eventually levels out.”

This is Your Brain on Anger

Wilson also mentioned that feelings of anger can be hard to sustain for a long period of time because it’s a powerful, “metabolically demanding” (draining and exhausting) emotion. After all, when you’re angry, your brain experiences something closely related to stress — and stress isn’t good for you. Chronic long term stress has long been linked to decreased immunity, increased risk of bronchial constriction, more acid in the stomach and an increased risk of plaque buildup in arteries.

It can also be damaging if you’re wired differently, like those who suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). For the clinically anxious, anger can serve as a trigger that exacerbates symptoms — and can even be a manifestation of the condition, according to a 2012 study. In fact, the scientist in charge of that study wanted to further explore how anger and anxiety go hand-in-hand, like a chicken-egg thing, and how “heightened levels” of anger are uniquely related to GAD.

Related

Social Studies How to Tell If Someone is Lying, According to Behavioral Experts

This is likely because, as Wilson explained, feelings of anxiety are associated with uncertainty and more risk in assertion, where plain old anger among the less anxious makes people feel more certain about their position and they see less risk in asserting themselves.

Now that we have a better understanding of how anger can work for us, perhaps we harness its frenetic energy so it can serve us somehow. You know, learn how to channel all that wayward angst toward a more positive end.

Wilson says one way to make anger work for you is to channel it toward a specific goal. “Creating a goal has the effect of constraining the anger and focusing it towards some target in the future,” he says. For example, using it as fuel to work a little harder, beat your sprint time at the gym or boost you with enough courage to air your grievances — peacefully and rationally, of course.

So, the next time you find yourself boiling over due to a slight, just remember — you’re likely feeling that way for a reason. And that reason can conjure up a moment of clarity that enables you to demand a more reasonable, and better, outcome. Why not try it?

Feeling very angry and frustrated all the time, or being around someone who is always angry, is exhausting and stressful. Our guide below will help you understand what causes anger and how you can help someone who is feeling angry.

This can help if:

  • you want to understand where anger comes from
  • you want to reduce your own anger, or help someone close to you reduce theirs
  • you want to know where to get help for anger.

How to get angry

What it means when you feel angry all the time

When you’re angry all the time, it affects how you experience everything in your life. You might find that:

  • you’re constantly in a bad mood
  • you express your anger in a way that hurts yourself or someone else
  • everything seems too hard, boring or uninteresting
  • you want to throw, hit or destroy things all the time
  • small things that didn’t used to bother you now put you in a bad mood
  • you lash out at people.

Anger usually occurs when there’s something going on in life that makes you feel upset, frustrated, hurt or bored. Sometimes anger is an immediate response to a specific event, such as getting a bad mark or someone cutting you off in traffic, or it can build up over time. Whatever the reason, feeling angry or seeing someone else become angry should alert you that something isn’t right.

When anger becomes a problem

For yourself

If you find you’re often asking yourself “why am I angry all the time?”, or you find you’re feeling angry everyday or getting angry over little things, you might be holding onto your anger. When you hold on to your anger, you prevent yourself from feeling happy or positive, because your negative feelings block out everything else.

If you don’t deal with your anger in a positive way, then over time it will just build up and become your primary emotion. Read our guide on dealing with anger for some tools and tips that will ensure you have healthy outlets for processing your negative feelings.

For other people

Dealing with someone who is always angry can have a huge impact on your relationship with them. The level of anger someone is experiencing may help you think about how to respond to them. If the person seems annoyed but open to talking then you can start a dialogue, but if the person seems like they need time to themselves, then it’s important to give them space to calm down.

You can’t be responsible for making them feel better, but there are a few simple things you can do to try and help:

  • don’t ignore the person
  • be open to listening to what they have to say
  • keep your voice calm when they’re upset
  • try to talk things through
  • acknowledge their distress but don’t feel like you have to back down if you disagree – your opinion is important too
  • avoid pushing advice or opinions on them – work out whether they just need someone to listen to them or if it’s appropriate to take on a bigger role
  • give them space if they need it.

Some good ways to approach a conversation with someone who is angry include:

  • I can see you’re feeling angry, do you want to talk about it?
  • it looks like today has been full on – would you like to go for a walk with me and decompress?
  • this situation is getting tense – let’s all take five minutes and regroup.

By identifying the emotion and providing an action to take in the moment, you can help the other person process their feelings in a healthy way and defuse the situation.

Depending on your relationship with the person, you may want to help them to access different kinds of support. For example, if your colleague or classmate is experiencing regular moments of frustration, you can call on your manager or teacher for guidance. If your best friend is experiencing anger, you may want to be there as a support person to help them access professional services.

If that’s not enough

Anger can be a sign that someone is experiencing depression, anxiety or a personality disorder, such as borderline personality disorder. If you think someone in your life needs extra help with their anger, you can support them to contact their GP or access a mental health service.

Sometimes people express their anger by becoming violent or abusive. If this is the case, and you think your safety may be at risk, remove yourself from the situation and get help. It’s never okay for someone to be violent or abusive towards you.

If things start to feel unsafe or scary, make sure you reach out for help. Call a mental health helpline, or arrange an appointment with a doctor or counsellor.

What can I do now?

  • Read about managing anger.
  • Recognise that anger passes, and wait before making any big decisions.
  • If your anger is getting you down, talk to your GP about it and ask for some support options.

Explore other topics

It’s not always easy to find the right place to start. Our ‘What’s on your mind?’ tool can help you explore what’s right for you.

How to get angry

Anger is a natural response to negative situations, and sometimes a healthy outlet for expressing your feelings about something that has hurt you. To some degree, anger is also helpful in that it can motivate you to find solutions to certain problems.

However, anger can become a problem if you find yourself frequently feeling hostile for no reason, or when your anger becomes overwhelming, uncontrollable, or violent.

While there are many reasons a person can get angry, due to either physical or mental factors, sometimes there is no obvious cause. You may be left wondering why you feel this way and why you are on edge all the time.

Some potential causes of unexplained bursts of anger may include:

  • Weak boundaries: If you say yes to things when you want to say no, or feel forced to do things for others that you don’t feel happy doing, you may feel that people are taking advantage of you. Being a people-pleaser can cause you to feel exhausted and frustrated.
  • Lack of sleep: You may not be getting enough sleep, drowning in things to do, and staying up too late. This can make it more difficult to manage emotional problems.
  • Anxiety: People with anxiety issues usually feel overwhelmed because they need to work hard to manage their emotional state. If you have anxiety and a challenging situation arises, you may blow up without really understanding why.
  • Feeling invisible: Feeling unappreciated or unacknowledged can cause anger. You may get angry with your spouse, kids, parents, friends, or coworkers because you feel invisible or undervalued in a relationship.
  • Depression: Anger is a lesser-known symptom of depression. About 10% of people with depression experience irritability and 40% have outbursts of anger.
  • Control issues: For some people, anger stems from wanting to control everything and getting upset when they are unable to do so.
  • Bottling up emotions: Because anger is not a socially accepted emotion, many people try to suppress their true feelings. If you do so often, you may find yourself feeling more and more resentful the more you push away or swallow your rage.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): Anger is a common symptom of OCD and affects about half the people with the condition. A person with OCD has disturbing obsessive thoughts, urges, or images that cause compulsive behavior.
  • Alcohol abuse:Alcohol abuse can increase aggression. Alcohol impairs your ability to think clearly and make rational decisions. It also affects impulse control, making it harder for people to control violent behavior.
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): People with ADHD can get angry for no reason. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by inattentiveness, hyperactivity, impulsivity, and a short temper.
  • Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD): A behavioral disorder that affects school-age children, ODD can cause a child to become defiant, argumentative, and easily annoyed by others.
  • Bipolar disorder: Sometimes, anger, irritability, aggression, and rage can be symptoms of bipolar disorder, which is a brain disorder that causes dramatic shifts in mood. These mood shifts can range from high-energy manic episodes to depressive bouts of deep depression.
  • Intermittent explosive disorder: People with this disorder have unexpected angry outbursts accompanied by physical aggression or violent behavior. They may overreact with anger that is out of proportion to the situation at hand.
  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD): This disorder is characterized by depersonalization, mood swings, difficulty with relationships, and sometimes self-harm or suicide attempts. Many people with BPD experience anger due to abandonment issues.
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD): Anger can be a symptom of hormone fluctuations that can occur with PMDD, which is characterized by an extreme premenstrual strain that may come with intense mood swings and feelings of anger.
  • Schizophrenia:Symptoms of schizophrenia include hallucinations and delusions. The disorder is sometimes associated with anger caused by the perception that others want to harm the person. Paranoid schizophrenia can lead to violent behavior.

What are the common causes for anger?

Finding the root cause of anger is one of the most important steps to managing it.

Common triggers for anger may include:

  • Injustice
  • Financial issues
  • Family or personal problems
  • Traumatic events
  • Feeling unheard or undervalued

Sometimes, physiological processes, such as hunger, chronic pain, fear, or panic can also provoke anger for no apparent reason.

Anger can also be a symptom of a mental health issue, such as bipolar disorder, mood disorder, or eurosis. It can also be caused by hormonal imbalances, such as elevated levels of cortisol due to drugs or tumors, lowering levels of estrogen just before menses, thyroid hormone imbalances, etc.

How is anger typically expressed?

People express anger in various ways, including:

  • Ignoring people, becoming withdrawn or quiet
  • Snapping, shouting, yelling, name-calling
  • Swearing, making threats
  • Lashing out physically, such as throwing objects or hitting others
  • Inflicting self-harm, such as cutting oneself or banging one’s head

When to seek professional help

Controlling anger, whether the reasons are obvious or not, can be challenging at times. Dealing with an anger problem early is crucial, as it can help you to avoid it escalating to the point where you end up hurting yourself or others.

You should seek help if your anger affects your relationships, causes you to constantly feel negative or hostile, you are unable to control your anger, or you become physically violent.

Well-managed anger can be a useful emotion that motivates you to make positive changes. On the other hand, anger is a powerful emotion and if it isn’t handled appropriately, it may have destructive results for you and those closest to you. Uncontrolled anger can lead to arguments, physical fights, physical abuse, assault and self-harm.

Physical effects of anger

Anger triggers the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response. Other emotions that trigger this response include fear, excitement and anxiety. The adrenal glands flood the body with stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.The brain shunts blood away from the gut and towards the muscles, in preparation for physical exertion. Heart rate, blood pressure and respiration increase, the body temperature rises and the skin perspires. The mind is sharpened and focused.

Health problems with anger

The constant flood of stress chemicals and associated metabolic changes that go with ongoing unmanaged anger can eventually cause harm to many different systems of the body.

Some of the short and long-term health problems that have been linked to unmanaged anger include:

Expressing anger in healthy ways

Suggestions on how to express your anger in healthy ways include:

  • If you feel out of control, walk away from the situation temporarily, until you cool down.
  • Recognise and accept the emotion as normal and part of life.
  • Try to pinpoint the exact reasons why you feel angry.
  • Once you have identified the problem, consider coming up with different strategies for how to remedy the situation.
  • Do something physical, such as going for a run or playing sport.
  • Talk to someone you trust about how you’re feeling.

Unhelpful ways to deal with anger

Many people express their anger in inappropriate and harmful ways, including:

    anger explosions – some people have very little control over their anger and tend to explode in rages. Raging anger may lead to physical abuse or violence. A person who doesn’t control their temper can isolate themselves from family and friends. Some people who fly into rages have low self-esteem, and use their anger as a way to manipulate others and feel powerful. For more information, see ‘ What is violence against women?

Dealing with arguments

When you have had an argument, it is easy to stay angry or upset with the other person. If you don’t resolve an argument with a person you see often, it can be a very uncomfortable experience.

Talking to the person about your disagreement may or may not help. If you do approach them, make sure it is in a helpful way. Stay calm and communicate openly and honestly.

If the person could be violent or abusive, it may be best not to approach them directly. You could talk to them over the phone to see if they are open to finding a solution to the argument, if you feel safe to do so. It might be helpful to ask someone to be there with you, to give you support when you make the call and afterwards.

Try and tell the person how you feel as a result of their opinion, but avoid trying to tell them how they feel. It is possible to agree to disagree. You may need someone else to help you resolve the disagreement. You could ask a trusted third person to act as a go-between and help you both get another view on the argument.

Reasons for dealing with arguments

There are good reasons for dealing with arguments, including:

  • It will give you a sense of achievement and make you feel more positive.
  • You may feel more relaxed, healthier and more able to get a good night’s sleep.
  • You may develop stronger relationships.
  • You may feel happier.

Suggestions for long-term anger management

The way you typically express anger may take some time to modify. Suggestions include:

  • Keep a diary of your anger outbursts, to try and understand how and why you get mad.
  • Consider assertiveness training, or learning about techniques of conflict resolution

Benefits of regular exercise in mood management

People who are stressed are more likely to experience anger. Numerous worldwide studies have documented that regular exercise can improve mood and reduce stress levels. This may be because physical exertion burns up stress chemicals, and it also boosts production of mood-regulating neurotransmitters in the brain, including endorphins and catecholamines.

Teaching children how to express anger

Expressing anger appropriately is a learned behaviour. Suggestions on helping your child to deal with strong feelings include:

Anger is a normal human emotion. All parents get angry from time to time, but if you can’t control your anger it could negatively affect your child. Here are some simple strategies to follow if you find your anger getting out of control.

What causes anger?

Anger is when your body reacts to something it senses as a threat. You release adrenaline, your muscles tighten, your heart rate and blood pressure increase, and your face and hands get flushed. Sometimes people get angry a lot because of the way they were born, their brain chemistry or a medical condition. But usually it’s because something in your personal history triggers your anger.

Common triggers for anger include losing your patience, feeling like you’re not being appreciated, worrying about problems and memories of something traumatic that has happened to you in the past. People who were not taught how to express and control their anger as children are more likely to have angry outbursts as adults.

It is very normal for parents of young children to get angry. It’s a time when you’re dealing with a lot, including family, work, looking after the house and social activities. You’re busy and tired, so it can be difficult when children don’t behave or things don’t go to plan.

Other common triggers for anger in parents are when you feel like your partner isn’t helping, when your child misbehaves or gets angry at you, or when you’re stressed about something like finances or relationships.

Sometimes, having a baby can trigger emotions and trauma from your own childhood. If you experienced trauma or abuse as a child, there is help available from the Blue Knot Foundation on 1300 657 380.

How does your anger affect your child?

Everyone gets angry — it’s how you deal with it that matters. You are setting a good example for your child if you take a few deep breaths and walk away when you’re angry. But if you lose your temper a lot, it can have serious negative effects for your child.

Children often blame themselves when they see the adults in their life get angry. It makes them stressed and this can affect the way their growing brains develop. Living in a household where there is a lot of anger puts your child at risk of mental illness later in life.

Using hurtful words towards your child can make them feel like they are bad and worthless. It can make them behave badly or get physically sick. Children react to angry, stressed parents by not being able to concentrate, finding it hard to play with other children, becoming quiet and fearful or rude and aggressive, or developing sleeping problems.

You should never physically hurt or punish your child, no matter what they have done or how angry you are. Research has shown that physically punishing children puts them at risk of future antisocial behaviour, aggression, low self-esteem, mental health problems and negative relationships.

Never shake a baby. Violently shaking, hitting, kicking or throwing a baby can result in death, disability or serious injury.

Dealing with your feelings

Anger usually comes with other emotions including anxiety, depression, disappointment, worry, embarrassment, frustration, hurt or fear. Recognising and dealing with these emotions will help you control your anger.

Bottling up your anger can lead to an explosion later on. But expressing it in a controlled way means you can release some of the underlying emotions and start to tackle what is really making you angry.

Try to notice your negative thoughts — ‘No-one ever helps me’ or ‘Why are you so naughty’. Calm down and work out what is really making you feel bad.

Strategies to cope

The best way to deal with anger is to recognise the signs so you can take action before it gets out of control.

Signs you are getting angry might include:

  • a fast heartbeat or breathing faster
  • tense shoulders
  • clenching your jaw or hands
  • sweating
  • churning stomach
  • feeling agitated

If you notice these signs, take a deep breath and try to slow down your breathing. Leave the room and go somewhere quiet to calm down. You could also go for a walk, take a warm shower or listen to calming music.

If your child is doing something that makes you angry, count to 10 before you react. Try to find positive rather than negative words. Let your child know it is their behaviour you don’t like, not them.

If you do lose your temper with your child, apologise afterwards. This sets a good example and lets your child know it’s OK to feel angry sometimes as long as you deal with it well.

After you have calmed down, take a moment to think back on what made you angry and how you reacted. This can help you react better next time.

When to seek help

If you notice you are getting angry a lot or you are having trouble controlling your anger, there is help available.

Start by talking to your GP, who can put you in touch with a psychologist or counsellor if necessary. They can help you write down a plan to manage your anger.

For advice on managing difficult child behaviour, call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 to speak with a maternal child health nurse.

If you feel you might hurt yourself or your child, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Understanding your rage can help you express it more healthfully

How to get angryPhotographs by Joleen Zubek; Stylist: Mae Lander

The Driver who cuts you off in traffic. The neighbours who don’t pick up after their dog. The insurance company that keeps you on hold for an eternity. Situations such as these get our hearts racing and send our stress levels skyrocketing. Anger isn’t a pleasant feeling. Some of us bottle up the emotion, while others explode in a wild rage. Both habits have repercussions for our bodies, our minds and our relationships.

Anger may feel uncomfortable, but it’s also normal and healthy. “A lot of people think they have to get rid of their anger,” says Patrick Keelan, a registered psychologist in Calgary, Canada. “But anger is an emotion built into us to signal that something needs to be addressed.” When we take notice of that signal and actually rectify the problem instead of ignoring it, we’re usually much better for it.

Unfortunately, many of us have been conditioned to keep our emotions hidden. Increasingly, research is suggesting that this can have long-term effects on our health. Investigators at the University of Rochester noticed that people who suppress their emotions tend to have shorter life spans. They’re more likely to die earlier from cancer, for example. When we’re angry, stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol are released, which can make us prone to developing a wide range of diseases, including diabetes, depression and autoimmune conditions.

Is it better, then, to scream and holler whenever something makes you seethe? That’s the rationale behind the ‘rage rooms’ that have popped up in many cities, where folks are invited to vent their anger by violently smashing stuff in a ‘safe’ environment.

“The theory is that you get the anger out of your system through aggressive actions, and it’s cathartic,” says Keelan. “But the research indicates that when we display our anger aggressively, it can actually increase the intensity of the anger—and increase the likelihood of aggressive actions in the future.” It doesn’t take much imagination to predict how a furious rampage can affect your relationships with your spouse, your kids or your co-workers.

It also hurts your health. A large 2016 study at McMaster University found that people are more than twice as likely to have a heart attack after an angry outburst. The increased blood pressure and heart rate put stress on the cardiovascular system, and if there’s already some plaque buildup, the blood flow to the heart may be restricted.

If we shouldn’t bottle up our angry feelings but aggressive behavior isn’t healthy either, how should we handle things that tick us off? It’s the extreme highs and lows that take a toll. If you’re able to apply techniques that smooth out some of those peaks and valleys, you can have a gentler ride.

How to get angry

Start by looking beyond the super­ficial trigger to your fury. Anger is often precipitated by underlying feelings of fear, anxiety, disappointment and guilt. Maybe you’re furious that your spouse is late, but it’s really because you were afraid he or she had a car accident in the bad weather.

Also, pay closer attention to your triggers—those daily irritations that you know will set you off. Do you get angry at the long lines at the grocery store? Take a step back and consider that it isn’t personal. Everyone in the line has dinner to make, just like you.

One proven method of dealing with anger is to talk about it. Brain imaging at the University of California, Los Angeles and elsewhere has shown that if you name your feelings, you can actually calm the activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain that triggers the release of adrenaline and cortisol. “There is a value to expressing that you don’t like what’s happening, because it’s an opportunity for change,” says Diane McIntosh, a psychiatrist in Vancouver, British Columbia.

It helps to take a cool-down period before explaining to someone you’re angry with how he or she rocked your boat. That will allow for the effects of the adrenaline to wear off, which in turn allows you to reflect on what’s bothering you. Do some controlled breathing or find some physical activity to take the edge off. “There’s clear evidence that exercise helps with feelings of anger,” says McIntosh.

When you’re ready to approach the other person, focus on the behaviour and why it upsets you, not the person’s character traits. Avoid calling the other person names. Don’t swear, and don’t make generalizations, such as “You always do this!” The idea, says Keelan, “is to bring up your reasonable points to the other person in a manner that is most likely to get a constructive and non-defensive response.”

If you’re on the receiving end, remember that there are benefits to acknowledging and trying to understand the other person’s anger. Try offering to make a change, if that seems fair to you. If you’re willing to be a partner in working through heated situations, the other person will be much more likely to bring matters up constructively in the future. In the end, you’ll both be healthier for it.