Anger is a feeling that affects us all. Things that can make us feel angry include a threat to us or people close to us, a blow to our self-esteem or social standing in a group, being interrupted when we’re pursuing a goal, being treated unfairly and feeling unable to change this, being verbally or physically assaulted, or someone going against a principle we feel is important.
Anger is an important emotion, according to Celia Richardson of the Mental Health Foundation.
It’s the one that tells us we need to take action to put something right, it is a problem-solving emotion. It gives us strength and energy, and motivates us to act.
But for some, anger can get out of control and cause problems with relationships, work and even the law.
Physical signs of anger
Everyone has a physical response to anger. Our body releases the hormone adrenalin, making our heart beat faster and making us breathe quicker and sweat more.
This allows us to focus on the threat and react quickly, but it can also mean we don’t think straight, and maybe react in ways we might regret later on.
One person in five has ended a relationship because of the way the other person dealt with anger “Reports show that anger problems are as common as depression and anxiety, but people don’t often see it as a problem, or don’t realise there are ways to tackle it.”
Individual reactions to being angry
How people react to feeling angry depends on many things including the situation, their family history, cultural background, gender and general stress levels.
People can 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.
Other people might hide their anger or turn it against themselves. They can be very angry on the inside but feel unable to let it out.
It’s important to deal with anger in a healthy way that doesn’t harm you or anyone else. Intense and unresolved anger is linked to health conditions such as high blood pressure, depression, anxietyand heart disease. It can also affect your relationships and your work, and get you into trouble with the law.
Dealing with anger in a healthy way includes:
• recognising when you get angry
• taking time to cool down
• reducing the amount of stress in your life
You can also look at what makes you angry, and how you deal with those feelings. For specific tips, you can read the article about how to control your anger. The Mental Health Foundation’s Cool Down: anger and how to deal with it booklet may also help. The charity Mind also provides information about dealing with anger in a healthy way.
Learning to control and dealing with your anger
Everyone has a physical reaction to anger, be aware of what your body is telling you, and take steps to calm yourself down.
Recognise your anger signs
Your heart beats faster and you breathe more quickly, preparing you for action. You might also notice other signs, such as tension in your shoulders or clenching your fists. “If you notice these signs, get out of the situation if you’ve got a history of losing control,” says Isabel.
Count to 10
Counting to 10 gives you time to cool down so you can think more clearly and overcome the impulse to lash out.
Breathe out for longer than you breathe in, and relax as you breathe out. You automatically breathe in more than out when you’re feeling angry, and the trick is to breathe out more than in, this will calm you down effectively and help you think more clearly.
Managing anger in the long term
Once you’re able to recognise the signs that you’re getting angry and can calm yourself down, you can start looking at ways to control your anger more generally.
Exercise can help with anger
Bring down your general stress levels with exercise and relaxation. Running, walking, swimming, yoga and meditation are just a few of the activities that can help reduce stress. Exercise as part of your daily life is a good way to get rid of irritation and anger.
Looking after yourself may keep you calm
Make time to relax regularly, and ensure that you get enough sleep. Drugs and alcohol can make anger problems worse. They lower inhibitions, and actually we need inhibitions to stop us acting unacceptably when we’re angry.
Get creative to get on top of your emotions
Writing, making music, dancing or painting can release tension and help reduce feelings of anger.
Talk about how you feel
Discussing your feelings with a friend can be useful, and can help you get a different perspective on the situation but there may be a limit to how much you or your friend feel comfortable with sharing. This is why it is better to find a good counsellor who will listen without judgment and be totally focused on you and in helping you to find a better way.
Look at the way you think
Try to let go of any unhelpful ways of thinking, Thoughts such as ‘It’s not fair,’ or ‘People like that shouldn’t be on the roads,’ can make anger worse.
Thinking like this will keep you focused on whatever it is that’s making you angry. Let these thoughts go and it will be easier to calm down.
Try to avoid using phrases that include:
• always (for example, “You always do that.”)
• never (“You never listen to me.”)
• should or shouldn’t (“You should do what I want,” or “You shouldn’t be on the roads.”)
• must or mustn’t (“I must be on time,” or “I mustn’t be late.”)
• ought or oughtn’t (“People ought to get out of my way.”)
• not fair
Getting help with anger
If you feel you need help dealing with your anger, see your GP and/or Counsellor. At Warwickshire and Worcestershire Counselling Services we regularly run Anger Management workshops so check out when our next one is on the Workshops page.
Anger management programmes
A typical anger management programme may involve one-to-one counselling and working in a small group. The programmes can consist of a one-day or weekend course. In some cases, it may be over a couple of months.
The structure of the programmes can differ depending on who is running the course it, but most programmes include CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) as well as counselling.
Domestic violence and anger
If uncontrolled anger leads to domestic violence (violence or threatening behaviour within the home), there are places that offer help and support. You can talk to your GP or contact domestic violence organisations such as Refuge, Women’s Aid or the Alternatives to Violence Project.
Men of any age can be victims of domestic violence or abuse, in heterosexual or same-sex relationships. Help and support is available from Men’s Advice Line on 0808 801 0327 or Mankind on 01823 334 244.
Anyone who needs confidential help with their own abusive behaviour can contact Respect on their free helpline: 0808 802 4040.
Read more about getting help for domestic abuse on the ABUSE page within this website
adapted from NHS website