Anger Counseling: Finding The Root Of Anger And Addressing It

By Rachel Lustbader|Updated August 30, 2022

What Is Anger?

Concerned About How You Behave While Experiencing Anger?

The American Psychological Association defines anger as “an emotion characterized by antagonism toward someone or something you feel has deliberately done you wrong.” They go on to say that “Anger can be a good thing. It can give you a way to express negative feelings, for example, or motivate you to find solutions to problems.”

Anger is a natural human emotion and is experienced to some degree by most every person. However, anger can also be an uncomfortable, nonproductive, and exhausting emotion. Individuals diagnosed with anger disorders can experience uncontrollable anger, and anger is often their normal state of being. Physical symptoms of persistent anger can include headaches, high blood pressure, difficultly focusing, and increase in body temperature, and more. In addition, persons with intermittent explosive disorder, a diagnosable mental health condition outlined in the DSM V, experience extreme anger over minor issues, such as burning the toast or when someone cuts them off in traffic.

When someone seems angry more often than not, there may be underlying mental health issues that date back to childhood. When this person overreacts, or reacts explosively, it may be due to triggers related to past issues or learned behaviors. Anger is sometimes referred to as “the unrecognized emotion” in diagnosable mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety. It can also be a symptom of other mental health disorders or illnesses. 

Where Does Anger Come From?

Children raised in a home where one or both parents deal with stressors by acting out angrily often learn to deal with stressors in the same manner, and they tend to grow up to teach these same behaviors to their children. Individuals with anger disorders do not like to discuss stressful matters and are typically avoidant of topics that could lead to anger. This avoidance leaves spouses, significant others, children, and coworkers in the position of having to make decisions or perform actions without knowing how the angry individual will respond. This in turn can cause those around that individual to feel as though they are walking on eggshells, which is immensely damaging to the mental health of all involved and can damage relationships.

The person with an anger disorder tends to blame others for their anger, often beginning statements with “You made me.” Even when this person apologizes, how they phrase that apology typically leaves the other party feeling blamed.

There could also be physiological causes of a person’s anger, such as conditions that cause physiological arousal like hypertension. It’s likely no surprise that our mental health and physical health are closely tied together; when one is out of equilibrium, the other is likely to be to some degree, as well. Hypertension can cause a person to feel intensely angry. When blood pressure rises, it depletes the brain of necessary oxygen, causing the person to overreact or to act explosively. Sometimes people blame the hypertension on the anger, but it is more often the other way around. Persons who have high blood pressure and then begin taking medication often describe feeling less angry, less agitated, and even less depressed. 

People sometimes ask these questions about the topic:

What is the best therapy for anger management?

Will counseling help my anger?

What are the 3 types of anger?

Is anger a mental disorder?

Why do I get so angry over little things?

Why am I losing my temper so easily?

What are the five steps to anger management?

Do I need anger management or therapy?

Why do I cry when I get angry?

What are the signs someone needs anger management?

What Can Be Done About Anger?

Understanding the source of anger, whether it is learned behavior, an event from the past, or a medical condition, is an important first step toward regaining control of one’s emotions and life. Anger not only hurts the angry individual, but it hurts others as well, and it can also have professional consequences. Lashing out angrily at loved ones can leave residual feelings of guilt that cause anger to be directed inward. The vicious cycle then continues as the anger is ultimately projected outwardly again.

Therapy for anger management issues can help individuals root out the source of their anger, learning new coping strategies and better communication skills and how to deal with residual guilt. Seeking therapy from a mental health professional such as a therapist for anger-related issues gives hope to those who have been hurt the most: the undeserving objects of the anger. Having the entire family involved in the therapy process can prove beneficial, as the family can work on communication, recognizing which situations trigger anger or other strong emotions, and goal and boundary setting. Anger is uncomfortable and unproductive, but it does not have to be uncontrollable.

An important part of any therapeutic process is taking responsibility for anger. Cognitive behavioral therapy is effective in helping to reroute thinking and change behaviors, but if the individual has unresolved anger due to the past, a bit of delving into those issues with the guidance of a mental health professional may prove beneficial.

Online Therapy For Anger

Based on hundreds of peer reviewed studies on the effectiveness of psychotherapy for treating anger, approximately 75% of those in therapy improved from anger management treatment. Specific therapies studied include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), in which clients identify unhealthy thought patterns and challenge faulty beliefs to change behaviors. Other promising therapies for treating anger are dialectal behavior therapy, family therapy, and psychodynamic therapy.

You deserve a full life and positive mental health. If you’re ready to work through your anger issues or other mental health conditions or concerns, get started with BetterHelp today. You can fill out our quick questionnaire to find a mental health professional who is a good fit for you and your needs, and switch therapists or cancel your membership at any time should you feel things aren’t a good fit. With over 20,000 experienced, licensed, and vetted mental health professionals to choose from, we’re confident that we can find a great match for you!

The Benefits Of Online Therapy

Concerned About How You Behave While Experiencing Anger?

As discussed above, therapy with a licensed therapist can help treat anger and other mental health issues or concerns. But in today’s busy world, it can be hard to find the time to attend in-person sessions. This is where online therapy comes in. You can access BetterHelp’s platform from the comfort and privacy of your own home. In addition, online therapy offers lower pricing than in-person therapy because online therapists and mental health professionals don’t have to pay for costs like renting an office. BetterHelp’s licensed therapists and mental health professionals have helped people with anger management. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp therapists and other licensed mental health professionals from people experiencing similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

“Allise was perfect for me. She is kind, genuine, understanding, and extremely knowledgeable. She shared lots of methods with me to focus on positivity and self care. She never judged me or made me feel bad about my issues. 10/10 would highly recommend.”

https://www.betterhelp.com/allise-esquivel/

“She is great! She let’s me express myself with no judgement. From the beginning she has been in contact with me since the first day I was assigned to her. She checks up on me and sends me encouraging messages through chat . Thanks Kimberly”

https://www.betterhelp.com/kimberly-sober/

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

What Is The Best Therapy For Anger Management?

There are five primary types of therapy that are often utilized for anger management. All of them involve a therapist or other qualified mental health professional working with you to create a treatment plan to help you work through your concerns and issues.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of mental health therapy that is most often utilized for and most successful in aiding anger management therapy. CBT can help those with anger issues learn to recognize their triggers, modify their behaviors, practice coping skills and relaxation techniques for anger management, and help foster a sense of calm and self-control over time, as well as potentially improving self-esteem.

Dialectal behavior therapy (DBT) is also commonly used as an anger management therapy approach. DBT is usually reserved for those with more severe struggles with anger, as it works to help literally rewire the brain through deep (but gradual) exploration of one’s thoughts and behaviors, increase distress tolerance skills, help develop emotional regulation skills, and improve effective communication in relationships.

When family is involved, family therapy may be best-suited for anger-related mental health issues. With family therapy, you can see the therapist as individuals as well as together as a family. Since anger issues can result in resentment and other issues over time, it’s important that everyone is able to share their feelings and experiences safely and openly. The family mental health professional will likely give assignments for individual family members as well as for the family to work on together.

Psychodynamic therapy is another anger management therapy approach. The focus here is on utilizing talk therapy to help get to the root of anger issues. This therapy type is likely to be utilized if you or the mental health professional suspect that persistent anger is or may be the result of some unresolved past issues. This can help you to better understand why you feel the way that you do, which can provide some sense of clarity and closure, and can then help you to healthily work through the anger over time.

Additionally, group therapy can help with anger issues. Group therapies are traditionally utilized to help a group of people work through similar issues collectively. In group therapy, members have the opportunity to chat with the mental health professional(s) leading the group individually, as well as to share with the rest of the group. Sharing your own story and experiences, and hearing those of others, can be incredibly cathartic and can help build perspective, as well as help those involved know that they are not alone in what they’re experiencing. The mental health professional(s) leading the group will provide prompts and exercises for both inside and outside of the group therapy sessions.

Will Counseling Help My Anger?

This depends on you as a person, your therapist’s approach, and whether or not they are a good fit for your needs. In short, counseling or anger management therapy can help with persistent anger troubles of anger outbursts if you have a good therapist and if you put in the time and effort to work on your anger even outside of sessions. Your therapist/mental health professional will likely give you “homework,” or exercises to do outside of sessions. These could be anything from snapping a rubber band on your wrist when you start to feel angry, which can help you identify your anger triggers and help literally snap you out of those strong, negative feelings in the moment, or they may give you mindfulness exercises to help you feel more calm and centered in times of stress and anger. They may give you worksheets to help you delve more deeply into your anger; they may ask you to open up to loved ones about what you’re going through; or any number of other things that they think might help your particular case.

Anger management therapy may also help through simply talking with the counselor or other mental health professional (such as a psychologist or therapist). Sometimes, we don’t fully realize something is an issue or understand the depth of it until we start talking about it. This can cause a release of emotions and memories that perhaps were otherwise buried or that we were subconsciously ignoring. Openly discussing what you’re experiencing in a safe, non-biased, neutral environment with a trained mental health professional can be immensely helpful and eye-opening for many. Over time, you may also discover potential psychological roots to your anger, as well as any unhealthy coping mechanisms that don’t actually help with your anger long-term, both of which can vastly improve your mental health if properly worked through with a mental health professional(s).

What Are The 3 Types Of Anger?

The three types of anger are passive-aggressive anger, open-aggressive anger, and assertive anger. How we express our anger can be a reflection on who we are as a person in that moment, what we’re experiencing, and the state of our mental health at the time.

Most of us are likely familiar with passive-aggressive anger. Perhaps one of the most typical examples of this type of anger is someone who is upset not openly communicating about being upset, but instead making snide remarks to make you realize that they are angry or hurt. Those who experience passive-aggressive anger typically dislike confrontation, and instead may make the aforementioned snide comments, become silent and sulky, and otherwise simply not confronting the issue and/or emotion(s) at hand.

Open-aggressive anger is much what it sounds like – lashing out and being generally open and verbal about one’s anger. Those who experience open-aggressive anger may simply be verbally aggressive, and in more extreme cases may display signs of physical aggression, as well, such as breaking things or physically harming themselves or others in some way. In any case, it’s usually pretty easy to spot open-aggressive anger.

Assertive anger is arguably the healthiest form of expressing anger. This involves someone openly discussing their anger/what upset them, doing so calmly, and being willing to listen to what others have to say, as well. Typically, assertive anger involves a willingness to get to the root of the issue and genuinely resolve the anger and manage anger in a confident, calm, open, and patient manner with a desire to understand one’s own emotions and mental health as well as that of those around them.

Is Anger A Mental Disorder?

Experiencing anger and being able to mildly express anger does not mean that you have a mental health disorder. Anger is a very normal human emotion and can be healthy so long as it is moderated. Feeling angry lets us know that something is wrong – so long as we’re willing to be open and vulnerable enough with ourselves to dig a little deeper into why we’re feeling that way, anger can be used as a tool to help guide us to learning more about ourselves and how to improve communication with those around us.

If, however, anger is persistent, it involves frequent strong angry outbursts rather than calm and rational discussion, or you experience anger over minor things like a lightbulb burning out or the batteries in the remote dying, or you or those around you might describe you as an “angry person,” these could all indicate a potential mental health disorder(s). According to the DSM-V, there are five anger diagnoses: intermittent explosive disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, borderline personality disorder, and bipolar disorder. All of these can involve issues with unhealthily feeling and expressing anger to varying degrees. Various types of therapy and anger management can help if you are concerned that you’re experiencing a mental health disorder related to anger or need help learning how to healthily express anger. Additionally, anxiety and depression can involve anger as a symptom, depending on the individual and circumstances.

Why do I get so angry over little things?
Why am I losing my temper so easily?
What are the five steps to anger management?
Do I need anger management or therapy?
Why do I cry when I get angry?
What are the signs someone needs anger management?

References

Cassiello-Robbins, C., & Barlow, D. H. (2016). Anger: The Unrecognized Emotion in Emotional Disorders. Clinical Psychology: Science & Practice, 23(1), 66-85. https://doi.org/10.1111/cpsp.12139

Coccaro, E. F., Lee, R., & McCloskey, M. S. (2014). Relationship between psychopathy, aggression, anger, impulsivity, and intermittent explosive disorder: Relationship Between Psychopathy, Aggression, Anger, Impulsivity, and Intermittent Explosive Disorder. Aggressive Behavior, 40(6), 526-536. https://doi.org/10.1002/ab.21536

DiGiuseppe, R. T. R. C. (2007). Understanding Anger Disorders. Cary: Oxford University Press. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/apollolib/detail.action?docID=273328

Digiuseppe, R., &Tafrate, R. C. (2001). A comprehensive treatment model for anger disorders. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 38(3), 262-271.

Fernandez, E., & Johnson, S. L. (2016). Anger in psychological disorders: Prevalence, presentation, etiology and prognostic implications. Clinical Psychology Review, 46, 124-135. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2016.04.012

Larkin, K. T., &Zayfert, C. (2004). Anger expression and essential hypertension: Behavioral response to confrontation. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 56(1), 113-118. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0022-3999(03)00066-7

Mushtaq, M., & Najam, N. (2014). Anger as a psychological risk factor of hypertension. Pakistan Journal of Psychological Research, 29(1), 21-37.

Tremblay, R. E. (2000). The development of aggressive behaviour during childhood: What have we learned in the past century? International Journal of Behavioral Development, 24(2), 129-141. https://doi.org/10.1080/016502500383232

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