Are There Different Levels Of Anger?

Medically reviewed by Aaron Dutil, LMHC, LPC
Updated June 7, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Anger is often regarded as a one-dimensional emotion. However, anger can be complex and may arise in different circumstances for different reasons. Anger may be a response to something perceived as unfair or unjust, or it may connect to concealed emotions or underlying repressed issues. 

When these issues are triggered, it may make a person feel more vulnerable or out of control, and therefore, they might lash out in anger. There are a few ways that anger might appear for you or someone you care about.

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Explore what triggers your anger

A brief overview of anger

Anger is an emotional state that may manifest when someone feels hurt, threatened, or otherwise provoked. Different things may trigger anger in someone, but anger is often a natural response to discomfort. 

The ability to feel angry is wired into our brains as part of the fight or flight response that has helped humans survive as a species. It allows us to defend ourselves from threats. Anger often causes the feeling of wanting to "fight" or become defensive. However, feeling the urge to run away or freeze may also occur with anger. 

There may be a few misconceptions regarding anger. One potential misconception you may have is thinking that feeling angry is "bad" or "wrong. "However, the feeling of anger is natural. Feeling angry is an emotional reaction that may defend us from harm or let us know when we have been hurt. When individuals believe anger itself is wrong, they may be referring to potentially harmful behaviors that could be urged by the emotion.   

In some cases, anger might be enlightening or serve as a source of motivation to try to change something that could be wrong or unjust. When problems arise, it may be because someone had difficulties controlling their behavior alongside strong feelings of anger. The difference between an emotion and what we might do with it can be an essential distinction. 

The types of anger

Anger is a complex emotion with different modes of expression and underlying causes. Understanding each of these and what they entail may be enlightening. 

An awareness of the potential types may also help you determine steps to manage anger when it doesn't match your reality. 

Annoyance

Annoyance can be a relatively common form of anger. It may feel less severe than other types. People might get annoyed at things such as long lines, traffic jams, or hearing someone chew with their mouth open. Often, annoyance is mild and tends to subside quickly. 

Someone who finds themselves regularly annoyed may want to become aware of what's bothering them since constant annoyance may indicate another underlying condition or situation. For example, anxiety or depression may cause annoyance or frequent "irritability," a symptom of the conditions. 

Frustration

The emotion of frustration is not anger but may manifest as anger if an annoyance or other obstacle has lasted for too long. Frustration may pass quickly if the situation gets resolved, or it may turn into a long-term issue if the frustrating situation continues without resolution. 

A frustrated individual may feel tense or have difficulty concentrating at work or school. They may have trouble sleeping or feel anxious and upset. A frustrated person may also feel helpless or out of control of their circumstances, which may lead them to express their frustration as anger.

Getty/MoMo Productions

Hostility

Whereas annoyance, frustration, and other forms of anger may not necessarily be expressed openly or directly toward another person, hostility is an overt expression of powerful emotion. A person who is being hostile toward someone or something may make those angry feelings known. They might do this by behaving in aggressive or antagonistic ways.

Hostility may arise after someone has been consistently subjected to situations that displease them or they perceive as threatening. In some cases, hostility may result from pent-up anger that hasn't been constructively resolved and is seeping out in hurtful words or actions. 

Individuals may also seem to be automatically hostile to people and situations they encounter. These individuals may be employing hostility as a means of defense or to exert control. Other people may develop hostile behavior because of traumatic experiences or brain injuries.

Hostility may be displayed overtly, in angry words or actions directed at their target, or it might be expressed as passive-aggressive behavior or sabotage. Hostility often differs from annoyance or frustration, as it may have more intent to harm or target an external factor. Someone may also be hostile toward themselves. 

Rage

Rage is an extreme expression of anger. By the time someone has reached the point of being enraged, they may be verbally confrontational. They may throw objects, make threats, or even physically lash out at others. Although we may think that rage means someone has lost control of their emotions and cannot manage their anger, this may not always be the case. 

In some situations, rage may be used as a tool of manipulation or abuse by someone choosing to act abusively or believing that they aren't in control of themselves. In other situations, rage may be the release of anger that has been pent up for a long time, including anger that may have a reasonable cause and that has been triggered by something someone said or something that happened. 

Addressing the things that make us angry before our feelings can escalate to rage can be one way to stay more emotionally healthy and avoid taking our anger out on other people.

If you or a loved one is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Support is available 24/7.

Managing anger

Different types of anger may each have their own triggers and intensity. It can be much easier to manage annoyance and frustration than to control hostility or rage. 

At times, anger may start as annoyance and work up to rage if the underlying issue causing the disturbance is not addressed. Other times, a person might become hostile or enraged with little provocation. 

Anger is not an inherently bad emotion. However, if you are experiencing it on a frequent or even constant basis, it can become chronic anger, which may impact your emotional, mental, and physical health, and may negatively affect your relationships with other people.

Anger is a normal human emotion that can occur throughout our lives with greater or lesser frequency, depending on factors like our personal situation or mental health. While anger isn't necessarily bad or wrong, our failure to manage our anger may lead to problems at home or work.

There are many different techniques you can use to manage your anger. Consider learning to walk away from a frustrating situation and return to it when you're feeling calmer, as well as how to evaluate what you're thinking and feeling. Learning to actively choose how to respond instead of just reacting may be beneficial.  

Knowing what kinds of people or situations trigger our anger may also help us avoid those triggers or develop strategies in advance for how to deal with them in healthier ways.

Getty/AnnaStills
Explore what triggers your anger

Asking for help

Dealing with anger may feel challenging. At times, the cause of anger isn't readily apparent because anger may emerge as a defense mechanism or because of an unresolved issue. Managing anger may also feel difficult to handle when you know what triggered it. 

If managing anger is something you regularly struggle with, working with a professional therapist may be of value to you. The ability to ask for help when you know it's necessary can be a positive sign of growth and maturity. It can also be a form of investing in yourself to improve and have a better future.

Anger issues and their treatments have been studied extensively, and counseling is effective for many people struggling with anger issues. The American Psychological Association (APA) reviewed hundreds of studies on anger treatment and found that roughly 7five% of people who sought treatment for anger saw significant improvement and healing. According to the APA, cognitive-behavioral therapy, family therapy, and psychodynamic therapy have shown the most promise for treating anger issues.

Some people may be more comfortable seeing their therapist face-to-face in the therapist's office, but others prefer to have their appointments online. Online counseling may allow individuals to receive treatment from the comfort of their own homes and on their own schedules. 

Studies have shown that online therapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, which can be suitable for treating anger issues, can be as effective as in-person treatment. Services such as BetterHelp can connect you with a therapist specializing in treating anger issues and any other mental health challenges you may face.

Takeaway

Anger is a normal human emotion that may be a reasonable response to being hurt or mistreated. Different types and stages of anger can have varying triggers and expressive behaviors.  

Feeling angry isn't necessarily good or bad by itself. What may be beneficial to you is learning to manage behavioral urges driven by anger to handle difficult emotions in healthy ways. 

Anger may feel challenging to manage, but several techniques exist to control anger. If you want professional help, you're not alone. Consider reaching out to a qualified counselor for support and research-based anger management techniques. 

Learn to separate anger from behavior
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet started