Don't Test Me: Understanding Men And Anger

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis, LCMHC
Updated February 27, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include abuse which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Anger is an emotion that is often a driving force behind many unhealthy urges and behaviors. However, understanding how to cope with anger is possible, and anger doesn't have to lead to unhealthy behaviors. You're not alone if you're a man struggling with anger or any other mental health concern. Despite the stigmas surrounding men and mental health, there are a few avenues of support you can reach out to.

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Explore anger and how it can affect men

What is anger?

According to the American Psychological Association, anger is "an emotion characterized by tension and hostility arising from frustration, real or imagined injury by another, or perceived injustice." In some cases, anger is a secondary emotion. It often occurs as a response to other feelings like sadness, fear, or disgust. 

Although it can feel distressing, anger isn't necessarily unhealthy on its own. In some cases, anger can motivate and let you know what needs to change. It can also help you see when you've been wronged. However, anger might become unhealthy when you lose control of your stability and behavior. For many men, anger can be a challenging emotion to cope with. 

What are the signs of anger issues in men?

Anger can be beneficial when identifying threats and defending yourself. If not managed, however, anger can cause problems in relationships, careers, education, and personal life. A few signs of difficulty controlling anger include the following: 

  • Hurting others verbally or physically
  • Finding yourself in a constant and consistent state of anger
  • Feeling your anger is out of control or you don't have a firm grip on it
  • Consistently regretting what you said or did while angry
  • Feeling angry after minor occurrences 
  • Being told by others that your anger is negatively impacting them 
  • Frequently scaring others with your anger-motivated behavior 

Struggling to control your anger can also take its toll on your physical health. Studies have shown links between anger, cardiovascular issues, diabetes, and road accidents.

Types of anger

Anger is not limited to lashing out or breaking items. It can come in different styles and degrees of intensity, including the following. 

Inward anger

Inward anger is often directed internally at yourself. It may include disappointment with yourself for not meeting your expectations, anger about your appearance, or anger at your past behaviors. This type of anger is often characterized by negative self-talk, depressing thoughts, and urges to "punish" yourself. It may involve self-harm or thoughts of suicide. 

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or urges, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text 988 to talk to someone over SMS. They are available 24/7 to offer support. 

Outward anger

Outward anger is often characterized by lashing out verbally or physically. Outward anger can include breaking objects, shouting, cursing, or engaging in road rage.

Passive anger

Passive anger can be challenging to identify. It is often demonstrated through passive-aggressive behavior, sarcastic comments, ignoring others to prove a point, or sulking. It may also accompany back-and-forth behavior between outward anger and internal anger. 

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Do men get angry more than other genders?

Men are often depicted as angrier than women. This depiction is common in movies, books, and real-life stories. Although men are more likely to commit violent crimes, people of all genders can experience anger. 

Men are often more likely to express their anger outwardly. They might also be more susceptible to expressing their anger aggressively. For example, punching holes in walls, yelling, or throwing objects might occur. 

Do traditional gender roles cause men to be angry?

Some men may struggle to identify with their emotions unless they're angry. While men experience a full range of emotions, anger seems to be the most socially acceptable emotion to some men. Society often depicts anger as powerful and masculine, while showing vulnerability is sometimes considered "weak."

For men, anger may often stem from another emotion. One of these emotions could be fear. For example, a man might fear losing their partner when they notice they're coming home late from work. When their partner arrives home, they might get angry, and unsure how to express their fear. For many men, part of reducing anger is understanding how to express and accept other emotions. It is not "feminine," "weak," or "shameful" to be sad, cry, feel fear, or worry about those you love. 

Types of outbursts and negative impacts

Expressing your anger outwardly and aggressively can negatively impact your life and relationships. Below are some of the adverse effects.

Verbal abuse and shouting

One of the most common expressions of harmful outward anger is verbal abuse and shouting. A verbal outburst can be directed at your kids, partner, friends, family, or coworkers. Verbal abuse and shouting can be expressed in a variety of different ways, including the following: 

  • Name-calling: This behavior often takes the shape of abusive and derogatory language. These insults may harm the self-esteem of others. 
  • Threats: Threats are often used to strike fear and control the person on the receiving end.
  • Criticism: Criticism offered while angry might be harsh and persistent, causing the target of the abuse to feel harmed. 
  • Blaming: Someone who is angry might blame others to reduce their accountability for themselves. 
  • Judging: Judging can take the form of looking down on an individual or holding them to unrealistic expectations.

Verbal abuse and shouting can harm both the individual partaking in them and those impacted. The effects can include but are not limited to the following: 

  • Decreased self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic stress
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Substance use
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 
  • Self-loathing 

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources.

Breaking objects

When angry, breaking an item, throwing something, or putting your hand through the wall or a door may feel tempting. You may have been frustrated at someone and unsure how to contain your anger. Instead of lashing out verbally or physically at the individual, you might decide to break an item. 

While aggression might offer short-term relief, studies have shown that those who break an item or hit a wall can become angrier after the fact. In addition, breaking an item can harm an individual emotionally and lead to property damage and potential wounds.

Healthy ways to release anger

Healthy anger can be expressed as a short-lived emotion focused on solving a problem or coming to a resolution. With healthy anger, the end goal isn't hurting someone, seeking vengeance, or gaining power. Below are some strategies for healthily releasing anger. 

Deep breathing 

When feeling intense levels of anger, it's easy to overlook and neglect your breathing. Not focusing on your breathing may keep you in fight-or-flight mode, leading you to stay angry for longer. Consider taking deep and controlled breaths. Breathe all of your anger in through your nose, then exhale through your mouth, releasing the anger. 

Try finding a calm and relaxing spot to practice your breathing, and allow your neck and shoulders to relax and release tension. If you are consistently angry, consider doing these exercises three to five times a day for about five minutes at a time. Studies have found that deep breathing works, so keep trying if it doesn't work at first. 

Move your body

When faced with difficult and frustrating situations, you might feel dissociated or "out of your body." Research shows that engaging in physical exercise can reduce anger. Next time you find yourself in one of these situations, try moving your body. Taking a walk, doing jumping jacks, and stretching can help you feel in touch with your body and environment and release pent-up energy. 

Change the environment

In some cases, you may benefit from leaving the situation entirely. Try taking a walk, driving, or spending time alone in your space. When asking for space, do so in a healthy way. Don't jump out of a moving vehicle, pretend you're abandoning someone you love, or run away without a word. Instead, you can say, "I need some time alone to take a breather. I'll be back soon." Removing yourself from the situation or environment may allow you to clear your head. When you return, you can use coping mechanisms to have a healthier conversation with the person you felt angry at. 

Use humor

Using humor to cope with unwanted emotions and anger may effectively change your mood and perspective. Studies have found that laughing can increase mental health and wellness, as well. If you're not in the mood to laugh, consider watching funny videos, making a joke, or going to a local comedy show. 

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Explore anger and how it can affect men

Practice sports

Moving your body can be an effective way to relieve anger and stress. If you are in a more frequent state of anger, consider sports. Sports can relieve more than one need, as they are often a way to make friends and connect socially. 

Combat sports like boxing, MMA, and jujitsu can all be ways to release anger and tension. Sports like tennis, baseball, and soccer are also options. Hitting and striking a ball may allow you to express your emotion outwardly and physically without causing harm to yourself or your loved ones.

Consult with a professional

One of the most effective ways to address your anger and better grasp emotional difficulties may be to seek a licensed counselor. You might try online therapy if you don't feel comfortable going into a therapist's office. Online counseling can be done from home, and you can use a nickname to attend sessions discreetly. You can also choose between phone, video, or live chat sessions, giving you control over the format. 

Studies have found that men often prefer online therapy to in-person options more than any other gender due to the stigma surrounding mental healthcare for men. Online healthcare has also been found more cost-effective and can be a discreet option. If you're interested in receiving care online, a platform like BetterHelp can connect you with one of over 30,000 therapists.

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Takeaway

If you're a man struggling with anger, you're not alone. Often, the goal of reducing anger isn't to stop feeling your emotions. It is instead to ensure your behavior is healthy for you and those around you. Talking to a compassionate counselor may be valuable if you're dealing with frequent anger.
Learn to separate anger from behavior
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