How To Control Anger So It Does Not Control You

Updated November 29, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

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Anger is a normal emotion that we all feel sometimes. Unfortunately, anger can become a major issue for some people. In fact, in a study done by Harvard, 10% of those under 25 years old admitted to having at least three serious anger episodes in their lives. Although that number was lower for older individuals, at least 7% of all the adults in the study had more than three anger outbursts in their lifetime, and some struggle with anger attacks. The number and prevalence of anger disorders has been hard to determine due to many reasons, such as the lack of understanding of what anger disorders are and the difficulty of remembering previous anger episodes later in life.

If You Have Difficulty Dealing With Anger, Therapy Can Help

What Is Anger?

Anger is a state of emotion that can range from feeling mildly irritated to feeling furious or filled with rage. Just like other human emotions, with anger comes other changes to your body such as an increase in blood pressure, body temperature, and the levels of hormones like adrenaline and epinephrine. Anger may be caused by internal and external issues such as an argument, a traffic jam, or bad memories. 

Expressing Anger

Generally, it’s healthy to express our anger, and everyone does this in different ways; some talk things out, some go to the gym, some shout into a pillow. Some people, however, have extremely powerful feelings of anger that can lead to aggressive behaviors such as yelling or even physical actions like hitting. However, social norms, maintaining our relationships, common sense, and laws have limits on how we show our response to anger.

While you do have to use restraint in how you express your anger for the wellbeing of both yourself and others, it is best not to repress those feelings, or they may come out on their own in undesirable ways. Different people show their anger in different ways, both unconsciously and consciously, but three common ways to deal with your anger are calming, suppressing, and expressing.

Calming Your Anger

You can calm your anger by controlling both your internal and external responses. You can use a variety of calming techniques to slow your breathing, decrease your heart rate, and relax your emotions until the feeling subsides. Talking to a counselor or therapist can help you learn some techniques on how to calm your anger.

Suppressing Your Anger

Suppressing your anger is okay if you are able to redirect or convert it to something positive. You can learn to change your anger into something more constructive, such as exercise, by going for a jog or working out when you feel angry about something. Eventually, this becomes a habit so that your body knows that it should be exercising when it feels anger rather than turning it into something potentially harmful such as arguing or fighting. However, it is important to not keep your anger suppressed, because this does not resolve whatever is causing the anger and can cause other problems such as depression, anxiety, or hypertension. 

Expressing Your Anger

There are healthy, non-aggressive ways to express your anger, which can include talking to someone such as a friend, family, or therapist. You may turn to art, writing, going for walks while mulling over what might be causing the anger, or join a support group to help you express and sort through your anger.

Are You Too Angry?

If you have anger management troubles, it’s possible that you may not even know it. However, there are some symptoms of anger management disorder to look out for, including:

  • Getting irritated easily

  • Calling people names

  • Being impatient with yourself and others

  • Quick temper (going from calm to angry quickly)

  • Blaming other people for your problems

  • Being sarcastic or passive-aggressive when not joking

  • Staying away from others when you get angry

  • Getting extremely mad over little things

  • Constantly criticizing others

  • Breaking things when you get mad

  • People are afraid of you

  • Being physically abusive to other people or animals

  • Getting into fights often

  • Threatening people

  • Screaming or yelling at others

  • Feeling energized when angry

  • Feeling tingly when angry

  • Shaking or trembling when angry

  • Feeling thoughts racing

  • Chest pain or tightness

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Memory loss

  • Blocking out what happened

  • Pouting or brooding

Understanding Anger

Because anger can reveal itself in different ways, it is difficult to know whether you have a problem unless you show your anger in an inappropriate way more than once. Some people are often angry and have trouble letting go of things that made them mad. They may constantly feel that people are out to get them or that they are the only ones who are right about anything. Other people may not get angry often, but when they do, they explode.

No matter how it shows itself, uncontrolled anger can damage your emotional and physical health. It may also cause you problems with work, relationships, and the law. Studies have shown that anger control issues may increase your chance of getting heart disease, digestive problems, and insomnia. In some cases, anger may cause risky behavior such as alcohol abuse and illegal drug use.

Intermittent Explosive Disorder

Those who experience several episodes of anger control outbursts may actually have a disorder called intermittent explosive disorder (IED). This disorder is thought to affect over 13 million individual American adults. Those with IED are not able to control their anger outbursts and may go from calm to explosive in seconds without warning. According to experts, this disorder may be hereditary or environmental.

Those who grew up in households with others who had intermittent explosive disorder or otherwise expressed their anger inappropriately are more commonly affected by this than those who did not. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-V), those with this disorder have had several episodes of aggressive or violent behavior when angry. There are certain criteria for having intermittent explosive disorder, such as:

  • Having several different episodes of not being able to control their aggressive or violent impulses

  • Episodes of damage to property or serious assaults on others

  • Aggression should be extreme and disproportionate to the situation

  • The episodes cannot be caused by any other mental disorders, medical conditions, medications, or substance abuse

Some of the most common risk factors for developing the disorder include:

  • Alcohol or drug abuse

  • Physical or mental trauma

  • Growing up with others with explosive behaviors

  • Sex (men are more likely to develop IED)

  • Exposure to violence when young

  • Some medical conditions such as traumatic brain injury or Alzheimer's disease

  • Certain mental conditions like conduct disorders, oppositional defiant disorder, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

If You Have Difficulty Dealing With Anger, Therapy Can Help

Everyone Gets Angry: Why Am I So Different?

People who are angered easily have a low tolerance for feelings like annoyance, impatience, inconvenience, and frustration. They may seem to be constantly mad or grumpy and may be called hotheaded or short-tempered. They may yell often or call people names. Some people who have anger management issues may withdraw from others, stop talking to people, and sulk in social situations. Some experts believe that some children are born with this condition, but others believe that they are learned habits from growing up in a home with people who have anger issues. It could also be because they were not taught how to healthily deal with their anger.

How To Control Your Anger

There are some ways you can control your anger on your own. Some of these include:

  • Learning relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga

  • Laughing at yourself (humor is relaxing)

  • Letting go of grudges

  • Not blaming others

  • Looking for solutions to your problems

  • Putting yourself in time out

  • Exercising

  • Talking about your feelings

  • Thinking before you act

  • Knowing when to get help

  • Thinking before you speak

Outside Options To Control Your Anger

One thing you can do to help control your anger is to work on meditation. In fact, when you feel anger building up, one of the first things that you should do, if possible, is find a place where you can sit quietly for a few minutes. Don't speak or react until you've had a chance to meditate for a couple of minutes at least and have regained control of your thoughts and feelings. You may also want to practice meditation daily, as it helps to calm you overall, rather than just in the moment. In fact, research shows that brief meditation can reduce anger.

Exercise has also been found to help when it comes to anger problems. If you exercise when you feel angry, you can burn off excess energy and engage your brain in a different way that helps both distract it from and process the anger. If you exercise daily, it can help to release endorphins and other feel-good hormones in your body that can reduce your chances of an angry outburst. 

Finally, try writing things down. Keep a gratitude journal and write it in every day whenever works for you. If you take a few minutes to read through your gratitude journal in the morning or night, it will remind you of all the amazing things that you have to be happy about. Writing in it daily also lets you focus on the positive things that happened throughout the day. This can give you some valuable perspective to reflect on when you are feeling angry.

Online Anger Management Counseling

Anger management counseling is one of the best ways to learn to control your anger issues. While some people like to talk to a therapist or counselor face to face, others find it much more convenient to use online anger management therapy. Research shows that 75% of people who receive treatment for anger management see improvements.

There are a number of recent studies showing that online therapy is an effective form of treatment for those working through complex emotions related to anger. In a study published in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, researchers evaluated the potential benefits of online cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for those experiencing problematic or destructive anger. The results show a significant decrease in anger levels after treatment. Untreated anger, as the researchers note, can lead to an increased incidence of negative intrapersonal conflicts, an increase in violence, and overall health problems. 

Additionally, the online nature means that those experiencing troubles are better able to get the help they need when they need it.

As outlined above, online therapy can be a useful component of an anger management treatment plan. If you’re already experiencing issues with anger, you may not want to have to deal with traffic, sit in a waiting room, or potentially miss lunch just to make a therapy appointment. With BetterHelp, you can talk to your therapist or counselor from the comfort of your own home. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

"Steve is amazing and does a good job at making this seem like less of a counseling session and more of a conversation between friends. He helped me talk through my anger issues and road rage and gave me lots of problem solving tools. I highly recommend him!"

"Regina helped me pinpoint where my anger issue stemmed from in the very first session, and has been helping me become more self aware of my warning triggers. Very insightful and helpful!"

Conclusion

Anger is a natural, normal emotion that does have positive and useful roles, such as letting us know when something has happened that needs to be addressed. However, when expressed in unhealthy ways, such as through shouting at others, throwing things, or holding onto it, anger can negatively impact our lives in a variety of ways. A life in which anger doesn't hold you back is possible—all you need are the right tools. Take the first step today.

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