How To Control Anger So It Does Not Control You
By Sarah Fader
Updated December 05, 2018
Reviewer Audrey Kelly, LMFT
We all get mad sometimes, it is only natural because we are human. Anger is a totally normal feeling or 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 had more than three anger outbursts in their lifetime. The number of anger disorders has been hard to determine due to many reasons such as the lack of understanding what anger disorders were and difficulty in remembering the anger episodes later in life. Even though it seems like younger people have more anger episodes than others did in the past, it is likely that they just are able to remember them more clearly.
What Is Anger?
According to experts, anger is a state of emotion that can range from being mildly irritated to feeling furious or filled with rage. Just like other human emotion, with anger comes other changes in 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, traffic jam, or just bad memories. Even thinking about personal problems can cause anger outbursts.
Because we are human, we have to express our anger, and everyone does this in a different way. Some people, however, have extremely aggressive and powerful feelings of anger that can lead to aggressive behaviors such as yelling or even physical actions like hitting. The human body automatically uses its fight or flight response to protect itself from danger, which is a good thing in some cases. But, we cannot become physical with everything or everyone that makes us mad because we will get in trouble. Social norms, 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, 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. The three most common ways to deal with your anger include 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 is to something positive. You can learn to change your anger into something more constructive or positive such as exercise like going for a job 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 bad such as arguing or fighting. However, do not keep your anger suppressed because this can cause other problems such as depression, anxiety, or hypertension.
Expressing Your Anger
Just because you are angry, does not mean you have to become aggressive. There are healthy ways to express your anger, which can include talking to someone such as a friend, family member, or therapist.The list on how to express your anger constructively is endless, a little imagination can go a long way when it comes to expressing anger.
Are You Too Angry?
You may not even realize that you have anger management problems. In fact, over half of people who experience explosive anger issues do not realize that they have a problem. However, there are always hints like if people tend to avoid you when you are angry or if you get into a lot of fights.
Some of the symptoms of anger management disorder include:
- 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
- Always being sarcastic 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
There are also some psychological tests that can tell you if you have a problem with anger management. Some of these tests can also tell you if you are prone to anger management problems and whether you can handle anger.
Because anger can show in different ways, it is difficult to know whether you have a problem or not until you show your anger in an inappropriate way more than once. Some people are angry all of the time or just cannot let things go 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 do 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 cause legal problems. 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. This disorder is thought to affect over 13 million individual American adults. Those with this disorder are not able to control their anger outbursts and go from calm to explosive in seconds without warning. According to experts, this disorder may be hereditary or it could be environmental.
Those who grow up in households with others who have intermittent explosive disorder are more commonly affected by this disorder 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 behaviors when angry. There is certain criteria to 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 for the situations
- The episodes cannot be caused by any other mental disorders, medical conditions, medications, or substance abuse
Some of the most common risk factors include:
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Physical or mental trauma
- Growing up with others with explosive behaviors
- Exposed 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
Everyone Gets Angry: Why Am I So Different?
People who get angered easily have a low tolerance for feelings like annoyance, impatience, inconvenience, and frustration. They just cannot take things as easily as other people no matter how hard they try and may seem to be constantly mad or grumpy. They may be called hotheaded or short tempered. They may yell a lot or call people names. Other people who have anger management issues may withdraw from others, stop talking to people, and sulk. 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 you were not taught the right way to deal with your anger.
How To Control Your Anger
There are some ways you can control your anger on your own. Some of these include:
- Learn relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga
- Laugh at yourself, humor is relaxing
- Let go of grudges
- Do not blame others
- Look for solutions to your problems
- Put yourself in time out
- Talk about your feelings
- Think before you act
- Know when to get help
- Think before you speak
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. This is great for those of us who are really busy, have anxiety issues, or live in rural areas where there are limited resources. Honestly, for those with anger management problems, it is probably much better to reduce your exposure to people and public places until you get your anger under control.
With online anger management therapy, you can talk to your therapist or counselor from the comfort of your own home or wherever you happen to be. All you need is a computer, tablet, or smart phone. BetterHelp.com is the largest mental health care source in the world and has more than 2,000 licensed professionals to help you. They have a 24 hour a day, seven day a week connection to your counselor so you do not even need to make an appointment. No need to get angry sitting in a waiting room or battling traffic to get to your therapist's office. Help is just a phone call or mouse click away.