Identifying Anger Disorders And Overcoming Them

Updated March 22, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Everyone experiences anger from time to time. In some situations, it is a natural response. But what about those times when anger feels extreme or uncontrollable? Have you ever felt angry but couldn't pinpoint the source? Is it challenging to direct your thoughts away from anger to more relaxing emotions? If so, you may want to consider taking an anger disorder test, as you could be experiencing symptoms of a type of anger disorder.

In an anger study conducted at Harvard, 10% of people under 25 reported having explosive anger episodes at least three times in their lifetime. Anger disorders are common among Americans. However, with appropriate intervention, approximately 75% of those affected improved.

Is Anger Getting In The Way Of Your Daily Life?

Understanding Anger

Anger is a natural, instinctive response to threats. While anger alone is not considered a disorder, when an individual cannot control their anger symptoms or if those symptoms result in dangerous behavior, they may have an anger disorder. Several things may trigger an anger response, including the following:

  • Stress

  • Family problems

  • Poor communication skills

  • Financial strain

Additionally, some underlying conditions, such as depression, substance abuse, or alcoholism, may contribute to anger issues.


Anger can be a symptom of depression. Depression is characterized by prolonged sadness and loss of interest lasting at least two weeks. Individuals who are depressed may experience suppressed anger or show symptoms of anger manifested as:

  • Irritability

  • Thoughts of harming others or oneself

  • Suicidal ideations


Many people drink on social occasions; however, excessive alcohol use, which interferes with a person's personal or professional life, may be considered alcoholism. Alcohol is often associated with increased aggression, anger, and violence.


Anger is often considered one of the stages of grief. Grief may occur when any life-altering experience happens in a person's life. It can be the result of the death of a loved one; the loss of a relationship, job, or home; or declining health. The anger may be directed at the person who died, anyone else involved in the event, or inanimate objects. Other symptoms of grief include:

  • Shock

  • Numbness

  • Guilt

  • Sadness

  • Loneliness

  • Fear

There are different types of anger disorders. Identifying what kind of anger you are experiencing and learning ways to address the issues can lead to improved physical and mental health. Below we'll discuss the most common types of anger disorders.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a behavioral disorder that affects 1 to 16 percent of school-age children. Common symptoms of ODD include anger, a hot temper, and irritability. Children with ODD are often easily annoyed by others and tend to be argumentative.

Uncontrolled Anger

Anger is a normal human emotion. However, misplaced or uncontrolled anger can quickly become problematic. In fact, while short-term anger can be effective, long-term or uncontrolled anger can cause significant personal and professional problems. Uncontrolled anger may manifest differently from one person to another. Some may quietly think about and focus on what makes them angry, while others may become easily angered and exhibit aggressive or violent behavior.

Intermittent explosive disorder

A person with intermittent explosive disorder (IED) (also known as "volatile" anger) experiences repeated episodes of aggressive, impulsive, or violent behavior. Their angry response may seem out of proportion to the situation. For example, if an individual with IED spills a glass of milk, they may pick it up and throw it rather than simply clean up the spill. IED episodes usually last less than 30 minutes and may occur suddenly or without warning. People with the disorder may feel irritable and angry most of the time. Some common behaviors associated with intermittent explosive disorder include:

  • Temper tantrums

  • Fighting

  • Physical violence

  • Throwing things

  • Racing thoughts

  • Bursts of energy

Chronic Anger

Individuals who find it challenging to overcome anger or fit the "habitual" anger profile may be experiencing chronic anger. One study showed that chronic anger in young adulthood could lead to features of antisocial personality disorder later in life.

Does Bipolar Disorder Cause Anger?

While anger is not a typical symptom of bipolar disorder, people with the disorder may become angry as a response to the shifts in mood that they experience. Mixed-mood episodes are characteristic of bipolar disorder, and irritability is a common symptom of high or mixed-mood episodes. If a person with bipolar disorder does not know how or refuses to cope with irritability, it could lead to outbursts of anger.

How Anger Manifests

Anger manifests in different ways. An individual's beliefs regarding anger and how they should conduct themselves may affect how anger is expressed. Usually, anger is expressed in one of three ways: inward, outward, or passive.

  • Inward anger is anger that an individual directs toward themselves. It involves negative self-talk and often blaming oneself for events (real or perceived). In an effort to gain control, some individuals may deprive themselves of things that would otherwise make them happy as a form of punishment. Other examples of inward anger manifestation include isolation and self-harm.

  • Outward anger involves behavior that may seem like an obvious sign of anger. These behaviors often include shouting, cursing, breaking things, or physically or verbally abusing others.

  • Passive anger is exhibited by an individual using indirect or subtle ways to express dissatisfaction. A person showing passive anger may be sarcastic, make rude remarks, sulk, or give someone the silent treatment.

Long-Term Effects Of Anger

In the heat of the moment, it is often difficult to consider that there could be long-term effects of anger. However, there are risks. If anger is uncontrolled, increased heart rate and blood pressure could lead to heart disease or stroke. Additionally, the impact on personal and social relationships can be detrimental.

You can manage anger issues. There are several options for learning to identify and manage the symptoms of anger disorder. Recognizing the symptoms and knowing when to seek help are important.

Identifying Symptoms Of An Anger Disorder

You might need some help learning to control your anger if you recognize any of these signs:

  • Your friends or family have said they think you have an anger problem or have distanced themselves from you due to your behavior.

  • You have discord with coworkers.

  • There are business establishments where you're no longer welcome.

  • You feel angry a lot of the time.

  • You're nursing a grudge or thinking about getting revenge constantly.

  • You have been or think about being aggressive or violent when angry.

Managing Symptoms Of Anger

Keeping anger symptoms in check can feel challenging. Some anger management tips may be helpful if you begin to feel angry.

  1. Take a time-out: Take a few short breaks during the day. A few moments of quiet time may help you prepare for what's ahead without getting irritated or angry.

  2. Think before you speak: In the heat of the moment, it's easy to say something you may regret later. Simply taking a few moments to your thoughts may diffuse the tension. It will also give the other person a chance to do the same.

  3. Practice relaxation skills: Relaxation skills, such as deep-breathing exercises, repeating a calming phrase such as "I'm okay" or "Take it easy," or remembering a happy moment may be helpful. Taking the time to journal or listen to your favorite music may also help you to relax and sort through your feelings.

  4. Once you are calm, express your anger: It's okay to express your frustration. You can be assertive without being confrontational.

  5. Exercise: Physical activity can help reduce the stress that often causes anger. If you begin feeling stress or anger that is escalating, try taking a brisk walk or run. Exercise releases endorphins, which create a feeling of euphoria.

What If The Above Tips Don't Work?

While learning anger management measures can be helpful, there may be times when additional intervention is necessary. If you feel overwhelmed or unable to handle outbursts of anger alone or if you are experiencing anger more frequently, talking with a professional could be helpful.

There are several options for the treatment of anger disorders. Research your options, and remember, honesty with yourself is the first step to anger management. Some treatment options include:

  • Group therapy. Group therapy is a great way to talk about feelings of anger and to learn ways of communication that do not involve aggression. This type of therapy usually involves a counselor and a small group of people experiencing the same issues. In most cases, the counselor will suggest a topic and give everyone in the group an opportunity to discuss their thoughts and feelings. Group therapy provides a way of addressing anger and learning how to react to others in a safe environment.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a common type of talk therapy (psychotherapy). It focuses on helping individuals become aware of thoughts and feelings and learn to respond appropriately. CBT is done in structured settings with a mental health counselor.

Any time there is a need for change, commitment to that change is crucial for success. Anger disorders are no different. If you have issues controlling anger, it's time to commit to change. Seeking professional help could be the key to improving your mood and learning effective coping mechanisms. If you prefer to start with a small group, such as in group therapy, be sure you talk to your doctor and ask for their recommendation on the best place to go. You want to ensure that meetings are moderated by someone who knows how to handle and diffuse tense situations.

For some, seeking individual counseling may be a better fit. If you feel you need to talk to someone non-public, seeing an in-person or online counselor is an option. Additionally, for those who want to speak to someone but feel that time or money may limit options, there is help.

Online counseling matches clients with mental health professionals trained to handle diverse issues, including anger management. No need to worry about sitting in traffic or taking time out of your day to drive to an appointment - you can attend sessions from the comfort and safety of your own home. 

One study determined that online CBT, which is effective for treating anger disorders, is an effective and affordable alternative to in-person treatment. If you’re interested in learning more about online therapy, reach out to BetterHelp to learn more. 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!"

Is Anger Getting In The Way Of Your Daily Life?

"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!"


Anger can feel like a debilitating emotion. While it is a normal reaction, there are times when it can feel overwhelming. If you are experiencing anger issues, you are not alone. With the right tools, a truly fulfilling life in which anger doesn't hold you back is possible.

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