How To Gain Control Over Anger Attacks

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox
Updated February 19, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Anger attacks are often defined as intense emotional state of anger that comes on suddenly and can involve hot or cold flashes, a racing heart, urges to act out in anger, and actions such as punching, hitting, or destroying objects. Anger attacks can resemble panic attacks in intensity and are often heavily distressing for those experiencing them. Depression and other mental health disorders can lead to anger attacks. 

If you’re experiencing these attacks, know you’re not alone, and there are ways to treat them. For example, learning healthy ways to express anger, getting to the root of the emotion, exercising regularly, using “I” statements, employing relaxation techniques, identifying anger causes, and receiving professional help can all be beneficial. When experiencing anger attacks, learning how to respond can help you feel prepared and less alone.

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What is an anger attack?

Anger attacks are more than standard feelings of anger. They can be compared to panic attacks but might not include feelings of fear or anxiety. When someone has an anger or rage attack, it is often uncharacteristic of their usual behavior and may accompany urges that feel challenging to ignore. 

Like panic attacks, anger attacks can seem to come out of nowhere and often, an individual feels emotionally trapped. Symptoms of anger attacks can include:

  • Increased heart rate 
  • Chest pain
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Urges to partake in violent behavior to yourself, others, or objects
  • Hitting, punching, or destroying objects
  • Yelling 
  • Stomach pain 

Anger attacks can be more intense than a typical experience of anger. These attacks can impact the way that you feel physically and mentally. 

What causes anger attacks? 

Many factors may contribute to anger attacks and explosive outbursts. In many cases, anger attacks may occur because a person feels trapped, overwhelmed, or unsure of how to process. When an individual feels unsure of how to get out of the situation, they may lash out in anger, feeling a loss of bodily and mental control as well. 

Another common cause of anger can be depression. Many people think of depression as overwhelming feelings of sadness and hopelessness. While that depiction can be accurate, the official DSM-5 diagnostic manual showcases that irritability and anger are common symptoms of depression. Other mental illnesses like bipolar disorder, personality and anxiety disorders, and other mental disorders can also contribute to rage attacks. If this is the case for an individual, it may be helpful to find a doctor and receive receiving treatment for the condition in order to reduce the rage attacks and explosive outbursts.. 

Note that anger attacks can look similar to meltdowns in people with autism, a term for an emotional state that occurs when individuals with autism (including adults) experience overwhelming emotions, sensory overload, or another concern. The symptoms of meltdowns or anger outbursts can also include yelling, crying, physically reacting, or behaviors that appear aggressive. In these cases, an anger attack may not be caused by anger but instead may be lessened by removing sensory input, moving to a new location, or setting a safety plan. If you are an adult with autism, you may benefit from resources from the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN). 

Because people don’t often associate sudden anger with depression or other issues like panic attacks, anger attacks may be missed or blamed on other behaviors. People may feel it is part of their personality or that their anger defines them. They may even have family members or other loved ones who judge them for their behaviors, which can make anger and related symptoms even worse. However, these judgments can cause shame and guilt. Understanding that anger attacks can be a sign of many underlying conditions or being neurodivergent can help you receive support and the treatment you need. 

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Tips for coping with an anger attack

If you experience anger attacks, learning strategies to control anger more effectively can impact your life. Anger is an emotion, and the behaviors you experience or desire during it can be separate from the feeling. Coping strategies can help you avoid the behaviors you don’t want to partake in, like yelling or hitting walls. Below are some ways to cope with anger attacks healthily. 

Learn healthy ways to express anger

Choosing healthy ways to express anger can help relieve intense emotions without harming yourself or others. In the heat of your emotions, it can be challenging to make a wise decision. You may do or say something you never intended due to the stress and frustration you’re experiencing. However, learning anger coping skills can allow you to take steps in the present to reduce the impact of future actions. 

Some people like to use the strategy of counting to ten before they react. While ten seconds may not be enough time to allow you to calm down, the concept of this strategy can be effective when put into practice. Providing yourself time before responding to a situation can show your brain that you’re taking time to consider your steps, which can remind you to react differently. If you still feel the urge to act unhealthily after ten seconds, take a step away from the situation and return to it within a specific time frame. 

You might find it helpful to write out your thoughts or record a video diary while angry. Instead of saying everything you want to say to another person, you can say it in video format or write it down to get it out. Studies have also found that journaling can improve mental health.

Understand the causes of anger 

Anger is often a symptom of another underlying issue. If you want to address it, it can be beneficial to understand where it is coming from. Some people experience anger because of depression. Some live with anger because they struggle to communicate. Others may experience anger as a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when feeling threatened or triggered. 

There can be many instances in a person’s life that can lead to challenges with anger issues. You may be able to identify where your anger is coming from, but many people benefit from working with a therapist to get to the root of the issue in a professional setting. If you’re unsure why you’re experiencing anger attacks, choosing to work with a therapist can help you progress.

Exercise Regularly

There can be many benefits to regular exercise in your life. There has been much research conducted on the way exercise can impact your physical and mental health.

Exercise releases endorphins in your brain that can boost your mood. If you experience anger regularly, endorphins can reduce the intensity of unwanted emotions. You may also find that exercise uses some of your pent-up energy, which may release tension that can lead to anger. Taking a walk can also release anger. The fresh air and sunshine can benefit you physically and mentally and may calm you down if you start to feel angry.

Communicate using “I” statements

When people respond to intense emotions of anger, they may say things they don’t mean or only mean at the moment. Later, they may feel shame or regret as they realize what they’ve said has hurt themselves or someone else. 

When angry, learning to use “I” statements may help you overcome blaming statements or other unkind speaking methods. For example, you could use the following statements to take responsibility for your feelings without blaming others: 

  • I feel angry, and I need some space
  • I feel full of rage right now and am going to spend some time alone 
  • I am angry because of this conversation and will talk to you when I can do so healthily 
  • I am angry and do not want to act unhealthily, so I’m going to take time for myself 

Use relaxation techniques

Some people benefit from learning relaxation techniques to address their anger. These techniques can include practicing yoga regularly or learning mindfulness meditation; Mindfulness practices have been proven to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, which may all lead to anger. Reducing these symptoms can help you feel more in control of your emotional state.  

Deep breathing is another strategy that helps some people appropriately handle their anger. You can use several techniques, such as breathing in through your nose for a slow four-count, holding your breath for four seconds, and slowly exhaling through your mouth for four seconds. Then, after four seconds, you may start the process again. Meditation and deep breathing may help you shift your thoughts away from what you’re angry about onto something else to help you regain control.

Identify the causes of your anger 

Learning to identify the causes of your anger can be different than learning to identify the root of anger. You may find that certain stimuli escalate your emotions. For example, some people may have more difficulty with anger when they are in a noisy environment. If you are already feeling stressed and angry, and there is a constant noise that is irritating you, it may escalate your emotions in a way that wouldn’t occur in a calm environment. 

When you are aware of what pushes your anger to the surface, it can help you get out in front of it. If you notice an anger-causing stimulus, you may remove yourself from the situation if possible. Alternatively, you may notice it and prepare yourself to handle your anger healthily in other ways. 

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Get professional help

Unwanted emotions like anger can be challenging to manage on your own. You may have struggled with anger in the past as a child, which can make it challenging to address or fully understand. For this reason, talking to a licensed mental health professional can be beneficial. A therapist can help you learn effective coping strategies that allow you to process your anger healthily.

Some people also benefit from medication to curb their anger attacks. If you’re interested in this option, talk to your primary medical care doctor or a psychiatrist about possible prescriptions that could help you gain control of your anger as you learn more effective coping strategies. Do not start, change, or stop a medication or medical treatment without consulting a doctor. If you need assistance finding a doctor, it may be useful to do an online search for “doctor locations” or “find a doctor location” to get you pointed in the right direction.

Allowing anger to have control over your life may lead to harmful experiences. Constant anger attacks can take a toll on relationships, sabotage job situations, and make it difficult to go through daily life. Getting professional help can enable you to take control of your anger and implement healthy anger management techniques to keep anger attacks at bay.

Alternative counseling options 

Working with a licensed mental health professional can help you employ healthy strategies for managing anger and preventing or working through anger attacks. If traditional in-office therapy isn’t possible for you due to cost, scheduling, or other concerns, online therapy may be an alternative to consider. You can avoid the commute, and there’s no need to sit in a waiting room—you’ll be connected with a therapist and can begin to address the root of your anger.

As one study explains, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be highly effective in teaching anger management strategies, and online CBT can be as effective as in-person therapy for many clients for treating a variety of mental disorders. If you’re interested in seeing a therapist, online platforms like BetterHelp offer admittance to over 30,000 licensed providers specializing in various topics, including anger, panic attacks, depression, and neurodivergence.  

Takeaway

Anger attacks and various physical symptoms can be challenging to cope with. Anger attacks may come as a result of various mental health conditions, as well. Several potential ways to manage anger attacks can include:

  • Expressing anger in a healthy way
  • Addressing the root of the anger 
  • Exercising regularly
  • Using “I” statements when experiencing anger
  • Utilizing relaxation techniques
  • Identifying and being aware of triggers
  • Getting professional help

If you or a loved one is interested in getting professional help for anger attacks or other mental health concerns, consider contacting a licensed therapist for guidance. You’re not alone, and relief from anger is possible. 

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.
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