Anger: Volatile Symptoms You Shouldn't Ignore

Updated October 5, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Anger is a normal emotion experienced by many and occurs in many forms along a broad spectrum. At times when people are experiencing anger, they may experience feelings of frustration, irritation, or even outrage. While some forms may seem subtle, there are other forms that may seem uncontrollable or volatile and may induce unwanted consequences. An episode of anger can be unexpected and often occurs when someone gets upset quickly over an event or situation.

If volatile anger isn’t addressed and treated, it may spark intense emotional outbursts that could incite violence. Here, you will learn more about the volatile adjective and how it relates to human emotions.

Navigating Volatile Anger 

An episode of extreme anger that appears suddenly without warning is known as volatile anger. Sometimes, it occurs and the “volatile person” may continue to be angry after the moment has passed. An example would be someone who gets cut off while driving. The driver honks their horn at the person who cut them off but will continue doing so after they were cut off likely due to their ongoing anger over the action. The emotion comes as an explosive form of behavior that occurs abruptly and surprises everyone, much like a volatile substance.

Symptoms Of Anger - What Can You Look Out For?

Therapy Can Be A Healing Way To Cope With Volatile Anger

Emotional symptoms may not be limited to anger but may also include anxiety, irritability, and rage. A person may feel overwhelmed by their thoughts and feelings. Some individuals may experience difficulty managing or organizing their thoughts or even have thoughts of hurting themselves or others. Getting upset and saying bad words every once in a while doesn’t necessarily mean that you have difficulty controlling your anger or emotional volatility, as anger is a normal emotion that everyone may feel from time to time. When assessed by a mental health professional, they may look for physical and emotional signs of anger along with behavioral patterns, such as a sudden change, to determine an anger disorder diagnosis. Recognizing that your anger might be volatile may include violent or excessive bouts of anger occurring spontaneously and regularly. You may even act like it’s never your fault and blame others for it.

Physical symptoms of anger may be present in many individuals, and they may not realize the symptoms are caused by anger. These symptoms cause changes in the body that could lead to increased health risks when left untreated. Known anger-related symptoms include headaches, tingling, rising blood pressure, tightness in the chest, head or sinus pressure, and fatigue.

Unresolved anger issues increase the risk of anxiety and may create short and long-term effects. Symptoms, in this case, may include muscle pain and tension, dizziness, poor memory and concentration, headaches, nausea, and rapid breathing. Chronic sleep disorders, stroke, and memory loss may also result from volatile anger issues along with frequent relationship issues.

Causes And Risk Factors

Anger triggers may include a person, a situation, a personal issue, or an event from the past or present. Substance misuse is often a common factor in anger that is volatile. Research shows that men are more likely to display related symptoms to volatile anger. Some individuals may show symptoms of volatile anger during childhood or as a teenager. Genetics, living environments, and a history of mental health concerns are other possible contributing risk factors that can point to the development of it.

The cause of this form of anger is unknown but there are elements that may explain or contribute to its existence. People may have lived at home with others who didn’t know how to control their emotions, and/or where physical and verbal abuse occurred. Children who were exposed to abusive or violent situations may display related traits of anger problems as they grow older and continue to act out. A chemical imbalance in the brain is also a suspected cause of anger issues. Some individuals who experience difficulties with anger may also have differences in brain chemistry and function compared to others without anger problems.

Individuals who experience volatile or irrational anger may be more at risk of self-harm or hurting others during an episode of this irrational anger. These strong emotions may result in the individual acting out in behaviors that may cause property damage, trouble with personal relationships, or violent acts committed against themselves or others. Mental health experts suggest this form of anger should never be acceptable.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any kind of abuse, it’s important to seek help right away. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available for support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is completely free. Help can be reached by calling 800.799.SAFE (7233) or online chat.

As A Co-Occurring Disorder - Is There Any Overlap With Other Disorders?

People expressing anger in a volatile way may set off a wave of rage within minutes of being triggered. When this form of anger is persistent, it may be a warning sign of an anger-related mental disorder. These include:

  • Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED):When a person is known to have at least three explosive episodes of anger. Examples include breaking objects, road rage, temper tantrums, and/or physical abuse.
  • Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD): Extreme emotional episodes of temper outbursts, irritability, and anger. People may be angry every day with short-tempered moods and experience severe verbal or physical outbursts. Children are diagnosed with DMDD more often than adults.
  • Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD): Behavior and moods are severely unstable, and individuals may display reckless, impulsive behaviors with difficulties controlling emotions. People may experience unstable relationships with others. BPD exists on a spectrum; not all with BPD may experience issues relating to anger specifically.

Some anger disorders or issues mentioned above may also be accompanied by anxiety disorders or depression. People may also display suicidal behaviors or have thoughts of suicide.

How Daily Living Situations Are At Risk - What You Can Do To Try And Be Safe

There may be an increased chance of experiencing angry outbursts when anger and depression symptoms mix, or when someone is having difficulties controlling their moods and their sense of judgment is clouded. Alcohol and substance misuse may become an issue along with health risks such as heart disease, diabetes, and ulcers. As mentioned previously, people may choose to hurt themselves intentionally when they feel like they are angry at the world around them. Interpersonal relationships may be deeply affected when an individual experiences issues with their anger. Angry behaviors and their words may lead to strained or broken relationships with friends and family and may involve verbal or physical fights among others. Volatile anger can make situations in work or school environments difficult with complications that may result in job loss or suspension from school due to explosive behaviors and an inability to remain calm and focus

Daily responsibilities may be difficult for individuals with emotional issues related to anger. However, it is possible for an individual with anger issues to improve their situation when acknowledging that they have anger issues and their words affect others, recognizing the difficulty in controlling emotions and if they have a willingness to put in the effort to seek support from friends, family, and a professional. It may be hard to admit when help is needed but it is available when an individual is ready to start the process.

Living with volatile anger can have unhealthy consequences and may lead to actions and behaviors that are damaging others and oneself. Taking action to live better includes knowing how to handle situations that upset you by staying calm, showing empathy, choosing your words carefully, and finding the right resources to promote prevention.

Treatment And Prevention

The right treatment methods may prevent anger-fueled situations from getting out of control by feeling calmer and more in control. Treatment options for anger issues may include prescribed medicines, group therapy, individual counseling, anger management therapies, and other suggested options as recommended by mental health professionals. Before taking any medications, it is important to consult a medical professional first.

Additionally, there are other techniques and actions you can do to learn how to gain control of your emotions and prevent any negative consequences or behaviors that may be a result of anger. Here are suggested prevention measures that may be helpful.

  • It's important to be consistent with your treatment. Whatever becomes a part of your treatment, such as therapy sessions, prescribed medications, practicing management skills, etc., do your best to stick with it to encourage lasting results. It may help to ask a trusted friend or family to help you be accountable and check in on your progress.
  • Learn healthy ways to relax. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing may encourage your body to be in a calmer state.
  • Journaling may be an effective tool that can help you relax and practice mindfulness but also allows you to record and assess your thoughts. This may help you become aware of any patterns or triggers you may have related to your anger.
  • Improving your thinking, also known as cognitive restructuring, may change negative thought patterns and help turn them into positive ones to encourage reasonable logic when perceiving expectations and how you react to events. Compatible methods may help prevent thinking the worst will happen while keeping things realistic and healthier. Sometimes, the situations that upset you don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
  • Plan solutions via problem-solving. Make a plan to help address problems that frustrate you. You may not know a solution yet but having a plan keeps your energy focused in a positive and constructive direction. Learning how to improve problem-solving skills can help with this process.
  • Improve communication skills. It may help to practice the pause and think about your responses to others before you decide to speak. It may also help to practice active listening and take time to process what is spoken before reacting and speaking in-the-moment.
  • Make changes to your surroundings. Does your environment encourage negative emotions? If you can healthily avoid things that upset you, do so. Leave the situation when things get intense and set boundaries for yourself to help manage the things that upset you. Make time for yourself in a comfortable setting to help deal with stress and take care of yourself.
  • Avoid substances or alcohol that may alter your mood or behaviors.
  • Engage in activities that boost your mood. Productive activities, such as exercising, naturally improve your mood while promoting the production of “feel good” hormones.

Prevention measures include implementing self-improvement measures to achieve a favorable outcome for mental and emotional health goals. However, it may help to identify the signs and symptoms of volatile anger. There are management strategy techniques to practice preventing emotions from escalating if you are feeling angry at a given time. Overcoming anger and staying calm in different situations may take time and focus. Addressing the matter at hand through recognizing what causes emotions and how to control them are significant areas of achievable self-awareness that can help get you on the road to recovery. Feeling angry from time to time is a normal emotion, but when anger begins to interfere with your daily life and relationships it may be an issue that needs to be resolved and managed.

Therapy Can Be A Healing Way To Cope With Volatile Anger

If you’re curious about BetterHelp, it will probably help to have more information on online therapy. While it may seem like a newer idea, a lot of research has already been done surrounding the effectiveness of online therapy. One of the techniques we mentioned above is cognitive restructuring. In fact, cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most common types of talk therapy and has been studied quite a bit by researchers. In a recent article, HuffPost broke down if online therapy works and included several studies that indicate that CBT is just as effective online as it is in person. Feelings of anger can be healthy and sometimes can be beneficial and used as a motivator that can constructively promote change. Using online resources such as anger assessments, online therapy, and other emotional health tools along with working with a professional counselor or mentor may help you see things from a productive perspective to encourage better understanding and management of your emotions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about treatment options for anger. If you suspect volatile anger or similar anger concerns are affecting your life or possibly a friend or family, there is support available online and through local agencies providing support for mental health initiatives.

Here are real reviews by individuals experiencing similar concerns who received help from a BetterHelp counselor:

“France is an outstanding counselor. She is easy to talk to and expertly balances support with challenge. I had tried counseling once before with poor results and was extremely hesitant to try it again. As a man, there is a lot of pressure against seeking counseling. France made it easy for me to overcome that hurdle and working with her has played a key role in a significant improvement in my quality of life. I appreciate her abilities more than she knows. I cannot recommend her highly enough.”

“I’ve always been skeptical regarding feeling a sense of security and understanding with a therapist. BetterHelp is new to me, though Victor has been nothing but understanding and thoroughly honest. He puts me to work in the best way, though I, myself, am still learning to be committed — his patience, sincerity and expertise forces me to truly reflect and take accountability for how I choose to think, feel, react and respond. I’m very happy with how our sessions have gone, and continue to look forward to them.”

Below are some commonly asked questions on this topic:

What causes a volatile personality?

What is emotionally volatile?

How do you deal with a highly volatile person?

Why are my emotions so volatile?

What is a volatile person like?

What is a volatile woman?

What is volatile anger?

How can you tell if someone is emotionally damaged?

What is an unstable person?

What are the signs of an angry person?

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