What Is Anger? Definition & Psychology Behind This Emotion

By: Gabrielle Seunagal

Updated February 09, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC

Anger is defined as "a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility." It's important to note that anger is a normal, universal human emotion. There are a series of instances and events in life which can cause someone to become angry. Typically, anger arises when someone feels threatened, disturbed, or otherwise interrupted from a peaceful emotional state. Anger can also be combined with other emotions, such as jealousy, sadness, or hopelessness.

You Don't Have To Feel Powerless To Your Anger
Gain Control Over Your Emotions With Online Therapy
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There are many misconceptions surrounding anger. One of the most common misconceptions is that anger is a bad emotion. Anger isn't a bad emotion; however, when someone isn't able to manage their anger in an appropriate way, bad things can happen. To date, there are countless stories of people losing relationships, careers and even their lives because of the way they handled their anger.

Psychology Of Anger

Understanding the psychology of anger will provide a lot of insight into this emotion and what it's truly all about. First and foremost, the American Psychology Association states that anger is generated towards a person or thing which one perceives as having wronged them in one way or another. Anger is not always negative, though; it can sometimes serve as inspiration for people to take action or overcome certain fears.

Of course, there are some negatives associated with anger, particularly if this emotion is ongoing or recurring for very long periods. Anger can lead to damaged relationships, lower quality of life, and even health issues, such as higher blood pressure and other tolls on a person's mental and physical health. The negative aftereffects which are associated with repeated and ongoing anger are reasons why controlling anger is so important.

Controlling Anger

Anger may be an inevitable emotion which humans feel from time to time, but this doesn't mean that we are powerless to control it. By having a grasp on anger, we can ensure that this emotion doesn't fester and become strong enough to control us. Believe it or not, one of the first steps towards controlling anger is acknowledging its existence. Many people have issues with admitting that they are angry; this is especially problematic because no issue can be fixed or dealt with until it's at least addressed.

You never want to be in a position where you find yourself unable to control feelings of anger. Being in this place means that anger has controlled you, which is only a recipe for disaster. When someone is unable to control their anger, they tend to lash out and otherwise do things which they will regret later. Anger is not an inherently bad emotion, but when anger controls you instead of you controlling it, this is when danger arrives.

Thankfully, there are a multitude of ways in which you can control your anger. First comes acknowledging the fact that you are angry. This may sound absurdly basic, but there is a stunning amount of people who refuse even to admit how they're feeling. This is especially problematic because no issue can be resolved unless it's first acknowledged. No matter how annoyed, agitated or angry you're feeling, it's important to remember to acknowledge the way you feel.

Once you've acknowledged feelings of anger, you can then begin to assess them. Why are you angry? What's bothering you? Is your anger a result of feeling threatened or scared? In most scenarios, it won't be that difficult to know why you are angry. When people experience feelings of anger, there is almost always a person, event, decision or another trigger which sets them off.

There are so many other strategies which can be used to manage anger—deep breathing, removing yourself from the situation, and even making certain lifestyle changes, if necessary. Of course, certain solutions are better than others, but there are deeper ways of managing and controlling your anger. Ultimately, these deeper methods each involve getting to the root of your anger, and in many cases, this is easier said than done.

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The Root Of Anger

Understanding the root of your anger makes all the difference. Anger can be a very complex emotion and sometimes, it's an aftereffect of previous issues which haven't been resolved. There are many situations when people resort to anger to conceal emotions which may make them feel more vulnerable, such as sadness, jealousy or disappointment. In other scenarios, ongoing anger may serve as a manifestation of an underlying problem from a long time ago or even childhood.

At the end of the day, having a firm grasp on the root of your anger makes all the difference. Sometimes, anger really can be simply the result of a person or situation, but if you are constantly feeling angry, then this is may be indicative of a larger issue. This larger issue could be a poor relationship, a lifestyle choice, a toxic environment, etc. Regardless of what it may be, you're going to need to get to the bottom of it if you are serious about bettering yourself and freeing yourself from habitual anger.


Patterns exist throughout all facets of life. They manifest in relationships, career choices, and so much more. Patterns are also dominant themes in emotional states and feelings. When dealing with anger, it's important to be cognizant of patterns and the roles which they play in your feelings. One of the most revealing things about patterns is that they provide insight into who you are, your choices, and whether certain changes are in order.

If you find that you are constantly feeling angry around certain people or in certain environments, then this is a very negative pattern which requires a change. Remember, people and environments who are good for you will not constantly cause you to feel angry or otherwise unhappy. Sometimes, we must make tough decisions now which allows us to grow and evolve in the long run.

Pitfalls Of Ongoing Anger

The definition and psychology of anger have been explored and well-documented. Even such, there are still many people who fail to realize the pitfalls which are associated with ongoing states of anger and discontentment. Anger can ruin opportunities, destroy families, and prevent people from having experiences which would be good for them and help them grow.

Ongoing anger is not a positive state of being. As the old saying goes, like attracts like. If you are constantly in a state of anger, you will attract additional things to be angry about. The way you feel on a daily, regular basis matters, and it sets the tone for so many things in your life. It determines how you go about life, how others perceive you, the manner in which you interact with people, and so much more. The ultimate pitfall of ongoing anger is robbing yourself of an amazing quality of life which could be available to you.

You Don't Have To Feel Powerless To Your Anger
Gain Control Over Your Emotions With Online Therapy

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If You Struggle With Managing Anger

Being cognizant of patterns, taking note of triggers, and noticing patterns is all well and good. However, there are certain situations where people do their best and yet still struggle to manage their anger. Generally, a person who has trouble with their anger may lash out at others or otherwise behave in self-destructive ways when things aren't working out in the ways which they would like.

The pitfalls of going down this road have already been established which is why anger management therapy can be so helpful. Anger management therapy allows you to work with a professional, get to the bottom of your anger, and deal with this emotion in positive and constructive ways. The goal of anger management is not to eradicate anger as an emotion or to never feel angry. There will always be situations which cause anger, but how you handle them will determine so much.

Sometimes there is shame or stigma attached to the idea of taking anger management courses. Some people feel embarrassed regarding their struggle with controlling themselves when they are angry. Others feel as though they should be able to do it on their own without the guidance of a professional. In different scenarios, the ego is a factor. No matter what it is, the reality is that anger management therapy can prove to be very helpful. Counselors and therapists are in the business of assisting people and getting them on track to living their best lives, not judging them.

Managing Anger With BetterHelp

An increasingly large number of studies suggest that online therapy can help those experiencing complicated feelings related to anger. In a study published in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, a peer-reviewed medical journal, researchers looked at the effects of online therapy for those experiencing problematic anger. They found that participants showed significantly decreased feelings of anger after only a brief treatment. This result is consistent with the findings from numerous recent studies showing that online therapy can help manage symptoms of varied mental health issues. It is widely considered a more accessible form of treatment, as it circumvents many common barriers, including high costs, time and geographical constraints, and perceived stigma.

As outlined above, if you’re experiencing high levels of anger, online counseling can help you work through its sources and triggers. With BetterHelp, you’ll be able to participate in online therapy from the comfort of your home (or wherever you have an internet connection). So, you can attend sessions without the potential stress of dealing with traffic, sitting in a crowded waiting room, or skipping lunch. The qualified mental health professionals at BetterHelp can give you anger management techniques that work. Read below for reviews of counselors, from those who have experienced similar issues.  

Counselor Reviews

“I'm happy I had counseling with Glenn. I used to struggle with anger and trust issues towards my husband when I first talked to Glenn. He listened to me attentively and asked questions delicately and politely. I felt that he cared about my case and really wanted to help me. And he did help me solve my relationship problems. Glenn taught me to forgive, manage conflicts, and express and receive love. Now I enjoy my close and intimate relationship with my loved one, and there's no place for anger and hate in me anymore. Finally I feel understood, supported, happy and calm. And I'm so thankful to Glenn for guiding me there.”

“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!”

In Closing

If you feel as though you are going through a tough time in life, then therapy may prove to be helpful. Whether you're struggling with anger or dealing with another matter entirely, it's important for you to understand that you are not alone. At the end of the day, we all go through tough times, but dealing with them and continuing to push forward is what ultimately matters.

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