What Part Of The Brain Controls Anger?

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated April 17, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

What part of the brain controls anger? You may have wondered this if you experience anger frequently, as anger can have a range of emotional and physical symptoms associated with it. Understanding what area of your brain is “activated” during times of intense anger or frustration can help you to feel validated in your experiences, possibly stepping out of the situation to view your experience objectively. 

When we are able to do this, it can be easier to refrain from harsh self-judgements or criticism—possibly empowering those who experience anger to reach a higher quality of life and self-compassion. 

Below, we’re exploring what part of the brain controls anger, different anger-related experiences and possible supportive strategies to consider leveraging as you work through your emotional journey.

Are you experiencing anger?

The structure of the brain

Experts on the brain have divided it up into different regions, all of which are believed to have different roles to play in our cognitive processes. To better understand where the different cognitive processes related to anger may originate, it can help to have a simple working understanding of what each area of the brain can do to possibly contribute to our emotional reactions. We’ve summarized key roles and areas of the brain below for your reference. 

When you think of the brain, for example, you may think of the cerebrum—or more specifically the cerebral cortex. This is generally known as the rough-looking ball of grey matter that many believe makes up the largest portion of the brain. This is the part of the brain that is generally attributed to interpret our incoming sense-related stimuli, initiate motion, process language and make decisions.

Below and to the back of the cerebrum is what many believe to be the cerebellum. This can be a much smaller and darker mass than the cerebral cortex is, and many believe that it is primarily responsible for things like our balance and proprioception.

In front of the cerebellum (but still under the cerebrum) is where many believe that the brain stem lies. The brain stem is generally attributed with the important structural job of connecting the brain to the spinal cord, which is thought to branch into the nerves that can communicate between the brain and rest of your body. It is also believed to be responsible for many of our bodily functions.

Many believe that more intricate structures lie inside the cerebrum, including the amygdala. Centrally located in the brain, the amygdala may be in one of the more strategic positions, allowing many to interpret stimuli and communicate it directly with other coordinated bodily systems. 

This means that some of the most primal emotions—such as the ones that can impact things like your breath and heart rate—are currently believed to be controlled by the amygdala. That includes anger, our sense of danger and fight-or-flight.

How do we know what we know about the brain?

Science is generally thought to evolve over time. The same can be said for our collective understanding of the brain, which has been formed by several key historical events in biology. For example: Many believe that in the middle of the twentieth century, two things happened almost simultaneously that forever changed our understanding of the brain. One of those is the tragic accident of Phineas Gage.

Gage is believed by many to have worked on a railroad when an 1848 accident sent a metal implement through his left cheek and out of the top of his head—possibly crossing right through his brain. Gage is generally recorded to have lived for several years after the accident, despite its severity. Following the accident, Gage’s doctor realized that he had changed. After the accident, Gage was recorded to have  a shorter temper—and he seemed unable to tell right from wrong as he had before. 

Gage’s accident and survival prompted many scientists to then theorize that different areas of the brain may have different functions.  

Eleven years later and across the Atlantic, Charles Darwin published his book On the Origin of Species. The now-famous work generally relied on years of research from Darwin to cement what is now known as the theory of evolution. 

Before Darwin’s theory that suggested that humans evolved from less sophisticated animals, most people were generally thought to have accepted that humans had always existed as they do now—sans change or evolution. While this didn’t necessarily prevent an understanding of how the human body works, Darwin’s theory did facilitate many possible new and interesting questions about where we came from. Many believe that this eventually led to the school of psychological thought that many believe in today, which can be commonly referenced as evolutionary psychology.

What is anger?

Anger is defined by many as an emotion—but emotions can be more complicated than we might give them credit for. This can be especially true for anger due to its possible influence in the amygdala (and subsequent possible physical effects). 

Many emotions (including anger) can be partially caused by chemical messengers in our brains called neurotransmitters.  Different parts of the body release these neurotransmitters (otherwise known by many to be communication agents going to and from the brain) in response to an external stimuli—that is, things that can happen outside of your body. These neurotransmitters can affect how you think and feel, as well as how your body feels and works. In this way, anger isn't just an emotion; it can be a whole biological event for many who live with these feelings.

For example: You may have heard of a stress response or a "fight or flight response." In many, this response can feel as if we have two channels: A “fight” channel and a “flight” channel. The flight channel can be ruled by fear, preparing our body to “fly” far away from a possibly dangerous event. When our bodies are in flight response, you may notice feelings of nervousness, evasion or temperature changes as your blood pressure and circulation shifts to allow you to run fast and far. Alternatively the fight channel can channel similar symptoms, possibly including feelings of anger that can empower your body to successfully overpower a threat.

So, while we might not think of fear and anger as being closely related, they can be considered two sides of the same coin. They're also both generally thought to be housed in the amygdala. 

If you think about how your brain feels when you're angry versus when you're scared, you may consider them to be very different sensations. However, if you think about how your body feels when you're scared versus when you're angry, those sensations then may feel more similar.

What you can do about anger: Supportive strategies 

If anger is just a biological response to external stimuli, you may feel prompted to ask yourself: How is this feeling possibly able to be overcome? 

We do want to note: Anger can be a natural (and even healthy) emotion. However, when felt excessively, it can compromise the quality of your life and well-being. 

For many, the goal isn’t to not feel anger at all. It can be to prevent that anger from controlling you in ways you don’t want it to. 

With this in mind, there can be several strategies that can help you to manage anger healthfully.

Soothing physical exercises 

Just as anger can increase your breath rate, you can regain control of your breathing by deliberately taking slow, deep breaths. You can try this the next time that you feel like anger is taking your breath away, choosing to do a breathing exercise like breathing slowly and deeply in through your nose, holding your breath for just a moment, and exhaling slowly and deeply out of your mouth.

Maintaining internal emotional dialogue

Anger can also be an emotional process as well as physical, and you can reclaim emotional control by referencing your conscious mind over your unconscious mind. 

For example: If you are angry, you might consider asking yourself why. You can ask yourself if the situation or the person in question that you are angry at really deserves it ,or whether your anger is helping you solve a problem. If you can't tell why or don’t believe that the situation calls for anger, that may be enough to make you feel better and elevate your quality of life. It may also give you some idea of where to go next.

Anger psychology and anger management

Anger can be difficult to understand. This can be especially true if the anger starts to feel constant or pervasive. In this case, it may be helpful to voice your concerns in a strategic anger management class. 

Anger management is generally defined as a specific kind of anger therapy that can shift focus from why you might feel angry to what you can do about it instead—possibly elevating your quality of life more efficiently. 

Are you experiencing anger?

How online therapy can support those living with feelings of anger?

Online therapy can help those who are experiencing ongoing feelings of anger, especially if they don’t necessarily feel comfortable or confident in in-person therapeutic settings. Online therapy options such as BetterHelp can directly connect individuals with licensed professional therapists over the internet—possibly providing a more convenient and flexible solution for many. 

If you worry about controlling your anger, or would like to learn more about your emotions and the emotions of others, online therapy can be extremely helpful. Current literature suggests that digital cognitive behavioral therapy can effectively support those who live with a wide array of mental health conditions. The cited study suggested a general symptom decrease that equated to 3.7 quantitative points. With this finding, researchers proposed that positive effects could last long after the 12-week therapy session ended, possibly permanently. 


Anger is generally thought to originate in the amygdala. However, it can also be an emotional and biological response. Breathing exercises, internal dialogue and online therapy can all be helpful steps to take when it comes to managing the experience of anger. BetterHelp can connect you with an online therapist in your area of need.
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