What To Do When You Have Anger Issues
By: Sarah Fader
Updated February 05, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC
Sometimes We Can't Control Our Anger
When you have a temper, it may be difficult to admit there's a problem. You might find yourself going from zero to 100. You were calm, and then your partner (or someone else) said something that triggered you. You snap, say something incredibly hurtful and feel guilty, or maybe worse. Many people struggle with their anger, and there are ways to cope.
Getting Angry Doesn't Make You A Bad Person
Anger, according to the American Psychological Association, is intense antagonism towards something or someone who you believe did you wrong. Left uncontrolled, anger can be a problem. You might be struggling to manage your temper. You may be at a loss as to how to express your feelings and let people know you're mad. You try to explain your feelings calmly, and all of a sudden, you find yourself snapping and saying some unkind words. You blame your partner for not acknowledging your value or appreciating your point. You may even engage in name-calling or put-downs because you're so mad. You don't mean to hurt them. It's not that you don't appreciate them. It's the fact that they're not giving you what you need. That can really hurt (even if that's difficult to admit). Your angry outburst doesn't make you a bad person. It means that you need to develop coping skills to manage a complex emotion.
"A professional therapist can help guide you through understanding your anger and on to making changes that positively impact your quality of life."
Approximately one in 10 Americans have severe anger issues. More than seven percent of the United States population has experienced what is known as intermittent explosive disorder, an anger condition that is recognized by psychologists. By these statistics, you can tell that many people have anger issues, and many helpful resources to manage anger have emerged as a result. Some people find that going to anger management groups helps them. Talking with people who have similar problems enables them to learn tips and coping skills. Others find that individual counseling helps them. Whether you're seeing a counselor in your local area or working with a therapist online, anger issues are manageable with the right therapy and treatment. Online counseling can be an excellent place to discuss your anger problems, get to the root of them, and start learning how to express anger appropriately.
BetterHelp Counselors Can Help with Anger Management Skills
If you don't know how to express your anger, you're not the only one. The counselors at BetterHelp have worked with many clients with similar experiences. Counselors have taught clients how to learn the source of their anger, gain emotional insight, and start to express their emotions productively. Anger is a healthy emotion. If you can communicate it productively, it will help you strengthen your relationships with others. You might feel angry at your parents. You may think they don't understand your life choices and you don't know how to tell them without snapping or exploding. You can talk to your counselor at BetterHelp about grounding techniques. You don't have to let anger control you.
A mixture of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and self-relaxation methods have been shown to effectively treat those who struggle to control their anger. In a study published in 2008, researchers assessed test subjects’ aggression, anger, and other related symptoms before therapy, during, and after. The intervention was found to significantly reduce these anger symptoms, and even bring down the average levels of depression in the group. The researchers checked in again after three months and found that the effects had held.
Licensed online therapists at BetterHelp.com can talk with you about your anger issues and assess their severity all from the comfort of your home or a safe space. When you accomplish those goals, you can live a happier, more productive and connected life. For those who succeed in overcoming their anger issues, the effort is well worth the results. You can learn to manage it and express it healthily. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors.
“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!”
“Absolutely brilliant! He helped me out of a pretty dark place and was nothing but helpful! For men who are looking for a counselor who understands what it is like to be a man in today's world with a family, with kids and responsibilities, job, etc, I was extremely impressed with his ability to get down to it and understand what I was talking about. He's great at getting to the root of the issue too. No need to slog through 8,000 words to find out what point he's trying to make. He has a knack for asking exactly the right question in about 2-3 sentences. If you're looking for a counselor who isn't the typical counselor, he's your guy!”
Recognizing Anger Issues
Anger problems can make you feel isolated from others, dissatisfied with life, and completely misunderstood. When you have a difficult time dealing with your anger, it can be hard to accomplish what you want to do or develop the relationships you would like to have. Yet, the person who has anger issues doesn't always recognize the source of their difficulty. They may think others are at fault for pushing their buttons or even feel that the universe is against them.
Yet, realizing that the problem lies in how you choose to deal with your anger can be very freeing. Knowing what is actually happening can help you feel more in tune with yourself. Understanding that you can take charge of your responses can help you deal with the uncomfortable emotions surrounding your anger. And, once you can honestly say the words "I have anger issues," you can begin the work of overcoming them.
Doesn't Everyone Have Anger Problems?
Anger is a natural emotion that everyone experiences. Life doesn't always go the way we want it to, and when it doesn’t, we may become angry. Even those who say they never feel anger usually do have it without realizing it. They just have a different way of experiencing it.
Although nearly everyone feels the emotion, not everyone has problems with anger. After all, anger can be a strong motivator to succeed or to work toward a better life. A feeling of righteous anger has fueled many of our great world leaders who have spoken out against social injustices. Their passion for their cause was often rooted in anger over social attitudes or policies.
There's a huge difference between feeling anger and having anger issues. When you don't know how to control your anger, you can end up wrecking relationships, failing at your job or even ending up in jail. The first thing you have to do to resolve your anger problems is to see them clearly by recognizing the various symptoms of anger issues.
Anger Symptoms and Signs of Anger Issues
You may be very aware of problems in the way you deal with anger. However, it's also important to define the problem clearly. Singling out each of the signs of anger issues you experience can set you on a better path toward managing your anger appropriately. Here are some of the most common anger symptoms:
- Being easily irritated
- Calling others demeaning, rude, or profane names
- Showing no patience for others
- Going rapidly from calm to furious
- Blaming others for all your life problems
- Isolating yourself when you feel angry
- Being sarcastic when it isn't funny
- Becoming enraged over insignificant things
- Criticizing others or trying to make them feel small
- Destroying your property or the property of others as a response to anger
- Noticing that people seem afraid of you often
- Physically abusing others
- Getting into physical fights often
- Threatening others
- Yelling to get your point across
- Racing thoughts
- A burst of energy
- A tingling sensation
- Chest tightness or heart palpitations when you feel angry
- Being forgetful
These symptoms cover the range from passive anger to explosive anger. If you notice any of these signs consistently, you probably need to reevaluate your responses and find more productive ways to deal with this emotion, like going for a walk outside.
Mental Health Issues That May Worsen Anger
There are many different types of mental health problems that can make controlling anger worse. While mental health problems don't excuse an angry outburst, they do explain them. If you have mental health issues that worsen anger, it's important you be able to lessen your anger before it controls you. You may think that anger and identity in regard to mental health can't be separated, but this is not always the case.
Here are some common mental health issues.
Bipolar disorder is associated with mania and depression. In other words, the condition brings about intense feelings of euphoria and sadness. You may think that, because of this, bipolar disorder doesn't involve much anger. However, bipolar disorder, particularly the depressive side, may lead to irritability, which can lead to anger. These angry feelings may be noticed by others. If you have bipolar disorder, managing your anger is important. Seek a therapist who specializes in bipolar disorder treatment.
Substance abuse can definitely lead to symptoms of anger. If you drink alcohol, you may become an angry person when you're drunk. This anger problem may just grow with time, leading to you to express your anger in toxic ways. Other drugs may make you angry as well. You may not just be angry at the world, but angry at yourself as well for succumbing to the drugs. Find a treatment for your drug addiction, and it should help control your anger, too.
Eating disorders can make you angry. It isn't just extreme weight loss or weight gain that are the warning signs of an eating disorder. Eating disorders may make you feel angry at yourself for how you look, or angry at society for how it expects you to look. If you have any eating disorders, you should seek help, if not for the physical symptoms alone.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder
Oppositional defiant disorder, which we will talk about a bit later, occurs in children and early adolescents. A child or teen questioning authority and disobeying can happen, but ODD is more severe. A child may have extreme anger and if you have it, you cannot control your anger at authority.
While we know anger occurs in depression, anxiety is another disorder that may lead to symptoms of anger. When you have anxiety, you may have physical symptoms that make you feel uncomfortable, and you may feel anger because you can't control them. Anger is normal in anxiety, and it's important you learn relaxation techniques not just for your anger, but for your anxiety too.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, may give you some symptoms of anger. Someone with ADHD may have a hard time keeping their emotions together, leading to anger symptoms such as outbursts. It may be hard to keep the anger under control when there is an outburst. Learning to control one's ADHD is how you treat it, and a mental health professional may be able to help.
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
In BPD, anger is normal. However, it's not just anger. BPD can lead to difficulty regulating any emotion, and as a result, you may hold on to a normal emotion for a long time. If something makes you justifiably angry, your thought patterns may stick to that and be unable to let go. These emotional symptoms will drive you up the wall, but it feels like there's nothing you can do. It's important you see a mental health professional about this. A mental health professional can help you regulate your emotions and help with any anger and aggression you may feel.
Intermittent Explosive Disorder
This disorder is categorized by intense, angry outbursts that have no warning signs whatsoever. Because of the lack of warning signs, many people have a hard time controlling and expressing anger.
This is one of the most terrifying anger mental disorders because the outbursts and chronic anger are sudden. Besides impacting your relationships, few people feel sympathetic towards someone who is always angry. They may see the person as someone who has bad anger management problems and is too lazy to find a treatment, but managing anger is difficult with IED. It leads to relationship issues, physical symptoms like increased blood pressure, and possibly getting you in trouble with the law.
Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder
This disorder is sometimes known as passive anger. It is one of the calmer anger disorders, but a person with passive anger only knows how to show their chronic anger through passive means. Someone may sound always sarcastic and will show their passive anger through underhanded means like deliberately making mistakes and procrastinating. Their thought patterns make it difficult for them to express anger in a direct way and show a normal emotion. Passive anger is just a toxic way to show anger, impacting your relationships and it makes expressing your feelings harder.
If you live with this disorder, you may need to reevaluate your responses and find more productive ways to deal with your emotions, like going for a walk outside.
Self-Testing For Anger Problems
You may look at the list of symptoms above and feel no connection with any of the items. Sometimes, taking an anger issues quiz can help you get more in touch with how you perceive and respond to anger. You can find such quizzes online to take directly or to view in PDF form, print, and fill out by hand. When you take them online, they are scored for you. The ones you view in PDF form have scoring charts so you can score them yourself.
Here is an anger issues test you can take online. This quiz describes a situation and asks how angry it would make you feel. Another anger test is available here, and its purpose is also to see how easily you are provoked to anger. While anger management can help you lessen overblown feelings, it's also crucial to learn how to deal with anger when you feel it. This test for anger issues also has questions about how you behave when you're angry. The bottom line is that if you are concerned about your anger management issues, they might be worth looking into whether any test reveals them or not.
Anger Management For Adults
Once you have a better understanding of the severity of your anger problem, the next step is to learn anger management techniques you can use to get better control of your feelings. To manage your anger better, you need to learn how to recognize that you're angry and how angry you are. You also need to identify your anger triggers and formulate new ways to respond to them. Finally, you need to learn better ways to react when your anger takes you by surprise.
There are many things that can trigger anger. Triggers are events, people, places, or memories that can cause a sudden emotion, and anger symptoms are definitely one of those emotional symptoms. Here are a few anger triggers.
Personal Space Violation
There are some people who just don't know how to keep their space to themselves.
You may see this a lot with strangers and older people, where touching may be more acceptable. However, for you, when someone violates your personal space, it may set off physical and emotional symptoms such as anger and aggression. While we should all respect each other's boundaries, you need to establish boundaries as well, rather than going off on everyone who disrespects them.
With our world becoming so connected and with the political climate the way it is, anger symptoms over injustice are becoming a normal emotion.
Anger, in this context, can be very righteous. Someone who has angry emotional symptoms over an injustice may try to make a change, and that's a good way of expressing your anger. Support groups angry over an injustice in the world can lead to a great change. However, injustice anger becomes a problem when you don't know how to express your anger in a proper way. You may end up showing your anger in a way that is verbally or physically abusive and ends up impacting your relationships.
No one likes being lied to, even if it’s a little white lie. Anyone of a normal emotional intelligence will feel angry over being lied to. But again, it's all about how you show your anger. Being verbally or physically abusive towards someone who lied to you, even if you feel that your anger towards them is justified, will land you in trouble. It's important you learn anger management tips when you are lied to. For example, calmly express why the lie hurt you the way it did.
Always Being Disappointed
In life, there are many ways to express disappointment, including through anger.
Often, the disappointment causing your anger is because of bad luck and a series of disappointments. Your friends or dates keep canceling on you. You never heard back from that job you applied to. You always have financial issues every time there's a concert you want to go to. It would make anyone want to snap, and it's not good for your emotional health.
However, always being angry is not the best option for handling your disappointments. This will just lead to a cycle of depression and anger. Seeking anger management treatment and learning why these disappointments happen is the better move. You can strengthen your relationships with the people who do care, or make better financial planning. A therapist can help.
If someone is angry at you, you may be angry back. You may be someone of strong emotional intelligence, but if there is someone acting unreasonably mad at you, all bets can be off. They may seem to be the one who needs anger management classes. You may be diplomatic at first, but when they are still being unreasonable, your anger disorder might kick in. Your heart rate increases, you have muscle tension, and you go off on the other person. No matter who started it, it's important you don't stoop down to their level.
You Just Don't Like Someone
Sometimes, you may have anger issues symptoms just because you don't like someone. Seeing this person makes you angry. Sometimes, you just don't know why. You don't know why this person makes your anger disorder flare up. However, you do need to figure out why you don't like a certain person, and figure out if it's because of an underlying mental health condition. If you do have to be around this person, seeking anger management treatment is a good move.
You can learn all these things through individual counseling or in an anger management program. The benefit of going to a group therapy anger management session is that it gives you a chance to practice different responses to anger in a non-threatening environment. Individual therapy is extremely beneficial, too, especially if you find it hard to pinpoint your anger issues. You also have more time to deal with your unique anger management issue. It may be due to an underlying mental health condition, and anger management treatment may help with your mental health as well. Research shows that healthy living and strong mental health is key.
Do Children Ever Have Anger Disorders?
When someone reacts inappropriately to situations and people that make them angry, we may say they are childish. After all, children typically have limited experience in dealing with their anger. However, a child's anger can get so far out of control that it becomes a serious problem for everyone concerned.
One of the anger issues in the field of child psychology is Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Children who have this condition become enraged when they have to comply with any authority. When a child has ODD, they may rebel, go against rules, blame others, and annoy the people around them.
The child's problem may not be with authorities, though. They could act out in anger toward another child or a pet. In these cases, the anger needs to be dealt with immediately to prevent the child from harming someone.
Solving Children's Anger Problems
Anger issues in children need to be addressed as early and as competently as possible. Parents whose children have anger management problems can seek therapy for their child as well as advice from a professional to teach them how to respond to their child's behaviors. Parents may be too close to their child to be objective, and the consequences of not learning how to manage their anger can follow children for their entire lives. The best solution is to seek help in dealing with your child's anger issues. Although seeking help can cause some guilt or shame on the parents' part, by doing so, you are actually being the best parents possible and using the most effective and helpful resources out there. You shouldn't feel guilty for having your child's best interests at heart. If others in your social circle make judgments, then they are not concerned with your child's sense of happiness, and not worth your worry.
Preventing Future Anger Issues
Whether you are facing your own anger issues or dealing with those of your child, the most critical part of the process is preventing anger problems in the future. You can learn from the past, but you can't relive it. A therapist can test you and make a clinical diagnosis if you have an anger disorder. They can identify your anger problems and label them clearly. They can help you understand anger better and teach you techniques for softening your angry emotions. They can teach you how to control anger issues with appropriate thoughts and behaviors. The more you learn, the better prepared you will be to prevent anger management problems in the future.
Do You Need Help Dealing With Your Anger?
Your uncontrolled rage can affect you and those around you. It can derail your chances of success in work and in relationships. It can make you feel like the world is a horrible place and that living is unpleasant. Even if anger is a problem for you now, you don't have to give in to a life of upset and failure.
Making the decision to learn how to deal with anger issues may be your most positive first step toward feeling more at peace, having better relationships and reaching your career goals. A professional therapist can help guide you through understanding your anger and on to making changes that positively impact your quality of life. They can offer you emotional support as you tackle what may be your life's greatest challenge - controlling your anger.
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