The Different Types of Anger

Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Worry that your real problem is secretly anger, even though you always seem so nice? Or concerned about someone you love who tends to be explosive?

There are different types of anger, and some forms are more of an issue than others.

The anger spectrum

Anger as a word is really an umbrella term, used to describe a wide spectrum of reactions to not agreeing with something, and feeling in some way threatened. On one end we have sullen and sarcastic, on the other, aggressive and dangerous.

The different types of anger

Anger might have a bad rap, but it’s certainly popular. You’ll find many, many theories about the different types of anger.

But the ones you’ll usually hear discussed in therapy are:

Healthy anger

So what is healthy anger? Or ‘assertive anger’?

It means when we don’t like something, and feel incensed and upset, we find a constructive way to deal with it that has a positive outcome. So we look at and sit with how we feel, take responsibility for our part in the dispute, then decide what would help.

Healthy anger is positive as it leads to setting needed boundaries. This might be as simple as saying no to someone, or as big as hiring a lawyer.

It also means learning from our anger. We recognise how to not repeat the situation, or ways we need to regulate our own behaviours in future.

Repressed anger

Repressed anger is old, buried anger, often so hidden in our unconscious we don’t realise we are even angry at all. We just feel uncomfortable, anxious, or perhaps just sad.

Often our repressed anger is built of years of difficult experiences. We learned as a child we wouldn’t be accepted if we weren’t ‘nice’ or ‘good’ so we learned to swallow our feelings, and over time we’ve built a big mass of hidden anger.

The trouble comes when a current day experiences touches that mass. We overreact, bringing all our old anger into the present.

Passive aggressive anger.

Passive aggressive anger is when we pretend we aren’t angry even though we know full well we are.

It can result in sulking and being sarcastic, or in things like little punishing behaviours. Criticising the other person, purposely being late to meet them, breaking their things by ‘accident’.


And then there is rage. Anger and rage do have the same birthplace. We don’t agree with something and feel unsettled and upset.

When we are angry, we sit with and manage the feeling in one way or another. As we’ve seen above, this might be positively, by setting boundaries. Or it might be negatively, by becoming passive aggressive.

Rage, on the other hand, is unbridled and unmanaged. We refuse to sit with our feelings but lash out, usually in destructive ways.

Rage is also more of a physical experience. Adrenaline soars, you can feel hyper clarity and even a bit ‘out of body’ or as if you are being ‘taken over’ by something.

In some cases, when rage is out of control and impulsive, it can form part of a disorder.

Rage and mental health disorders

Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) is an American diagnosis, found in their diagnostic manual the DSM. It refers to out to control and sudden outbursts of fury and aggression that can lead to violence.

Conduct disorders are a group of disorders diagnosed in children and teens. This includes oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), with symptoms of defiance, angry outbursts, vindictiveness, and blame.

Rage is also connected to borderline personality disorder (BPD) and bipolar disorder. BPD involves a lack of emotional control, so sufferers can lash out at others before they can stop themselves. With bipolar disorder, mania can cause high irritability that can lead to anger or even violence.

Can therapy help me with anger and rage?

Yes. Therapy helps you look at where you anger and rage stems from, and can teach you positive coping methods.

Time to stop letting anger rule your life? Find a therapist you like now and start gaining control.

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