Anger Problems

by Harley Therapy
Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Are you experiencing uncontrollable rage? Do you feel like you have no control over your emotions? Are your moods disrupting your relationships, career, mental and physical health, and ability to achieve goals?

When is anger an issue?

Anger is a healthy human emotion. Strong feelings of annoyance or displeasure are often felt in response to feeling that either you, others you care about or your property are under threat. Like any emotion though, anger can be dealt with poorly or allowed to swing out of control. This can include disruptions to your relationships, career, mental and physical health, and ability to achieve goals.

Most people feel angry sometimes, but if it's affecting your daily life, you may need to take steps to address how you are managing your anger. If you have an uncontrollable temper, it may feel like there's nothing you can do. But this is not true. You can learn to control your anger. It takes time and commitment and often requires professional help, but the results of learning anger management can be life-changing.

Anger can be useful in giving us a warning that when we need to be alert or solve a problem so that we protect ourselves and make necessary changes in our lives.

Not everyone with anger issues experiences an uncontrollable temper. Sometimes anger might be experienced as ongoing irritation and repressed anger can be just as damaging, and just as much of an issue for your mental health.

If you are unable to manage your anger turning into rage and violence, it's important you immediately seek help. Your behaviour could hurt you and those around you, and sometimes these symptoms can be a sign of another mental health condition.

Domestic abuse is often linked to anger issues, but it's important to know the difference. While an abuser might exhibit rage, abusive behaviour is not just uncontrollable anger. Abuse is a conscious decision by someone or a group of people to control. Anger management does not solve domestic abuse, which requires specialised treatment. If you are the perpetrator or victim of domestic abuse and need help, call one of the hotlines listed at the bottom of this post.

What are the symptoms of anger?

  • faster heartbeat
  • muscle tensing
  • tightness in your chest
  • feeling hot
  • feeling nervous
  • being unable to relax
  • feeling easily irritated
  • resenting other people
  • shouting
  • ignoring people
  • physical aggression
  • breaking things
  • self-harming

What is Anger Management Therapy?

Since anger in itself is an emotion that everyone experiences at times, it is not anger itself that is an issue, but rather how one manages it that can become a problem.

Anger management involves learning how to handle your anger in a way that is productive and doesn't harm you or others so that you can make positive changes in your life. It can involve recognising your triggers for anger, knowing the signs you are getting angry, and then being able to take actions that help you not react in unhelpful ways.

Anger management is helpful for anyone who finds it difficult to express their upset with a person or situation in a way that is not harmful or counterproductive to themselves or others. It is useful for anyone whose anger has caused them problems in their life. It can benefit both those who struggle with constant feelings of anger and those who repress their anger and then have sporadic outbursts.

What are the signs of an anger problem?

  • feeling frustrated and annoyed on a daily basis
  • something that seems small or that doesn't upset others can send you into a rage
  • avoiding certain people or places because you can't control your anger around them
  • your anger has gotten you into trouble at work or caused problems in your relationships
  • you have had a run-in with the law because of your temper
  • you have violently attacked objects, such as kicking a car or smashing dishes
  • you have a tendency to verbally abuse others or have bullied and intimidated others
  • you have engaged in physical violence against animals or other people

Possible signs of a problem with repressed anger:

  • the tendency to avoid conflict or others when you feel are too emotional
  • rarely showing anger but when you do, it is explosive
  • experiencing irritation easily
  • struggling with addictive behaviour
  • suffering muscle tension, insomnia, nervous habits such as lip biting or constant colds and flu can sometimes be linked to anger
  • feeling the need to be in control
  • hiding behind sarcasm or apathy
  • difficulties saying ‘no’ and setting boundaries

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What causes an anger issue?

Often anger issues can be learned behaviour in response to what you were taught about anger and emotions when growing up. If you were a child who watched adults yell and throw things at each other you may be more likely to grow up an adult with anger issues. Growing up with no emotions exhibited or allowed in your household can also cause issues in being able to healthily express anger.

Anger problems can also be triggered by circumstances, such as traumatic experiences including abuse, crime, and other events that leave you feeling powerless or just under too much stress.

Therapy for anger and other treatments

In the UK, you might be recommended by your GP to an anger management programme. Such programmes aim to help individuals change the way they deal with anger. It can take place over several months and may involve working in a group, as well as meeting weekly with a counsellor for a private session. Sometimes there are also one-day workshops or weekend courses included.

In all cases, some counselling, therapy or psychotherapy for anger is recommended. Anger issues develop over the years and usually have roots in childhood. It's important to have a safe, supportive environment to learn to understand your anger, spot your triggers, and learn new ways of expressing your emotions.

CBT therapy is sometimes recommended for anger. This is a type of psychotherapy that helps you learn to recognise the thoughts you have that trigger emotions and physical reactions, then helps you learn to take charge of your thoughts and choices.

Psychodynamic psychotherapy can also be helpful given that anger issues usually have connections to childhood experiences. Unlike CBT, this therapy does not involve structured exercises or homework and instead focuses on exploring the roots of your anger and in this way overcoming your issues and processing the anger you feel.

How can I manage my anger better?

Work towards recognising the signs that you are about to become angry. Anger is linked to the primal 'fight or flight' response. Recognising these physical cues will give you a chance to make the choice to remove yourself from the situation until you are more able to think through your reactions. Consider if you notice any bodily sensations before your anger is in full flow, such as feeling hot, the tension in your face or hands, or your heartbeat increasing.

Find out what soothes you. This is different for everyone. This might be running, dancing, boxing, meditating, listening to music; it is different for everyone. Test and learn what best help you. Use techniques that are not harmful to you.

Learn 'emergency' techniques to cool down. Whether this is deep breathing, counting to ten, or focussing on a part of your body that feels tense, such as shoulders, and relaxing them. Find what works for you and start to use it.

Educate yourself on ways to express emotions constructively. Investigate how to recognise different emotions and communicate them in ways that are helpful rather than counterproductive. If you grew up in an environment where anger was expressed out of control or repressed entirely, you can choose to learn better-coping techniques now, as an adult. Whether this is online resources, self-help books, local support groups, or therapy, take the first step.

Start questioning your anger. It's hard to change something we don't understand, and often people just assume they are angry and that's all there is to it. Start really examining what is happening each time you feel upset. What is it that you are really angry at? When did the angry feeling really begin, was it several hours earlier, a day ago? Who are you really angry at, is it the person you are yelling at or someone else you dare not have words with? The more you question your anger, the more you can start to understand and control it instead of letting it control you.

Consider mindfulness. Mindfulness is a useful technique now used by many psychotherapists and counsellors to help one live in the present moment and be more aware of how you are really feeling.

Contact a professional therapist specialising in anger. Therapists can offer techniques and a safe space to figure out what causes your anger and how to channel your anger positively.

A qualified, professional therapist will work with you to examine your thoughts and behaviours and improve how you feel. You will build a relationship based on trust, giving you the confidence to share your feelings and emotions with them. Your counsellor will listen to all that you have to share with empathy and openness.

An experienced therapist or counsellor like those listed on the Harley Therapy platform can help you to manage your symptoms and find your own way forward.

Filter our qualified, professional and vetted therapists by cost, location, availability and approach so you can find and book the best therapist or counsellor for you here. Or find a therapist to help with Anger below.

Useful phone numbers:

Support Line UK 01708 765200

Young Minds Parent Hotline (for parents dealing with angry or violent children or teens) 0808 802 5544

Respect (for perpetrators of domestic violence) 0808 802 4040

England National Domestic Violence Helpline 0808 200 0247

Scotland Domestic Abuse Helpline 0800 027 1234

Wales Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 801 0800

Northern Ireland Domestic Violence Helpline 0800 917 1414

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