Anger Management

by | Jan 21, 2021 | Blog Post, Experts, Guest Blog Posts, Wellbeing | 0 comments

What is Anger?

It is quite normal for anyone to get angry at times. Everyone gets upset sometimes. The reason for it could be a stranger, a family member, a friend, a colleague, a loved one, or even our own selves. Also, external events and situations such as a political incident, your favorite restaurant being closed when you want to eat, a traffic jam, or a delayed flight/train may make you agitated or furious. It can also be triggered by internal events such as our own feelings, thoughts, and physiological states.

Anger is described as the emotional response that we experience when an internal or external event is perceived as a threat, a violation, or an injustice. Psychologists have suggested that it is our responsibility to adapt as part of our fight-or-flight response, which in turn is thought to help us protect from danger.

While it is a normal human emotion, uncontrolled or misplaced anger can become a concern, and sometimes even a problem, rather quickly. For this reason, mental health professionals provide methods with which we can identify and avoid situations, people, things, and events that might make us angry. They also show us ways to manage anger outbursts that sometimes flare without warning.

Types of Anger

Increased or disproportional experience of anger that is beyond the normal emotional scope can manifest differently for different people. Despite many researches being carried out for decades now, experts are in disagreement on types of anger.

But for the purpose of understanding, some of the widely accepted types of anger are:

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Judgmental anger

It is directed toward other people that may stem from feelings of resentment.

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Overwhelmed anger

It is experienced when a person is not able to adjust and cope with life demands that are too much to handle.

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Self-inflicted anger

It is aimed at one’s self and often results from feelings of guilt.

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Chronic anger

It sustains over a long period of time and can affect one’s health, specifically the immune system. It can also be the cause of other mental health issues.

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Passive anger

It can be difficult to identify as it is not expressed like other forms of anger. People experiencing passive anger do not even realize they are angry. It is mostly displayed as sarcastic comments, mean remarks, apathy, self-defeating behaviors (e.g. distancing family and friends, skipping work, being deliberately careless, being unproductive at work), and self-sabotaging behaviors.

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Aggressive anger

It manifests as retaliatory or volatile anger causing harm to other people and damage to property. It is characterised by occasional and spontaneous bouts of outrageous aggression. People experiencing aggressive anger are usually aware of their anger, however they rarely understand the true cause or root of their emotional experience.

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Assertive anger

It refers to a healthy expression of emotion when anger is appropriately and constructively managed as well as communicated if need be. This is the experience of anger when it is managed effectively.

Causes of Anger

As previously mentioned, anger is the consequence of internal and external events. However, an individual’s immediate environment is attributed to be a leading cause. Other major factors responsible are:

  • Financial issues
  • Unhealthy, toxic, or tense social relations
  • Any form of abuse
  • Stress at home or at work
  • Alcoholism and substance use
  • Atmosphere at home and familial relations
  • Daunting routine with exhausting requirements of time or energy
  • Injustice with self or others
  • Fluctuations in hormone functioning
  • Changes in brain structure and functioning
  • Other mental health problems

Effects of Anger

Intense emotional experiences affect our body and anger is no exception. Prolonged or strong experiences of anger have damaging effects on our physical, psychological, emotional, and social well-being.

Effects on one’s physical health includes tingling sensation, increased blood pressure, heart palpitations, headaches, tightening of the chest, sweating, pressure in the head or sinus cavities, muscle pain and muscle tension, rapid breathing, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue.

Emotional effects include irritability, anxiety, and rage. Anger also leads to psychological effects such as problems with memory and concentration, sleeplessness or disturbed sleep, trouble organizing or managing one’s thoughts, and fantasies about hurting self or others.

In most cases, we express anger in ways that negatively affects the people around us. This causes interpersonal conflicts and develops issues in social relations. A person might develop strained relationships with family, friends, and colleagues as a result of increased expression of anger in the form of mean or rude comments, arguments, conflicts, fights, or a careless demeanor. In worst cases, a person may lose very close and important social bonds due to unhealthy expressions of annoyance.

Strategies to Manage Anger :

Anger is a natural human emotion that often, unfortunately, turns into an unhelpful one based on how we express and manage it. At times there are valid reasons to feel angry because of something hurtful someone did or said, or by being frustrated due to a situation at work or home. However, before diving into ways to manage uncontrolled anger, let’s look at the reasons why managing a powerful emotion like anger is crucial.

  1. Anger sometimes appears out of the blue. It takes everyone by surprise with its intense and sudden expression.
  2. Feelings of anger may be present many times without any clear reason.
  3. It often masquerades, or substitutes for, other difficult feelings like hurt, guilt, fear, shame, frustration, or jealousy.

There are healthy and unhealthy ways of managing anger. Ignoring one’s uncontrolled anger or acting out doesn’t solve problems. If anything, they create them and end up causing harm to ourselves and others.

Following are some effective and healthy ways to manage anger as well as stay calm:

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Don’t dwell

We have a tendency to often keep thinking and re-thinking about the event that made us angry. Doing so is unproductive and unhealthy, especially if the issue has already been resolved. Rather, we can try to let go of the incident that is already in the past. One way to do this is by focusing on things that we appreciate about the situation or the person that made us angry.

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Keeping ourselves in check

It is difficult to make smart decisions when we are overwhelmed by powerful negative emotion. It is better to dig a well before a drought than during a drought. Like the saying, it is better to identify warning signs that we are starting to get annoyed and angry than calming ourselves after getting enraged. Once the signs and triggering events/persons are identified, try to step away from the situation or practice relaxation techniques to prevent feelings of anger from augmenting.

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Practice relaxation

Even simple relaxation techniques can help soothe and calm feelings of rage. Regularly practicing one or more of these methods makes it easier to practice them when we start feeling angry.

a) Visualisation and imagery. Visualizing a relaxing, calm, and soothing experience from memory or imagination helps to significantly lower feelings of rage. Finding your “peaceful and relaxing place” is a healthy way of managing anger.

b) Focused breathing. When angry, our breathing becomes fast and shallow. Practice taking slow, deep and controlled breaths that you imagine to coming from your belly instead of your chest.

c) Progressive muscle relaxation. This technique involves you to gradually tense and then relax each muscle group one by one. For instance, you may begin tensing and relaxing muscles of your toes and slowly work your way up the legs, waist, belly, chest, arms, neck, and head.

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Modifying how we think

When angry, it is easy for anyone to feel that things are worse than they really are. In such instances, a technique known as cognitive restructuring can be our rescue. In this technique, we consciously identify unhelpful negative thoughts and replace them with more reasonable positive thoughts. For example, rather than thinking “nothing goes according to plan”, tell yourself “this is frustrating but let me think of what can be done now.”

Following are some effective ways to reframe one’s thinking:

  1. Avoid using words like “always” and “never” when thinking about oneself or others. Thoughts like “I always fail” or “you never remember what matters to me” makes our anger appear justified as well as distances people who would be willing to help us.
  2. When people get angry, they tend to demand things, whether it is agreement, kindness, appreciation, fairness, justice, or willingness to do things their way. In such circumstances, it is crucial to translate expectations into desires; changing demands into requests. And when things do not go your way, try not to convert the disappointment into anger.
  3. Anger can quickly become irrational even when it may be justified. In such situations, use logic. Tell yourself that the world is not conspiring to fail you. This can be done every time feelings of anger start developing in order to get a more rational and balanced perspective of the situation.
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Recognise (and avoid) triggers

Spend some time to identify people, situations, and things that create angry feelings in you. For example, if you know that you often argue with your spouse at night then avoid bringing up quarrelsome topics when you are both tired. Instead, try to keep the conversation light, casual, and humorous during this time.

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Be active

Regularly engaging in physical exercise even for half-an-hour daily can help you unwind, let go of extra tension as well as reduce the stress that can fuel bouts of rage.

In cases where anger remains uncontrolled despite regularly practicing these strategies, please consult a mental health professional immediately to address your concerns.

Keep in mind that angry feelings cannot be eliminated completely using these strategies. Rather they should be as anger is a natural human emotion. But we can change how events and people affect us, and in turn how we respond to them. Making efforts to keep our anger in check, we can further progress on our path to achieve our goals and live to our full potential. Anger management helps us to maintain well-being and happiness of ourselves as well as of people close to us. 

BLOG WRITTEN BY :

AATMAN THAKER

Mental Health Professional and  Social  Science Researcher

Aatman Thaker is a trained social worker and mental health professional skilled at trauma-focus counselling, psychological first aid, suicide intervention, art-based therapy, and projective techniques.

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