When was the last time you felt angry? What made you feel that way? You may have been feeling frustrated by your job, relationship, or your finances. It may even have been because of a situation that didn’t directly involve you. We all experience feeling angry from time to time, but the way we express this feeling varies from person to person.
While it’s a completely normal reaction, anger can become a problem when left uncontrolled. Admitting that you may have anger issues is often difficult, especially when you can’t identify the problem yourself — often a difficult task. So, how can you tell if you have anger issues?
What Is Anger?
The American Psychological Association describes anger as an emotion characterized by antagonism toward someone or something you feel has deliberately done you wrong. Most of us react to certain triggering situations with outward expressions of anger, but that doesn’t make you a bad person, it makes you human. Anger provides an outlet for expressing negative feelings, but when it gets out of control, it can cause problems for you and those around you.
Anger is a complex emotion that is expressed in a variety of ways and for many different reasons. To make it easier to understand, experts usually refer to three expressions of anger: passive, aggressive, and assertive anger.
Some people tend to deal with their anger by keeping their feelings to themselves instead of expressing them in the moment. This is one of the characterizing features of passive-aggressive anger. In a bid to avoid confrontation and maintain control, you may find yourself trying to act like everything’s fine when dealing with a situation that makes you angry, keeping your feelings bottled up. This type of anger often makes you hold grudges against people, or make judgemental comments about them to others.
Open aggression is a sharp contrast to passive-aggressive anger, as it’s usually expressed outwardly — mostly in a physically or verbally aggressive way. People who express their anger in this manner often do so with the aim of hurting others or destroying things to retaliate for acts they perceived were wrongfully done to them. Open aggression is evident in bullying, blackmailing, shouting, and other similar violent behaviors. Openly aggressive behavior is also a sign that you may be dealing with anger issues.
Dealing with anger in an assertive way means making the effort to communicate calmly, listening to the other person carefully, being patient, working through your emotions, and reaching a positive conclusion.
While this is the healthiest way to express anger, it’s often difficult for many people to ignore the urge to say what’s on their mind in the heat of the moment. You may snap and say or do something hurtful to someone, and when the adrenaline rush passes, you’re faced with the guilt from your words or actions. It’s therefore important to be able to tell when your anger becomes a problem for you and for others.
When Does Anger Become a Problem?
Anger is a normal, healthy emotion, but when anger starts to spiral out of control and take a toll on your life or relationships, you may have anger issues. This is a common phenomenon. A 2015 study showed that nearly 1 in 10 US adults have impulsive anger issues, showing a tendency to lose their temper, smash and break things, or get into physical fights.
Anger may have become a problem if:
- You’re angry most of the time
- You feel out of control or the emotion feels uncontrollable when angry
- Your anger is affecting your relationships negatively
- You say or do hurtful things to people when angry
- You get into violent outbursts when angry
Symptoms of Anger Issues
The feeling of anger usually comes with some physical and emotional symptoms, which are normal if they only occur on occasion. If you’re experiencing these symptoms more frequently, and to a severe degree, it may be a sign that you’re dealing with anger issues.
Physical symptoms of anger issues
When dealing with a strong emotion like anger, your body may go through physical changes that can put your health at risk if left unaddressed . These physical symptoms include increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, a tingling sensation, muscle tension, headaches, and a tightening feeling in your chest.
Emotional symptoms of anger issues
An outward expression of anger isn’t the only indicator of anger issues. In addition, there are other emotional symptoms you may experience when dealing with anger issues, such as: constant irritability, rage, frustration, anxiety, stress, guilt, or a feeling of being overwhelmed.
What Causes Anger Issues?
Many things can cause anger issues — stress, financial issues, abuse, family strife, and more. When these situations build or combine, the anger and resentment you feel also increases, eventually culminating in anger issues.
Individuals who come from a family with a history of anger issues may also be more likely to develop anger management problems. Although there’s still room for more research on the cause of anger issues, there’s some evidence that indicates genetic factors may also play a role in the way anger is expressed.
Struggling solely with anger issues isn’t considered a mental health condition, but for some people, anger issues may stem from an underlying condition such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), alcohol or substance abuse, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), grief, intermittent explosive disorder (IED), bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).
Feeling angry is not always an indicator of an underlying condition, but a licensed mental health professional can help you determine whether anger issues may be a symptom of a broader condition.
How Do I Control My Anger In the Heat of the Moment?
No one wants to feel like they’re not in control of their emotions, but anger issues tend to make you feel that way. When faced with an aggravating situation, there are a number of strategies that can help you manage your anger and keep your emotions at a normal, healthy level.
Here are a few tactics to try:
- Be aware of the warning signs and note the physical and emotional changes in your body and mood that result from your anger. This will help you decide the best way to react to the situation before you act.
- Take deep breaths and count to 10 before you act to help reduce the intensity of your anger.
- Sometimes, walking away from a situation gives you space to think and act calmly.
- When having a heated discussion with someone, take time to listen to what they have to say, and avoid jumping to conclusions about their intentions out of anger.
- Engaging in exercises like running, swimming, or cycling can help release some of the energy that may otherwise have escalated into open aggression.
- When you’re in a frustrating or angering situation, you can also distract yourself by taking a shower, going for a walk, writing in a journal, or listening to music, to avoid saying or doing something hurtful.
Many people struggle with anger issues, and it causes harm to friendships, family relationships, and work relationships. But there are ways to cope. A mental health professional can help you figure out the cause of your anger, and develop strategies that help you deal with anger issues.
Anger Management: Getting Help For Anger Issues
Anger management is about being able to recognize the signs of anger, and learning to maintain control during an angering situation by dealing with your anger in a responsible and constructive way. In anger management classes, individuals are encouraged to identify anger triggers and learn to resolve them with assertiveness and control. The goal of anger management is not to stop you from feeling angry or teach you to hold in anger. Instead, it lets you express your anger appropriately and in a healthy, suitable setting.
Anger management is a helpful way to control anger issues, and you can acquire this skill on your own, with the help of self-help books, or via online resources. Attending anger management classes will give you a more hands-on, practical approach to dealing with anger issues, as can working with a licensed therapist knowledgeable in anger management skills.
Anger management sessions also focus on teaching specific strategies to cope with anger, issues like: impulse control, increased self-awareness, meditation, breathing techniques, relaxation strategies, personal reflection, and emotional awareness. Anger management classes can also help you trace the cause of your anger. Finding the source of your anger can go a long way in preventing future issues with your temper. Speaking with someone who has attended anger management classes in the past can also give you an idea of the best option for you, as well as what you can expect from the classes.
While it may take time to find the right anger management program, you can consult your medical provider or a licensed mental health professional to refer you to a suitable program or counselor. Therapists are trained to provide techniques and strategies that can help you deal with your anger. You can also search for recommendations and resources on trusted websites with resources on anger, blogs, online support groups, and books.