Anger is one of the basic human emotions, as elemental as happiness, sadness, anxiety, or disgust. These emotions are tied to basic survival and were honed over the course of human history. However, there is a difference between healthy and unhealthy anger.
Unhealthy anger interferes with your quality of life can destroy relationships, jobs, and friendships. Managing anger is a skill that can be learned, much like effective communication or dealing with difficult people. Learning to control extreme emotions can be especially important, preventing you from saying something you will later regret or making poor decisions in the heat of the moment. Many times, anger is the symptom of deeper feelings such as rejection, regret, or disappointment.
People who experience anger that interferes with their quality of life or destroys relationships, jobs, and friendships may require anger management intervention. Anger management may also be necessary for those whose anger has created legal problems.
What causes anger?
There are many causes of anger, whether it’s from a certain experience, like getting fired from a job, or a traumatic childhood or adult event. Anger can be situational or the result of mental illness. People might become angry if they believe they are being mistreated or go through a bad breakup or divorce. Whatever the cause, it’s important to find ways to constructively express your anger.
Anger & Depression
Many have a stereotypical idea of depression, imaging an individual who never leaves the bed or home and spends all day crying. What many don’t realize is that people with depression may act out in anger, as well.
Those experiencing depression are often plagued by their inner critics. These voices make them feel unworthy. Acting out in anger can help people relieve the anxiety these voices cause. Working with a therapist can help patients experiencing this build stronger self-esteem.
A large part of how we cope with anger is influenced by how we were raised. When we were young, if we saw our parents get upset and break things, we are more likely to express ourselves in a similar manner. You learned it was an appropriate way to cope with your intense feelings. Others manage their anger quite well, and use techniques like taking a deep breath, walking away, or count to 10 to process their emotions, and then respond.
Symptoms of Anger Disorder:
- Unhealthy anger
- Suppressed rage
- Constant focus on the negative
- Acting out violently
- Engaging in the destruction of property
- Threatening others
- Driving recklessly
- Arguing with others constantly
- Heightened irritability
- Forcing others to tread carefully
Therapy Can Help Manage Anger
Anger management can include individual and group therapies, as well as prescribed medication. Anger management therapy is different for everyone and is tailored to each client’s needs.
Disordered anger can leave you feeling out of control and as if your life is in chaos. Anger management therapy done in partnership with trained professionals can teach you proven techniques for managing your anger so that it no longer impacts your life so severely. Anger is a symptom of a mental health disorder and requires compassionate care and intervention just like any health problem.
Cognitive therapy. Often the way people think when they’re angry makes situations worse. When another driver cuts you off, for instance, you might think, “You idiot! Everyone’s trying to make me late today!” In cognitive therapy, psychologists help patients find alternative ways of thinking about and reacting to anger. Instead of thinking bad thoughts about the other driver, for example, you could think instead, “Whoa! That was an accident waiting to happen.”
Skill development. Learning new behaviors can also help. Parents might need to find better ways of communicating with their children, for instance. Angry drivers might benefit from learning safe driving skills.
In group therapy, individuals share their experiences with disordered anger. A therapist leads the session, guiding the conversation and providing coping strategies for the group to consider.
In individual therapy, patients with disordered anger can work to uncover the triggers of their anger. Comorbid disorders such as depression and anxiety can also be addressed. When anger stems from an emotional disorder, a psychiatrist may recommend medication as a supplement to therapy.