Anger is a natural response we all feel from time to time depending on the situation we’re in, but it’s important to recognise the signs of anger issues. From a survival standpoint, anger is a necessary response as it helps us to fend off threats to our safety and wellbeing, such as if we’re being attacked, but it also occurs when we feel we’ve been slighted or treated unfairly. For example, you might feel angry if you get blamed for something you didn’t do, or if you find out your spouse has been having an affair. In such instances, feeling angry is proportionate.
However, if you find that you feel angry frequently, and often over small issues that don’t necessarily warrant a strong emotional response, you might have anger issues. When you find yourself feeling angry and irritated a lot of the time, there’s a good chance your emotional response is disproportionate to the situation at hand, and this is when anger can become problematic.
In this article, we’re going to look at the signs of anger issues and anger management in more detail. If you think you might have anger management issues, or if you think someone close to you might be struggling with anger problems, we’re going to highlight seven common signs of anger and talk about how anger issues can be managed.
There are three types of anger. The type of anger you have will largely determine how you act and how your anger presents itself.
Passive anger is when you express anger in an indirect way. You might not be openly aggressive or confrontational, but you may exhibit subtle behaviours that are passive aggressive. For example, you might compliment someone in a clearly insincere way or even imply disdain, make digs at people, be sarcastic, give people the silent treatment whilst maintaining you’re fine, or ignore requests to do things.
Passive aggressive behaviour is an emotional response. Some people may learn this behaviour as a means of dealing with uncomfortable emotions such as anger. For example, someone may have observed growing up that when their father was passive aggressive with their mother, he got what he wanted in the end. This can lead to inadvertently learning unhealthy ways of coping when things don’t go the way that you’d like them to. However, this behaviour can also be deemed as manipulative, even if not explicitly intended, as a result of treating people a certain way until they relent or until you feel better.
Therefore, passive anger can be damaging to your social relationships and can cause issues both at home and at work. People around you may eventually tire of your passive aggressive behaviour, or they may eventually confront you about your behaviour and intentions. If you shut the conversation down and don’t express how you feel or explain why you’re behaving this way, your relationships could falter.
In the workplace, you may find it hard to integrate with your coworkers and could even face disciplinary action if your coworkers complain about how you treat them. Some might even view sarcasm and digs as bullying, and this carries weighty consequences.
Inward anger is when you are angry at yourself. This type of anger often goes hand in hand with depression. If you experience inward anger, you may be unpleasant and unkind to yourself. This can manifest itself in a number of ways, including self-harm. You might repeat negative thoughts about yourself, such as that you’re stupid, incapable, unloved, or unworthy. You might force yourself to avoid things that you know make you happy, or you might even deny yourself things like food.
There isn’t much research on inward anger, but Sigmund Freud speculated that those who experience inward anger do so because they direct the anger, frustration and hurt they feel for other people at themselves. He went on to say that this manifests itself in depression, which in itself can cause irritability among other issues, and these can lead to problems with social relationships and general wellbeing.
Outward anger is perhaps what you think of when you think about anger issues. Outward anger is more pronounced and obvious, and can include things like shouting, throwing things, swearing, and being aggressive towards others, be it verbally or physically. This type of anger is aggressive and violates the needs of others. During this type of altercation, the angry person is often unable to tune into the other person’s point of view or understand where they are coming from, even if they do not agree.
This type of anger can cause serious problems for you personally because those around you may feel anxious or like they don’t want to communicate with you out of fear. It can also lead to employment issues.
As mentioned, feeling angry from time to time is expected, but it’s important to know when you cross the line from manageable or reasonable anger to having an anger problem. Below, we’ve outlined seven common signs of anger issues that may suggest you have a problem with dealing with your anger and may need help from a mental health professional.
1. You display aggressive or physically violent responses
The first sign that you might have an anger problem is if you find yourself getting verbally aggressive towards others or being physically aggressive or violent. It might be that you explode into rage if someone criticises you or says something you don’t like, or you might start a fight or get in an altercation with someone to try and hurt them, such as if they bump into you on a night out.
If you’re unable to refrain from personal insults, being aggressive in your verbal approach, or find it hard to stop yourself from throwing things or even attacking or hitting people through physical violence, you likely have an anger management issue. This type of angry response is dangerous and problematic, and can cause you to become isolated from those around you due to their fear of you. You may also encounter legal issues if you get physically violent with other people, so it’s important that you recognise this as an inappropriate response and seek professional help.
2. You have a low tolerance for minor mistakes or issues
Everyone makes mistakes from time to time, but if you find that you have little to no tolerance for people making errors, it could be a sign that you have an anger issue. For example, if you get angry that your spouse forgot to pick up something you requested from the shop, to the point where you give them the cold shoulder, or shout at them, this is disproportionate to the situation. Mistakes and errors are common, and if there’s no malicious or mean intent behind someone’s actions, it’s not reasonable for you to get angry.
Small triggers can be everywhere, from road rage to someone at work missing your email, so if you’re sensitive to these problems, you’ll likely find that you’re angry a lot of the time. This can be detrimental to your mental and physical health, and can make people around you feel like they’re walking on eggshells.
3. You feel angry or irritable frequently
Anger isn’t an emotion we tend to feel regularly. It’s okay to feel frustrated or irritated, but not most of the time. If you notice that you’re feeling angry or irritated more than you are calm and relaxed, this is an indicator that you have issues controlling anger that needs to be addressed.
As mentioned above, feeling angry a lot of the time can have detrimental effects on your mental and physical wellbeing, and the toll it takes on those around you can also be hard to deal with if your relationships become fractured as a result.
4. You experience physical symptoms
Anger is not just an emotional response, but a physical one, too. When you get angry, you will find that your blood pressure and heart rate increase, you might get a tingling feeling in your body, and you might also experience muscle tension. If these symptoms are felt frequently through uncontrolled anger, you may be at an increased risk of a heart attack or stroke. This is because of the strain an angry response puts on your body.
You may also experience issues like anxiety which can cause physical symptoms like rapid breathing and palpitations. There are ways to get such symptoms under control, so reach out to a healthcare professional if you experience physical anger symptoms or anxiety symptoms.
5. People around you tend to avoid you or have trouble communicating with you
Depending on the way you exert your anger, there’s a possibility that people may feel uncomfortable around you and avoid spending time with you where possible. For example, you might find that you’re not invited to work social nights, or that your friends aren’t keen to see you very often. People may distance themselves from you, typically out of fear of how you might react if they say or do something you don’t like. If you’re passively angry, they might simply avoid you because they’re tired of the passive aggressiveness.
This means you could find yourself being isolated and lonely. There’s a good chance you’ll notice this, and every chance you might not intend to hurt people’s feelings. You might feel like you can’t control your angry outbursts or passive remarks, or might not even know you’re doing it in the first place, but it may become apparent when you have few friends around you.
6. You experience intense emotional feelings
Anger can result in a number of other emotional responses, including stress, anxiety and guilt. You might feel ashamed of how you behave but like it’s out of your control, leading to stress and anxiety because you don’t want to react in a certain way. You may end up removing yourself from certain situations and saying no to plans because you’re nervous of how you might act, or because you feel overwhelmed with pressure. This can lead to isolation which can also be a contributing factor to things like depression. Anger issues are frequently diagnosed alongside those with depression.
7. You engage in self-harm behaviours to direct your anger inwards
Inward anger can have a hugely detrimental effect on your overall well-being. If you notice you’ve internalised a lot of your feelings, shut down when people try to speak to you, and punish yourself by disallowing happiness or basic needs like food, this could be an indication that you have unresolved internal anger issues that you direct at yourself.
There are lots of reasons why you might have a problem with anger, with some of the more common ones being listed below:
Anger can be seen as a side effect of grief. The grief could be related to bereavement, a relationship breakdown, or employment issues. Any kind of loss can trigger a grief response, and anger may come with it. You might be angry that you’ve lost a loved one, angry at yourself for your relationship failing, or angry at your employer for letting you go. This anger can manifest itself in several ways and can last for a long time if not addressed early on.
Anger isn’t a mental health condition, but it can be a symptom of some mental health conditions and neurodevelopmental disorders. They include:
This isn’t to say that everyone with conditions like those listed above is angry or has anger problems, but increased levels of anger and irritability has been found to be common in people with the above conditions.
There are a number of behavioural and mood disorders that are largely characterised by anger, unlike the disorders above which have a myriad of other, more prevalent symptoms. Some anger disorders include:
These conditions need to be diagnosed by a mental health professional, but can be managed effectively with the right treatment plan.
The first step to dealing with anger issues is to recognise the signs. Dealing with anger issues and coming to terms with the fact that you might have problems with anger can be difficult, but there are several ways to minimise angry outbursts and regain control of your emotions for a healthier, calmer life.
Oftentimes, angry outbursts result in you saying or doing something that you may later regret because of the heat of the moment. Taking steps to try and calm yourself down before acting on your emotions is an effective method for regaining control of the situation and conducting yourself in a more appropriate way. You might try:
You may find that taking time to refocus yourself and calm down prevents you from saying or doing something that may be regrettable.
Exercise has a myriad of mental and physical health benefits. Taking time to go for a run or hit the gym can give you time to think more about the situation that has made you angry and give you time to formulate a coherent, proportionate response. Exercise can help to mitigate both the physical and emotional symptoms of anger.
It’s often the case that you might be angry at a situation as opposed to a person, but you might direct your anger at a person nonetheless. Trying to consciously step back and recognise what it is that’s making you angry and focusing on a solution rather than the problem can be helpful. Anger doesn’t fix problems, it only exacerbates them, so try to redirect your anger into problem-solving instead.
Anger in itself isn’t a problem, but it can be an issue if you express it in a negative way. For example, you might be frustrated at something someone has done, but there’s no need to drill down into a personal attack and be hurtful. Try to calmly express what the problem is in a direct way, staying away from insults or inflammatory language.
If you experience anger issues as a symptom of another condition, such as depression, ADHD, or bipolar disorder, medication to treat said conditions could help you get a better grip on your anger overall.
If you’re unsure where your anger is coming from, why you feel and behave the way you do, or like you’re not in control of your emotions, speaking to an anger management counsellor can help. You may undergo cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to try and change negative and unhelpful thought patterns, attend anger management classes, or you might explore your feelings and life in more detail to try and identify where your anger might stem from.
At Psymplicity Healthcare, we have a team of private anger management therapists who have helped thousands of people identify anger problems and work to break the cycle. We will work with you to explore what could be causing your anger and how we can treat it and help you regain control through a tailored treatment plan.
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