Why Am I So Angry? Symptoms, Triggers & Treatment

Anger is a natural emotion that we all feel from time to time in response to certain situations. It is an instinctive emotion that can cause an aggressive urge that was, historically, crucial to our survival. Anger helped our species survive by allowing us to adapt and defend when a threat was perceived. Anger can range from acute irritation to more profound agitation, even verging on rage, with most people rarely feeling rage or intense anger. That being said, some people find that they get angry more regularly and that their anger is triggered as an often disproportionate response to the situation at hand, and can often cause significant negative consequences to the person experiencing anger and the people around them.

If you find that you experience angry feelings on a more regular basis, it can quickly become problematic and interfere with your personal relationships and professional life. You might recognise that your anger is a disproportionate response to situations, but you may feel as though you are unable to control it and prevent yourself from acting out of anger.

At Psymplicity Healthcare, we have a dedicated team of therapists who specialise in anger management. We understand that some people feel more angry than others and we are here to support those who are seeking to learn more about their emotional responses and how to treat them.

In this blog, we’re going to discuss anger in more detail, specifically looking at situations where people might feel they are angry more frequently than others and feel unable to manage their anger in a healthy way.

What triggers anger?

Anger is a natural emotional response that, in some situations, is a reasonable. For example, if you invite a friend over and tell them not to touch a specific item because it’s of sentimental value to you, and they proceed to touch it and it breaks, you may feel angry about the situation because they acted against your wishes and an item you had an emotional connection to has been broken. If you were to assertively communicate your feelings about this matter, this would be a proportionate response to your anger.

There are lots of situations that can trigger angry outbursts, including:

  • Relationship difficulties
  • Work stress
  • Bereavement
  • Difficult situations outside of your control e.g. someone crashing into your car

It’s important to remember that what makes one person feel angry might not make another person feel angry. One way of explaining this difference is the different value systems we all hold and therefore our expectations of others. Often we feel angry with someone else when they have done something that we think we wouldn’t do (they have gone against our personal value system and expectation of them), bringing up feelings of injustice.

We might feel angry with something that has happened in our lives for similar reasons if it wasn’t what we expected/planned for and again, it triggers feelings of injustice. Anger can also stem from traumatic past experiences, whereby something unjust happened to us and any sign of something like that occurring again can trigger anger as a defence mechanism to defend and protect ourselves.

In other cases, some people may be more likely to experience anger more frequently due to having a mental health disorder that aggravates anger. Some mental health disorders that are associated with anger include:

  • Intermittent explosive disorder
  • Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Oppositional defiant disorder
  • Bipolar disorder (anger is not a listed symptom of bipolar disorder, but research has shown that people with bipolar disorder are more likely to feel angry compared to those who don’t have bipolar disorder)

Sometimes, a person might not have had a specific traumatic or painful experience and might not have a mental health condition associated with anger, but they still feel more angry than is considered average. No matter the cause, unregulated anger can quickly become problematic if it’s not addressed and treated appropriately.

In other cases with more common mental health difficulties, such as low mood and anxiety, symptoms can include irritability and frustration, but not usually extreme anger.

Symptoms of anger issues

As mentioned, anger is a part of life and is an emotion we all feel from time to time, along with sadness, happiness, stress, nervousness and excitement. Learning to differentiate between what is proportionate anger and what is disproportionate anger is an integral part of the diagnosis and treatment journey.

Everyone is different and experiences anger differently, but some signs that you might be dealing with an anger problem include:

  • Frequently finding yourself in arguments with other people
  • Feeling or being unable to control your anger
  • Feeling as though you need to conceal or hide your anger from others
  • Feeling irritated, impatient, or agitated most of the time
  • Feeling compelled to act impulsively and sometimes dangerously due to intense feelings of anger, such as driving erratically
  • Violent behaviour
  • Exerting threatening behaviour towards others
  • Having frequent negative thoughts
  • Feeling like you need to avoid some situations because you are worried about having an angry outburst

If you feel like your overall quality of life is being impacted by your anger, or that your personal relationships or work life are being impeded by uncontrolled anger, it could be a sign that you have an anger problem.

How are anger problems diagnosed?

Anger as a standalone emotion isn’t a mental health disorder and so isn’t something that you can be diagnosed with. As an emotion, it’s generally indicative of another issue or is a side effect of a different cause. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) lists anger as a symptom of approximately 32 mental health disorders. With this in mind, it’s possible that if you approach a medical professional about your anger, they might carry out diagnostic tests to see if it is being exacerbated by an underlying or undiagnosed mental health disorder.

Once it’s clearer what might be causing your anger, be it a mental health disorder or a traumatic life event, a plan of action can be put in place for treatment.

How are anger problems treated?

There are a number of ways in which unregulated anger can be treated. A mental health professional will direct you to the best course of action based on what is causing your anger. This means there is no one-size-fits-all approach to anger management and you may instead find yourself trying out a range of different treatments and therapies until you find the right one.

Some of the most common methods for treating anger include:

Anger management therapy

Anger management therapy has proven to be helpful for lots of people who have anger issues. When you undertake anger management therapy, a psychiatrist or a psychologist will work with you to identify your anger triggers, help you understand why you react the way you do, and teach you how to manage your anger and cope with your emotions more effectively.

The first step will be to talk through life events that may trigger anger, and walk through situations that make you feel angry. Doing this will help you to identify your exact triggers and understand the situations that are likely to lead to an angry response.

Once triggers are identified, your therapist will work with you to determine if there are any noticeable signs that you’re getting angry. If you can pinpoint early warning signs, this will help you better realise when you’re getting angry and give you an opportunity to remove yourself when a challenging situation arises or engage your coping mechanisms.

Speaking of anger management techniques, your therapist will then talk you through some of the behavioural skills that can help you deal with a situation in a more proportionate and constructive way. Expressing anger is okay if you do it in a controlled manner, for example, voicing that you’re frustrated as opposed to getting physically violent. If your anger is caused by a mental health condition, your therapist can help you manage the symptoms of this and teach you more ways to control your angry responses.

Relaxation techniques

It is important to note that while you will learn lots of techniques in therapy about how to manage your anger, practising those techniques between your sessions and using them in your personal life when you need them is more likely to help you get the results you desire. For example regularly practising relaxation techniques between sessions. One such technique revolves around relaxation.

When you’re angry, your body isn’t calm and feels tense, and stress hormones are released. To help your body feel less tense and minimise the impact of stress hormones, it’s ideal to learn relaxation techniques. These might include taking deep breaths, meditating, counting to 10, or repeating phrases like ‘relax’.

Some people also find it useful to visualise relaxing scenes, be it by looking at a photograph of a relaxing/happy memory, or imaging a relaxing scenario in their head. Yoga can also be effective for some people.

Communication

When you’re angry, communication can sometimes be difficult. You might say or do hurtful things that you don’t necessarily mean, and that could be in response to assumptions that are incorrect. In the heat of the moment, it’s important to try and take a step back, listen to what the other person is saying, and take a moment to think about the most useful way to respond.

When you have good communication skills, it can help to minimise the fallout from an outburst and even prevent your anger from escalating.

Cognitive restructuring

If you attend anger management or therapy sessions, your therapist will likely teach you cognitive restructuring methods. These are methods that you can use to try to identify dysfunctional thinking patterns that trigger extreme emotions, such as anger, and learn how to adjust them to reflect what is really happening. For example, if you find that you routinely feel negative or irritated, using language like ‘always’ and ‘never’ can reinforce the negativity and even cause you to think that your anger is proportionate and justified, even when it’s not, e.g., they never do anything for me.

Teaching yourself not to say inaccurate terms like ‘never’ and ‘always’ can change your perspective on a situation and help you rationalise your thoughts and feelings better.

Problem solving skills

As mentioned earlier, anger can often be brought on problems cropping up, oftentimes issues that are out of your control. Whilst you feel angry as the result of a situation, it’s important to remember that being angry won’t help you resolve the issue at hand. Instead, you need to try and focus on problem-solving skills and finding a solution to the problem.

It might be that a member of your team at work hasn’t met a deadline and this makes you angry. Rather than lashing out, try to understand why the deadline wasn’t met, i.e. the root cause. It might be that they didn’t have enough resources to complete the task on time, in which case you could look to figure out a way to help them better manage their workload.

Finding effective solutions is a good way to prevent the same issue from happening twice. Sometimes things might not work out exactly how we want them to, and it’s important to accept that and focus on addressing and resolving issues so that they don’t snowball into bigger problems.

What happens if anger isn’t treated?

It can be hard coming to terms with the fact that you have an anger problem, but it’s important that you try to accept it and get treatment as soon as you can. Everyone reacts differently when they’re angry. For people with violent thoughts or tendencies, there’s the risk of hurting someone or damaging property during an outburst if the anger isn’t effectively controlled.

For some people, uncontrolled anger leads to damaged relationships with loved ones. Another serious consequence could be having an outburst at work that leads to professional disciplinary action being taken. When left untreated, anger issues can get worse and cause real destruction in your life, making it all the more important to speak to a healthcare professional and get treatment.

Anger management treatment at Psymplicity Healthcare

If you’re struggling with anger problems and think you need professional help, Psymplicity Healthcare is here for you. We have a dedicated team of anger management experts who specialise in providing treatment and unbiased, friendly support to those with anger issues.

We are registered with the CQC (Care Quality Commission) and the Royal College of Psychiatrists, so you can rest assured that you’re in good hands. We pride ourselves on our warm and caring approach to treatment. We have lots of experience in this area and have helped countless people regain control of their anger and enjoy an improved quality of life through our anger management services.

We are a private treatment service which means we offer fast, flexible appointments. To help make treatment more accessible, we also offer flexible payment plans where you can pay for your treatment in instalments.

To find out more about how we could help you, please get in touch. Alternatively, you can book an appointment online.

Mavish Sikander

Mavish Sikander

Mavish is a BABCP Accredited CBT and EMDR Therapist and CBT Clinical Lead at Psymplicity.

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