Anger is something that we all experience at times; it is an emotional response and intense feeling that can be difficult to manage.
It is shown by resentment, bitterness and / or hatred towards someone or something that may be conceived as harmful. Feeling angry after witnessing an unwanted event is a normal human reaction and when it is managed properly is it not a problem.
We tend to experience anger when we perceive that a situation is unfair or an injustice to us or our loved one. It is often accompanied by a sense of being threatened – even though we may feel angry, a part of us may feel unsafe or fearful.
Anger tends to be experienced as acute or explosive in nature, for example, when a person flies into a rage and the storm passes quickly. With this type of anger there tends to be a strong physical association.
However, longer term anger or resentment can simmer inside us; this anger tends to be the result of faulty thinking and / or negative thoughts, over and over again.
Children can be angry without readily being able to understand the situation, or indeed having the words to express their feelings. In fact, their emotional state, which often includes feeling overwhelmed, can make it difficult for them to think clearly about the problem/s.
Perhaps, the first signs that we are getting angry are physiological changes. We may feel reactions and signs in our body that indicate that we are getting angry, for example: clenching our jaw; flaring our nostrils; faster breathing or heart rate. Our physiological reactions are activated when we are exposed to a perceived threat; our bodies automatically respond so that we are able to defend ourselves or escape from a seemingly dangerous situation.
Along with this, we may notice our thinking and our behaviour are also affected by our anger. This is because when we experience an episode of anger, these physiological changes, emotions, thoughts and behaviours all interact and reinforce each other.
Anger may range from mild annoyance and irritation, to frustration, fury and rage. Often anger is associated with other negative emotions, because underneath, we may be feeling hurt, frightened, disappointed, worried, anxious, threatened, embarrassed or frustrated.
When we are angry, we think about things, and in particular ways, that tend to maintain the anger. For example, an implied injustice at our workplace may lead us to think along the lines of: “Because my boss doesn’t like me, she gives me more work”. Anger is sustained and escalated through rumination, the reprocessing of negative thought over and over again.
People tend to act in particular ways when they are angry. Some people become physically or verbally aggressive; while others might be passive aggressive or behave in a dysfunctional manner, for example, hurting themselves, or taking their anger out on someone else who is not even involved in the situation.
When Anger Can Become a Problem
While it’s perfectly normal to experience anger from time to time, some people find that it can become a real problem in their life. For example:
- Intense or long-lasting anger is draining and can affect our concentration, the quality of our relationships and our sense of wellbeing.
- If anger gets out of hand, it may lead to physical violence against others or even assault charges.
- Anger can be contagious: if a child is exposed to their parent’s anger, for example at neighbours or the government, it is likely the child will catch this anger.
An adult or child’s anger may be a problem if:
- They feel angry a lot of the time;
- Their anger involves verbal, emotional, physical or psychological abuse of those around them;
- They think the only way to get what they want is to be angry;
- Their anger is out of proportion to the trigger that set it off;
- They feel anxious, remorseful or depressed about their anger;
- They misuse alcohol or other substances to manage their anger;
- Their anger is causing problems with their personal or work relationships, their health or the law;
- It takes a long time for the anger to subside after the situation triggering their anger has passed;
- The anger causes trouble.
It is possible to learn ways to better handle feelings of anger, and to minimise the negative impacts, with the help of a counselling professional.
Why Learn to Manage Anger?
- It tends to create problems in the long term;
- People who have difficulty managing their anger are more likely to have problems with their personal and professional relationships;
- These people often experience anxiety, low self-esteem and problems with drug and alcohol;
- And in extreme situation, poor anger management skills can lead to legal problems.
Thus, it is important to gain insight and understanding into what is triggering your anger, and learn how to manage it.
Author: Vishal Patel, M Social Work, AASW, AMHSW.
Vishal Patel is an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker, with significant experience in working with victims of trauma, abuse and violence. His area of interest includes addressing significant complex and challenging behaviours in children under the age of 12 years. He is able to provide therapy in English, Gujarati, Hindi and Urdu.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3067 9129.
- Cobham, V., McDermott, B., Bryant, R., Fobes, D., Lau, W. and Conroy, R., 2017. Trauma-Focused Therapy Working with Children and Adolescents. Melbourne: Phonix Australia – Center for Posttrumatic Mental Health University of Melbourne.
- Susan Says: Is domestic violence an anger management problem? – Ascendant Behavioral Health. (2021). Retrieved 9 February 2021, from https://ascendantclinics.com/domestic-violence/