Below find frequently asked questions about what anger is, some strategies for managing anger and how therapy can help.
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General Questions About Anger
What is anger?
Anger can be defined as a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility. Anger can take many forms both emotionally and physiologically (e.g. sweating palms, “seeing red,” etc.).
Anger can be directed at a person, object, situation or even oneself. And what causes an angry reaction is often individual and grounded in factors like temperament, background, experiences, beliefs, and more.
What is the emotion behind anger?
Anger is an emotion itself, but some related or perhaps contributing emotions may include fear (as well as anxiety and worry), sadness, uncertainty or disappointment.
What are the three types of anger?
Anger commonly takes three forms: passive aggression, open aggression and assertive anger.
- Passive aggression refers to adopting a non-confrontational approach to a trigger. Individuals may become quiet or sullen, procrastinate, and deny to themselves and others that they are angry at all. It often stems from a desire to remain in control of the situation, which can lead one to guard against letting others know how they feel.
- Open aggression is the exact opposite, referring to an open and perhaps even violent (verbal or physical) reaction to the situation. Individuals practicing open aggression may yell at or harm others through their words and actions. Open aggression can range from bickering to shouting to even physical altercations. In these scenarios, the angered individual is also fighting for control, but is doing so in a way that attempts to gain dominance over the other individual(s).
- Assertive anger is the preferred way to deal with situations that leave you angry. Assertive anger refers to acknowledging your frustration and working with the other individual to address the situation in a way that may bring compromise to both parties.
What causes anger?
What causes or “triggers” episodes of anger is often very personal and individual, but some common scenarios may include being made to feel inferior or underappreciated, experiencing injustice, or recollecting negative experiences.
What are the five stages of anger?
Unresolved anger typically follows a cycle consisting of five stages: trigger, escalation, crisis, recovery and depression.
- Trigger: Something triggers a reaction of anger within the individual.
- Escalation: Our body begins to physically prepare for confrontation. Individuals may experience faster breathing, increased heart rate and blood pressure, tension, raised or higher speaking voice, etc.
- Crisis: As the body begins to physically signal crisis, the individual is unable to reason with themselves or others the same way they could in a calm state, leading to an increase in aggression and a decrease in rationality.
- Recovery: Once the crisis stage has peaked, your body may begin to recover as you quite literally “cool off.”
- Depression: As you settle into a calm state once again, your judgement begins to return, and you may consider the actions you took in the previous stage (positive or negative).
Is anger a sign of mental illness?
Anger alone is not an indicator of mental illness. We all experience it! When managed properly, it is a normal and common reaction to certain scenarios.
But it is true that anger is a known symptom of several mental health issues. If you are having trouble controlling your anger, you do not need to be diagnosed with a mental illness to benefit from mental health services such as talk therapy.
Questions About Managing Anger
Why are some people more angry than others?
Anger affects all individuals differently based on a variety of factors, including:
- Emotional awareness/intelligence
- Prior experiences
But while your past experiences and genetics may have a role, all individuals can benefit from learning how to manage their anger through therapy and a variety of coping mechanisms.
Why do I get angry so fast?
Individuals may experience accelerated reactions to anger due to factors such as an inability to recognize the early signs of anger (or even predict situations that may be triggering) as well as an inexperience managing the emotion early.
Anger can be a lot like a ball rolling down a hill, the further it is allowed to travel, the more speed and force it accumulates. That is why it is best to practice identifying the early stages of anger and remaining in a calm state despite whatever triggers you may have.
How do I control my anger outbursts?
The trick to controlling anger is to learn how to recognize it in its early stages and how to fight the impulse to allow it to accelerate past a certain point. This can include controlling physical reactions as well as adapting the mind to think more clearly about the situation
- To control the physical reactions of anger, it is often useful to use techniques such as breathing exercises or perhaps taking a few minutes to step back from the situation (if possible) in order to allow yourself to calm down.
To help ensure that you are reacting appropriately to the situation itself, rather than a false perception of the situation, it can also be helpful to employ cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques such as reframing. These can provide clarity of thought and perspective for all individuals.
How do I stop shouting when angry?
Shouting may be a natural reaction to anger, but it’s certainly not productive to resolve the situation. Some alternative methods to keep yourself from raising your voice might be taking a few moments away from the situation or focusing on your breath in order to restore a level of balance and calmness to the moment.
It may also be helpful to ask another person in the situation how they feel about it, and then take the time to really listen to their perspective, rather than to immediately react to what they are saying. Recognize how they are feeling, and do your best to put yourself into their shoes. Even if you continue to disagree with them, you may find that your reaction is much more controlled.
What are the five steps to anger management?
Five common steps to anger management include:
- Admit to yourself and others that you are angry.
- Believe that you have the skills to control your emotions!
- Do your best to remain calm through breathing and CBT techniques.
- Work through the best way to address, and ultimately solve, the problem.
- Express this to whoever you need to, with assertiveness!
Questions About Therapy and Anger
Can you get therapy for anger issues?
Absolutely! Therapy is the best place to get assistance for anger management. Your therapist can help you learn useful techniques to identify triggers, recognize anger early, and control anger when it inevitably comes again.
What therapy is best for anger?
While there are a variety of therapy techniques that your therapist can employ to help you better manage your anger, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is certainly one of the most effective. This refers to a way of evaluating yourself and the situation with a more objective approach, allowing you to see the situation clearly for what it is, and then eventually teaching you to compare your reaction to this new view to see if it is a proper response.
CBT can help you prevent anger from taking control by seeing the situation more clearly, while also helping you manage your emotions and reactions.
What are some anger management techniques you will learn in therapy?
Some anger management techniques that you may learn in therapy include:
- Recognizing your triggers
- Learning more about why these things trigger you, and how you can see them more clearly in the future.
- Managing the physical symptoms (fast breathing, rapid heart rate, etc.) that can lead to an escalation in situation.
- Observing the situation for how it really is through reframing techniques.
- Determining what is an appropriate response to triggers.
- How to de-escalate situations.
- How to live a balanced, less stressful life.