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When Anger Gets the Best of You: Understanding Anger Issues and Treatment Options
Take our quiz to see therapists who are a good match for you.
Anger is one of the most powerful and misunderstood human emotions. It is a normal emotion and often our first reaction to danger or injustice, and it can give us the push we need to speak up, defend ourselves, or set boundaries.
Because it’s so powerful, anger can hijack us. When anger is allowed to run wild, it can wreak havoc in our relationships and lives. Many people struggle to find the right balance between managing anger and letting anger control them. Anger Management Therapy is one option in learning to control feelings of anger.
The good news is that we have the power to transform our relationship with anger and turn it into a useful tool instead of a destructive force. In this article, we’ll explore anger, anger management techniques, and treatment options that can help us harness the power of anger in healthy and productive ways.
Understanding Anger on a Deeper Level
Anger takes many forms—irritation, fuming, and rage are all versions of the same inner experience. When we experience anger, our body responds with physical and biological changes. Our heart rate and blood pressure increase, along with the levels of energy hormones such as adrenaline and noradrenaline.
This intense emotional state can give us the energy we need to deal with a potentially dangerous situation in the short term. However, long-term exposure to these hormones due to uncontrolled anger can lead to serious health problems, including cardiovascular disease and chronic stress.
Our personal history and habits can influence whether we get angry in certain situations, and how we act when we’re angry. For example, if we grew up in an environment where anger was expressed in a violent and destructive way, we may be more likely to do the same as adults.
Research also shows that certain traits, such as impulsivity and a low sense of self-empowerment, can contribute to anger-related issues like aggression (Deming and Lochman 2008.) Understanding the science and psychology behind anger and its impact on the body and mind is crucial for managing it effectively, and that’s where anger management counseling comes in; anger management therapists are experts at helping people understand and manage the challenges of anger.
What is Anger Management Therapy?
During anger management therapy sessions, therapists will help clients to identify the sources of their anger, and develop strategies for managing and expressing it in a healthy way. Therapists who specialize in anger management understand that difficulties can stem from a person’s own internal challenges. They are experts at helping people to recognize and control their anger responses by working through those struggles.
While each anger management therapy process is unique to the individual, there are some common concepts and approaches that therapists use when working with clients struggling to manage their anger. Therapy can take many different forms, including individual therapy, group therapy, and online therapy.
Techniques used to treat anger can include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns that contribute to anger, and mindfulness-based therapy, which can help individuals develop awareness and acceptance of their emotions without becoming overwhelmed by them.
When Should I Seek Therapy for Anger?
Not everyone needs anger management. There are times in life when you just run into more frustrating situations than usual. So how do you know if your anger is healthy or if it’s a sign that something is off?
Determining whether it’s time to seek help for anger issues depends on how much it’s impacting your daily life. Like most mental health concerns, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. However, if your anger is interfering with your relationships, work, or other important areas of your life, it may be time to consider seeking help from a therapist who specializes in anger management.
If you are experiencing any of the following, it may be a sign that your anger is impacting your daily life to an extent that you should seek help from a mental health professional:
- You become aggressive or violent when angry.
- You often feel out of control when you’re angry.
- Your anger is causing problems in your relationships.
- You destroy things in a fit of anger.
- You often argue with family, friends, and strangers.
- You feel guilty or ashamed after expressing anger.
- You’ve experienced legal, financial, or other consequences as a result of your anger.
If you are experiencing any of the signs mentioned above, it’s important to remember that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Anger management therapy can help you gain control over your emotions and improve your relationships and overall well-being.
Anger Management Therapy Techniques for How To Deal with Anger
Anger management therapy is designed to help individuals recognize and deal with their anger. During therapy sessions, a therapist will work with you to identify the sources of your anger, and develop strategies for managing and expressing it as a healthy emotion. Here are some common techniques that your therapist might focus on to help you with your anger.
Identifying triggers: Specific situations, people, or events might be triggering your anger. Being aware of what these triggers are can help you develop skills to anticipate and prepare for these triggers, as well as develop strategies to manage your response.
Learning relaxation techniques: Relaxation techniques—such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization—can help you stay calm when you’re feeling angry. Your therapist may teach you these techniques and help you practice them until you can use them effectively on your own.
Practicing assertiveness: Many people struggle to express their needs and emotions in a healthy and assertive way. Your therapist can help you practice assertiveness techniques, such as “I” statements and active listening, which can help you communicate effectively and reduce conflicts.
Challenging negative thoughts: Negative thoughts, such as “Everyone is out to get me” or “Nothing ever goes my way,” can contribute to anger and frustration. Your therapist can help you identify and challenge these negative thoughts, replacing them with more positive and realistic ones.
Changing behaviors: Your therapist may also work with you to change specific behaviors that contribute to your anger, such as aggressive language, physical violence, or substance use.
Developing coping skills: Coping skills, such as journaling, exercising, or spending time in nature, can help you manage stress and anger in a healthy way. Your therapist can help you identify and develop coping skills that work for you.
Remember that every person’s experience with anger is unique, and the strategies used in anger management therapy may vary based on your individual needs and goals. Your therapist will work with you to develop a personalized plan for learning to control your anger and achieving your desired outcomes.
How to Get Started with Anger Management Therapy
If you’ve realized that you need some professional help managing your anger, the first step is to find a therapist who specializes in anger management. You can start by looking on Mental Health Match, whose features enable you to search specifically for therapists in your area with Focus Areas including “Anger” or “Anger Management.”
When you’ve found a therapist you’d like to work with, schedule a consultation to discuss your concerns. This is your opportunity to learn more about their approach to anger management therapy. Try to be open and honest about your experiences with anger and what you hope to achieve through therapy.
It’s important to find a therapist who you feel comfortable working with and who you trust to guide you through the process. Keep in mind that therapy is a collaborative effort- you have to put in the effort to see results.
Once you’ve started anger management therapy, be prepared to commit to regular sessions and to do the work required to make progress. Anger management therapy is a process, and it may take time to see results. However, with the right support and guidance, you can learn to manage your anger in a healthy and productive way.
Deming, A. M., & Lochman, J. E. (2008). The Relation of Locus of Control, Anger, and Impulsivity to Boys’ Aggressive Behavior. Behavioral Disorders, 33(2), 108–119. https://doi.org/10.1177/019874290803300205