While there is nothing wrong with getting angry occasionally, spending most of your time being upset could be a sign that you have anger issues.
Anger is a natural human emotion that can be both useful and positive when processed appropriately. It can, however, turn destructive when it spirals out of control or is handled the wrong way.
It can cause problems in your work or relationships, or even negatively affect your quality of life. This is especially true if you cannot control your anger or get angry quickly and too often.
What is anger?
Anger is a basic human emotion that is commonly experienced when we think or believe that we are wronged, opposed, or mistreated. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), it is characterized by antagonism toward something or something you feel has purposely done you wrong. Anger can also be constructive or destructive depending on how it is handled.
While this emotion is mostly considered irrational, everybody experiences anger from time to time. In most cases, it signals that something happening in your life or around you is not right. This can then motivate you to make the necessary changes.
This is also the reason why anger is usually considered healthy. It can only be negative when it gets out of hand and hurts you or other people.
What causes anger and anger issues?
A number of things can trigger anger. It is important to know that it is a secondary emotion because we turn to anger to hide vulnerable feelings and protect ourselves. As this emotion can cause an increase in energy, it can make us feel more in control, instead of weak or helpless.
Here are some possible causes of anger:
- Sadness or grief (can be due to job loss, death of a loved one, or being diagnosed with a life-changing illness)
- Hurt (due to a break-up, divorce, or being rejected)
- Betrayal (being cheated on)
- Fear or worry (from financial problems)
- Stress due to family, work, or relationship problems
- Unmet expectations in a relationship
- Substance misuse (due to the fact that it can increase aggression)
There are also mental health illnesses that may be correlated with anger issues and may need professional support like therapy. These include:
Along with sadness, low energy, and a loss of interest in the things once enjoyed, anger can also be a symptom of depression. According to a study published in 2013, 54.5% or 292 out of 536 participants who have had major depressive disorders also had overt irritability/anger.
People with bipolar disorder experience mood episodes that can range from extreme highs (mania or hypomania) to extreme lows (depression). These can result in severe mood swings that may also involve anger or aggression.
One study also found out that people with this disorder displayed more aggressive behaviors, anger, and hostility than those without the said disorder.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
People with OCD can have disturbing thoughts or profound fear about something. Not being able to prevent or stop these thoughts and behaviors may lead to anger. In fact, a 2011 study found out that anger attacks are present in about half of the people with OCD. A more recent study also found that those with OCD self-report more anger and aggression than those without the said disorder.
Intermittent explosive disorder (IED)
This lesser-known mental health disorder often involves sudden and repeated episodes of aggression, rage, and violence. People with IED tend to have angry outbursts or adult temper tantrums (like throwing objects, kicking doors, shouting, or fighting for no reason). The outburst usually lasts for 30 minutes, with the person feeling embarrassed or remorseful afterward.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Common symptoms include impulsiveness, hyperactivity (excessive talking, being unable to sit still or concentrate on tasks), and inattentiveness. In some cases, both anger and a short temper can occur in people with ADHD. A 2017 study suggested that the majority of children with ADHD have at least one symptom of irritability, which can involve feelings of anger or frustration.
Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
People with ODD often display ongoing patterns of defiance, uncooperativeness, and hostile behavior. They may also lose their temper easily or have an outburst of anger or resentment. They are also easily annoyed by others and refuse to comply with laws and rules. It is said that 1 to 16% of all school-age kids and adolescents have this disorder.
Signs of anger issues
Not all people who have a hard time managing their anger have anger issues. Here are some signs that can help you determine if you have anger issues or anger management problems.
Anger issues can trigger your body’s fight-or-flight response and affect different parts of your body, including your muscles, brain, and heart.
Some of the physical warning signs include:
- Rapid or increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Feeling hot or flushed (face and neck)
- Muscle tension
- Tightness in chest
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
A number of emotions could mean that you are not dealing with your anger appropriately or in a positive manner. These include:
- Constant irritability
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Lack of patience and emotional control
- Rage and anxiety
Other signs of anger issues
So, do I have anger issues? Apart from the physical and emotional symptoms, it is also helpful to look into the way you experience anger and respond to it.
You may be struggling with anger issues if:
- You have a very short temper or feel angry often
- Your anger seems to be out of control
- Your anger is negatively affecting your work and personal relationships
- Your friends and loved ones feel scared when you’re angry
- You always find a way to blame others (can’t take responsibility for your actions)
- Your anger causes you to do or say things you regret later on
- You cannot accept criticism or have a meaningful conversation about difficult or controversial topics
- You are physically or verbally abusive
How to treat anger management issues
If your anger is negatively affecting your life or feel like it is out of control, it is best to consider therapy and talk to a mental health professional. This can help determine what’s causing your anger issues or if they are associated with an underlying mental health problem.
Treatment for anger management issues include:
Anger management therapy aims to help you examine and recognize what makes you angry, as well as teach you skills to manage your triggers effectively. It can also help you learn problem-solving techniques that may reduce the risk of triggering anger, as well as provide a safe space to practice new skills on how to release anger or express it constructively.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a well-known approach to anger management therapy. This helps you identify negative or unhelpful thinking patterns that may be triggering or sustaining your anger. Being aware of these patterns and behaviors can help you start working on them and make positive changes in your behavior.
Anger management classes
These are also a form of behavioral therapy that teach people how to regulate emotions or positively deal with their anger. They are usually led by qualified instructors like a trained psychotherapist trained in CBT or other evidence-based approach.
They don’t specifically treat anger issues, but they can help with symptoms if you are diagnosed with anxiety, depression, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) that may be causing or are associated with your anger issues.
Other treatment options include:
- Mindfulness techniques
- Relaxation techniques like yoga or deep breathing exercises
- Support groups
- Anger management exercises
- Other types of therapy (like solution-focused brief therapy)
Anger management: How to tame your temper
Looking for ways to control your anger or tame your temper? Here are some self-help strategies and anger management tips that can get it under control.
- Think before you speak – gather your thoughts first before saying anything.
- Express your frustration – vent to a trusted friend or loved one or let others know your needs and concerns in a nice and non-threatening way. This can help you express or release your anger in an assertive but non-threatening way.
- Engage in regular physical activity – this can help reduce the stress that may sometimes trigger anger.
- Take a break – have a few moments of quiet and peaceful time when things get overwhelming.
- Practice relaxation techniques – try yoga or deep breathing exercises, repeat a calming word or phrase, or write in a journal.
- Focus on solutions – look for possible solutions, instead of focusing on things that made you mad or angry.
- Use humor – lighten things up with lighthearted humor or playfulness to diffuse tension.
- Be kind to yourself — self-compassion is a key element to help you overcome your struggles and feel better about yourself.
If you feel that your anger is spiraling out of control, consider anger management exercise or seek help through online therapy on such platforms like Calmerry. A mental health professional can identify any underlying mental health problem and help you work through or deal with your anger and other intense emotions.