What is Anger?
Anger is one of the basic human emotions. It is defined as an intense emotional reaction to a provocation, feelings of hurt or humiliation, or threat. Similar to anxiety, Anger can make you fight, fly or freeze in the face of a trigger.
A common myth is that Anger is ‘bad’ and you should not be feeling it. However, just like feelings of happiness, sadness or anxiety, Anger plays an essential role in helping you identify things you don’t like. Anger can help someone become motivated to change, keeping them safe and able to protect themselves in dangerous situations by giving you a burst of energy.
It is how you respond when you’re feeling angry that can become a problem, such as aggression or violence.
Is Anger a Mental Illness?
No. Anger is a primary human emotion and not a mental illness. However, dysfunctional Anger and aggression can be symptoms of Intermittent Explosive Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Conduct Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder.
Anger may also play a role in manic episodes, ADHD, and depression. Anger becomes a problem if it gets out of control. For example, when the feelings are experienced very intensely or in a way that causes physical and emotional harm.
Uncontrolled Anger leads to harm to you or others around you, and it impacts your day-to-day life, including ability to hold a job or relationships and damage your mental and physical health.
What causes Anger?
It is unclear why some people can get angry more quickly than others or respond more intensely when they feel angry.
These reactions are usually determined by our life experiences, current situation, personality traits and skills we have developed throughout our lives that have helped us deal with challenges, big and small.
Our response to Anger can depend on several factors, key ones being our interpretation of threat or provocation, often driven by our personality traits and core beliefs, and our response to that threat. Everyone has their triggers to Anger. However, these usually are related to feelings of pain, being attacked, frustration, powerlessness, invalidation, unfairness, or feeling disrespected.
Certain habits and attitudes may also be linked to increased aggression:
- A belief that one’s rights and privileges are more important than those of other people
- Focusing on things out of personal control, such as a partner’s behaviour or that of a line manager
- Trying to regulate emotions by controlling one’s environment rather than addressing the real issues relating to the person
- Holding others responsible for one’s well-being
- Refusal to see other perspectives and viewing different perspectives as threats
- Low tolerance for discomfort
- Low tolerance for ambiguity
- Being very focused on blame and difficulty forgiving others
- Being very sensitive
Anger can also be a reaction to adverse life experiences, such as those causing emotional and physical pain. In some cases, Anger acts as a distraction from the real issues.
Although Anger can manifest itself in a variety of ways and everyone’s experience may be slightly different, here are some of the most common physical symptoms:
- Tense muscles
- Clenched fists
- Racing heart
- Increased sweating
- Faster breathing
- Tighter chest
- “Seeing” red
These physical symptoms alone can trigger feelings of unease and irritation. Further to the physical symptoms, you may also experience thoughts of being wronged, hurt or attacked. Being told you can’t do something and thinking to yourself that this is unfair.
Treatment for Anger and Anger Management Training
It can be challenging to deal with Anger, especially when the feelings are overwhelming and you feel like releasing them is the only option to make you feel better.
Anger can make us react in dangerous and unpredictable ways, and in ways that we may regret once we have cooled down.
That’s why it’s essential to manage it effectively as soon as you recognise the first signs. Anger doesn’t ‘just happen’, and there are usually several factors leading to someone getting angry, even if it doesn’t feel like this to you or people around you. Here are some tips to help you manage Anger:
- Be aware of your triggers and learn to recognise your early warning signs. This will help you react sooner and stop Anger from escalating.
- Make sure you get regular good sleep. Feeling tired can make you irritable, short-tempered, and more likely to respond aggressively to a minor incident.
- Do more exercise. Physical exercise increases the release of endorphins, hormones of happiness, which also relieve stress and pain, making you feel more relaxed.
- Take deep breaths – this can slow your heart rate and breathing pace, which in turn can make you feel calmer and more relaxed.
- Walk away from the situation that makes you angry
If you tried to manage Anger by yourself and it still causes you problems, you may want to try an anger management programme that would help you identify triggers and early warning signs, as well as teach you strategies to cope and manage Anger.