What is Anger?

Anger is an emotional state which humans experience on a regular basis.  However as with all human emotions, if this persists for a significant period of time or gets too intense on a regular basis it can affect our social, family and work life.  Extreme anger could also be part of an existing mental health difficulty such as depression, anxiety and addiction disorder.

Why do people get angry?

Different people get angry for different reasons.  Things that could provoke anger include stressful situations, a perceived or actual threat to our sense of self, ego or status, physical or verbal threats by others, discrimination, unfair treatment by others, people not abiding by social norms and values, being interrupted while pursuing goals and many other life circumstances that are perceived as unfavourable.

What determines how people react when they are angry?

Different people react in different ways.  This will depend on their background and upbringing, personality, cultural values and norms, the situation that provoked the anger, habitual substance use.  The physical response to anger involves the release of the hormone, adrenaline which gets us ready to deal with a perceived external threat.  As a result of the release of adrenaline our heart rate increases, we breathe faster, blood vessels become wider allowing for increased blood flow to our muscles and other organs and we sweat more.  This occurs to enable us deal with the threat effectively, however this heightened state of anxiety and agitation could also affect our judgement and our ability to control ourselves causing us to act impulsively.

How can anger problems affect my life?

Intense anger can occur in those who have an anger problem.  This leads to uncontrollable rage which the person later regrets.  During this fit of rage many actions may occur impulsively such as physical and verbal assault which could cause significant emotional trauma or physical injury to others.  Those who find it difficult to control their anger can also cause injury to themselves by head banging or engaging in other forms of self-harming behaviour to release their anger.  These impulsive behaviours could cause significant problems at work, home or in a social setting.  This will affect relationships with partners, children, colleagues, friends and family members.  In an attempt to deal with the aftermath of intense anger, some may use substances such as alcohol to cope which may in turn lead to addiction difficulties.

How can I prevent anger from becoming a problem?

The most effective way to prevent anger from affecting your life significantly is to accept that you have an anger problem and to seek help as soon as possible.  There are numerous anger management courses available or alternatively you could have individual therapy to deal with anger and to develop constructive anger management strategies.  Refrain from using substances such as alcohol and illicit drugs as these intensify anger and make our actions even more impulsive and uncontrollable when we are angry.  Managing stress effectively and maintaining a reasonable work-life balance are beneficial.  Eating healthy, engaging in regular exercise and doing the things you enjoy or find fulfilling should not be ignored.  Identify the triggers for your anger and practice substituting anger for more constructive coping strategies when faced with these external triggers.  Therapy has been shown to be effective in dealing with anger management difficulties.

What are the signs and symptoms of anger management problems?

You may have an anger management problem if you experience the following:

  • Physical acts of aggression such as assaulting others, punching walls, breaking things and head banging
  • Reacting aggressively to minor incidents such as verbal remarks, spilled drinks, slow moving queues
  • Finding it difficult to control your feelings of anger
  • Having persistent arguments with friends, family and colleagues and accusing them of things they have not done
  • Regretting your actions after an argument or a fit of anger
  • Those close to you avoid being around and those who have no choice but to be around are fearful and terrified of you
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