When does anger become a problem?

POSTED ON 17/09/2020 IN Emotional Wellbeing

As humans we convey a huge range of emotions in our lives, with some being stronger at certain points than others. Anger is an emotion everyone feels at some point, but there is the potential for it to become a problem and take over a person’s life. In this blog post I will be looking at what anger is, how it can become a problem, and what can be done to control it.

Anger is a normal and healthy emotion to feel, and people may experience a variety of symptoms from it. Physical symptoms of anger include having a faster heartbeat, clenching your fists, and having tense muscles. Mental symptoms can include feeling nervous or tense, resenting other people, being easily irritated or unable to relax, and feeling humiliated. When a person experiences anger, their behaviour may also change; they may shout, start fights, break things, ignore people, or even self-harm. The causes of anger could be when we feel frustrated, unfairly treated or invalidated, deceived, or attacked. For most people, feeling angry will not have a huge impact on their lives, but for some it does.

Anger becomes a problem for a person when it gets out of control and ends up harming the person or those around them. This could be when anger has a negative impact on their physical and mental health, when anger becomes the person’s default emotion thereby blocking out the ability to feel other emotions, and when anger is often expressed through unhelpful or destructive behaviour. Not everyone expresses anger in the same way, and people who haven’t developed healthy ways to express it may not have learnt how to identify and cope with their feelings well. Unhelpful ways of expressing anger include outward violence and aggression, such as being physically violent, verbally abusive and threatening, and hitting or throwing things. On the other hand, inward aggression can occur where a person self-harms, denies themselves or basic needs such as food, or by telling themselves they hate themselves. People can also be passive aggressive where they ignore people, be sarcastic, sulky, or refuse to carry out tasks. All of these unhelpful ways of dealing with anger are damaging, especially outward violence and aggression which can be extremely damaging to other people who witness it.

The good news is that there is lots of help and support available for anyone who experiences anger in an unhelpful way and needs help with managing and controlling it. The first step, like with all health and mental health concerns, is making an appointment to see a GP when a person feels they need help with dealing with their anger. A GP then has the ability to make a referral to a counsellor or to an anger management programme. Having one-to-one counselling and working in a small group may be some of the features of an anger management programme, which could be carried other a couple of days or over a couple of months. There are also some talking therapies that are specifically made to help with anger issues, such as counselling where the aim is to understand how to manage certain situations differently. Psychotherapy is a longer-term therapy where it could be that past experiences are looked into to try and understand why a person expresses anger in the way they do, and why certain situations evoke such emotion. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is also an option where the aim is to look at a person’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours and how they affect each other, and then practical skills are taught in order to change it.

I think it’s important to remember that anger isn’t always a bad emotion because it has the potential to be useful. It can help us defend ourselves in dangerous situations (often referred to as fight or flight), it can help us to identify any problems we have or what is hurting us, and can help us to motivate ourselves to change parts of our lives if needed. There are links in the references section that contain further information and details of other ways of receiving help for problems with anger.


Sarah Keeping

Follow Sarah on twitter at @keepingapproach

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