Anger is a human emotion that helps us deal with stress. There are physiological changes that cause physical symptoms in the body when we become angry. Such as increased heart rate, raised blood pressure, rapid breathing, sweating, muscle tension, etc. The parasympathetic nervous system reacts with these responses to prepare our bodies for action or fight-or-flight situations. The emotion of anger also helps us make decisions and solve problems. But when anger becomes excessive or out of control, it can be harmful to our health. It may cause physical damage and emotional harm. People who cannot manage their emotions well tend to experience more frequent anger issues than those whose emotions are better regulated.
Recognizing Each Type of Anger and Anger Symptoms
Passive Aggression occurs when someone does not express their anger directly but instead acts in ways that make others feel bad about themselves. Acts of passive aggression often go unnoticed by the person being attacked until they realize what has happened. Passive anger includes behaviors like:
- Blaming other people for your own mistakes.
- Not apologizing after you hurt somebody’s feelings.
- Behaving rude, sarcastic, or insulting.
Open Aggression is when an angry person lashes out in anger and rage, becoming physically or verbally aggressive. This uncontrolled anger behavior, stemming from a need to be in control, can hurt themselves or other people. Open aggression includes behaviors like:
- Verbal abuse such as bullying, accusing, shouting, and fighting.
- Threatening violence against another person or violent behavior and physical violence.
- Destructive Behavior – any act was done intentionally to destroy something valuable or important to another person. Destructive behavior includes damaging property, destroying things, throwing objects at people, breaking windows, vandalizing public places, stealing, lying, cheating, threatening, stalking, attacking animals, and harming yourself.
Assertive Anger is when an angry person expresses their angriness through words or actions without resorting to violent means. Assertive anger is anger under control. It involves expressing one’s needs and wants clearly and respectfully. An assertively expressed anger can help resolve conflicts between two parties. Assertive anger includes behaviors like:
- Expressing feelings of anger appropriately – talking calmly and rationally and listening carefully before responding
- Taking responsibility for one’s actions and expressions of angriness and resolving conflict peacefully.
Are Feelings of Anger a Mental Illness?
Feelings of anger aren’t considered a mental health disorder but is a symptom of several mental health conditions. An underlying mental health disorder can cause intense annoyance for some people. Examples of mental health disorders that can lead to unhealthy feelings of anger:
Depression – the irritability caused by depression can trigger angriness.
Anxiety – The unsettled “jumpy” feeling can lead to annoyance if there is no reasonable explanation behind the emotion.
Personality Disorders – Personality disorders include traits that affect how people behave and relate to others. These personality disorders can contribute to angriness because they interfere with relationships and social interactions.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – PTSD triggers flashbacks and nightmares that reenact traumatic events. People who have experienced trauma may become very upset over minor issues and lash out inappropriately.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder – OCD symptoms are repetitive thoughts and urge that drive sufferer into obsessive cycles of cleaning, checking, washing, counting, repeating, ordering, hoarding, etc. Anger can be caused by your inability to prevent obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors or having someone or something affect your ability to carry out a ritual.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – Common symptoms of restlessness, trouble focusing, and poor time management or planning skills can result in a short temper and angriness.
Bipolar Disorder – the dramatic mood shifts caused by this brain disorder may cause feelings of anger, rage, and periods of irritability.
There are medications used in the treatment of mental illness that can lead to angriness. These include antidepressants, antipsychotics, and antihistamines. If you’re taking medication for a mental condition, talk to your health professional if you notice signs of anger management issues. They might recommend changing doses or switching medicines.
Anger Management Techniques
Getting your angriness under control begins with Cognitive Restructuring. Cognitive restructuring is an approach to problem-solving that involves identifying negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones to produce healthy emotions. This psychotherapy technique helps change unhelpful thinking patterns and beliefs about yourself and other people. You’ll learn new ways to think about situations that make it easier to manage your emotions.
Cognitive Restructuring techniques include:
- Learn to identify feelings when your stress levels have risen instead of automatically reacting to those feelings. After determining what’s upsetting you and causing you to feel anxious or afraid, ask yourself whether these feelings are justified.
- Practicing relaxation techniques with deep breathing before responding to stressful situations to regain mental clarity and take control of your actions. Slowing down your breathing gives you time to calm down and analyze the situation, preventing actions you would regret.
- Changing negative self-talk. Changing self-defeating statements using “always” and “never” to more helpful phrases such as “sometimes,” “usually,” and “rarely” can release yourself from expectations of perfection. These strategies for anger management also help you develop realistic goals and avoid unrealistic demands on yourself.
- Identifying and challenging irrational fears. Fear often leads to angriness because we fear things without knowing exactly how they could harm us. Identify any specific fears that trigger anger and work through each one individually until you understand their origin. After determining the source of your anxiety, you can begin to challenge its validity.
- Rehearse responses to difficult situations ahead of time. Rehearsal for an anger response helps you practice what you want to say or do. It also allows you to learn how to problem-solve difficult situations.
- Communication Skills help you control your emotions when you feel angry or upset. You may avoid an argument and the effects of angriness if you learn how to communicate effectively with others.
Even though angriness is a human emotion, we don’t have to let it control us. Healthy anger management allows feeling the emotion of angriness without dictating our interactions with others or losing control. Mental health professionals can provide counseling one on one or in small groups to help those struggling with chronic anger or symptoms of angriness. Anger management classes can change your quality of life as well as the life of those you love.