- 1 Introduction
- 2 How does anger hurt me?
- 3 How can we manage your anger?
- 4 References
Anger is a common emotion experienced by many of us. In fact, it is hard to find someone who does not feel angry at all. You might find yourself mad at a stranger, a loved one, or even yourself. You may also find your fury targeted at external events, like your flight being delayed. (American Psychological Association)
Anger is frequently described as a fire and truly it works like one. While anger is a normal human emotion, uncontrolled anger can become problematic.
Evolutionary origins of anger
Anger helps us survive. It sets limits, helping to keep us safe from discomfort and danger. In ancient times, anger helped people ward off threats such as wild animals, and spurred them to defend themselves against aggression.
In today’s context, anger protects us from being taken advantage of. It tells us that someone is demanding something unreasonable from us, that they are not respecting our rights. Think: bosses making you work overtime for free, unwanted sexual harassment, etc.
Hence, a certain amount of anger is useful. However, when anger spirals out of control, it becomes an obstacle.
Why am I so angry?
There are a few reasons why you might get angry more easily and more intensely than others.
- Genetic predisposition: There is evidence that some children are born irritable, touchy, and easily angered.
- Sociocultural: Anger is often regarded as a negative emotion. Since young, we are taught that it is all right to express sadness, anxiety or other emotions, but not anger. As a result, we don’t learn how to handle or channel it constructively.
- Family background: Typically, people who are easily angered come from families that are disruptive, chaotic, and not skilled at emotional communication.
- Medical reasons: See below
Could my anger be due to a medical reason?
Absolutely. There are several conditions and medicines that have been shown to be related to anger, such as:
- Overactive thyroid
- Liver problems
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Certain medicines e.g. statin (to help lower cholesterol)
How does anger hurt me?
You might think that it is OK to be angry, because in the short run, anger can be effective. Losing your temper at your children may seem like a good idea at the time because it gets them to do their homework. Blowing up at your colleagues may get them to do things your way.
But look around you.
Ultimately, you are hurting the people around you and yourself in the long run. Not only will your relationships with your family, friends and coworkers sour, you may also be harming your health, as anger has been shown to be linked to increased risks of coronary heart disease and diabetes (Staicu & Cuţov, 2010).
What are some signs that my anger needs treatment?
Source: American Psychological Association
There are some signs that your anger might not be normal and you might need help learning to control it.
- It causes you to suffer from mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety.
- Your friends or family members have said they think you have an anger problem or have distanced themselves from you as a result of your behavior.
- You have conflicts with coworkers.
- There are business establishments where you are no longer welcome.
- You feel angry a lot of the time.
- You are nursing a grudge or thinking about getting revenge.
- You have been, or you think about being aggressive or violent when angry.
What are the mental health issues?
What are the physical health issues?
- Increased risk of hypertension
- Increased risk of coronary heart diseases
- Sleep disturbances (difficulty falling asleep and remaining asleep, excessive sleepiness in the daytime)
- Increased risk of acute and chronic pain
How can we manage your anger?
If you have recognised that you need help in managing your anger, half the battle is already won. Our team of psychologists can help you progress in this battle.
Fortunately, anger can be treated successfully for a wide range of adults, teenagers and children. (DiGiuseppe, 1999) Many research studies show that approximately 75% of people receiving anger management therapy have improved as a result. (American Psychological Association)
Anger often goes hand-in-hand with other problems such as depression and anxiety. Our psychologists can help treat those conditions, and at the same time help you cope with the anger.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a widely popular and the most well-researched method of treatment.
In CBT, the goal is to help you understand and monitor your anger patterns. You might be asked to keep an “anger diary” to keep track of how often and how intense your anger experiences are. You will also gain skills that will help you manage your anger, instead of expressing it in a provocative manner.
One CBT-based treatment is known as stress innoculation. It involves the psychologist suggesting alternative ways to cope more effectively with situations that make you angry. Afterwards, you will be exposed to imaginary situations that provoke you, and you will have to practise these coping skills.
Most research shows that CBT and the stress inoculation approach is effective in anger control and reducing inappropriate expressions of anger (Glancy & Saini, 2005).
In addition to psychotherapy, medications may also be used to treat anger disorders. If our psychologists or doctors think that you can benefit from them, they will further discuss this with you.
While research on drug treatment for anger disorders has been limited, a number of medications are known to reduce aggression and prevent rage outbursts. (Harvard Health, 2011)
These medications include:
- antidepressants (namely selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs)
- thought to improve mood and increase energy levels
- examples: fluoxetine, sertraline, and imipramine
- mood stabilisers
- can help to ‘even out’ and control mood swings
- examples: lithium, carbamazepine
- antipsychotic drugs
- not usually prescribed for anger disorders as they are used in patients with more severe conditions
- examples: risperidone, olanzapine, quetiapine