While anger is a normal, healthy emotion, it can develop into a serious problem if you find it difficult to keep under control.
Feelings of anger or violent acting out can be related to many different issues including depression, anxiety, and addictions, among other mental health problems.
Some people may also have a history of past physical, sexual or emotional abuse, often resulting in PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). There may be many interlocking features that have led someone to develop difficulties in controlling their frustration, anger and sometimes full-blown rage.
If you have been diagnosed with PTSD, you may find that the anger you experience is very intense, and as a result, it may be very difficult to manage. This intense anger can lead to a number of unhealthy behaviours, such as substance use or some other kind of impulsive behaviour. So it is very important to learn some healthy ways of releasing the tension that accompanies intense anger.
The emotion of anger is entirely natural, and it is usual to feel angry when you’ve been mistreated or wronged. But what it comes down to is how you deal with it.
First and foremost, anger becomes dangerous when it causes harm to you or others. Anger management difficulties can lead to loss of a job, broken relationships and even problems with the law, ending in criminal convictions.
While it’s important that anger, amongst other emotions, doesn’t get bottled up, maintaining control over it is crucial to maintaining calm, and ensures that outward expressions of anger don’t negatively impact your relationships.
If you’re struggling to manage your anger but you’re not sure if you might have a problem, there’s a few common signs that could help you determine whether you or somebody close to you, needs help.
• You have a short temper – easily frustrated, trivial things make you furious.
• People say you’re angry – have you noticed that some people are avoiding you?
• Friends or family are scared of you – have past actions and words made them wary?
• No patience – cannot tolerate problems without becoming annoyed or anxious.
• Blaming others – unable to accept responsibility for your own actions.
• Cannot accept criticism – deny or shut down when someone says something negative about you.
• Criticise and degrade others – put others down to relieve your own stress.
Recognise the Signs
Before you can manage your anger, you need to be able to recognise when it is taking control of your emotions. Everybody will experience anger in slightly different ways but there are many common signs, both physical and mental, which can include:
• Grinding your teeth or clenching your jaws
• Migraines and headaches
• Rapid, heavy breathing
• Increase in heart rate
• Hot flushes in your face and neck
• Sweaty palms
• Pacing, shaking or trembling
• Feeling light headed or dizzy
• Feeling tense, nervous or unable to relax
• Feeling guilty
• Feeling resentful towards other people or situations
• Easily irritated
• Feeling humiliated
Understanding your own symptoms of anger can help you detect when your anger is on the rise so you can implement one of the techniques below to calm yourself down.
Knowing your triggers
As well as being able to recognise the signs of anger, it’s important to understand what people, places and situations tend to make you angry.
By spending some time to list the things in your life that make you angry you can either try to avoid them, or be better prepared next time you are about to come face to face with your anger triggers.
If you’re constantly feeling angry and are easily irritated, then you might be dealing with something more than just an anger issue. Often anger is triggered by stress, depression, anxiety or other mental and emotional health issues which leaves you in an agitated and tense state that inhibits your ability to react in a controlled manner.
Pause before you react
When anger begins to swell inside you and you feel that you want to react, remind yourself to stop before you speak or take action that may add more fuel to the fire, before it could escalate to a point where you do something extreme and regrettable, such as physical violence. You could get so angry that you end up hurting yourself or someone you care about without intending to do so.
Many people feel that they need to walk away and remove themselves from the situation completely. Take a deep breath, collect your thoughts and allow yourself and anyone else involved a few moments of clarity to better address the situation.
Remember that no matter how bad the situation is that you’re dealing with, anger rarely helps and pushes you further away from finding a solution to the problem.
Express your anger when you’ve calmed down
Bottling up your anger inside does no good for anyone. If you silently keep it to yourself, it can cause health problems or build until one day when it explodes in a violent rage.
The best approach is to wait until you are thinking clearly and calmly then express your anger in a firm but non-confrontational way.
Be clear about why you are feeling angry or frustrated, and explain what you believe is the best solution without blaming, degrading or hurting others.
When stress builds and builds, it can trigger anger in an instant. Taking a quick break to get some exercise will help clear your head, catch your breath and your body will release endorphins, the body’s natural stress reliever.
When you return from a quick walk or run, a few stretches or any kind of physical activity, you’ll notice your anger has subsided and you are better equipped to deal with the situation at hand.
Look for solutions, not faults
When people feel angry, they tend to jump to conclusions, which can be inaccurate. When you’re having an angry argument, slow down and think through your responses before lashing out. Remember to listen to the other person in the conversation. Good communication can help you resolve problems before your anger escalates.
When you know exactly what is making you angry, you can then choose to deal with it constructively by either changing your perspective, your environment or your routine.
Learn to relax
There are many techniques to reduce stress and increase relaxation. Yoga, meditation, exercise, writing in a journal or listening to music that makes you happy on a regular basis will help you develop more calmness and compassion in your day to day life.
When you are relaxed you are better prepared to face frustrating situations and will return to normal much quicker if your anger levels do start to rise.
Seek professional help
If you feel that anger is already negatively affecting your life, then you should seek professional help. In most cases it will not resolve itself and will often get worse as your anger creates more stress and tension in the body, which only fuels more anger.
Counselling at Voxen specialise in anger management, among other areas of mental health. Call us today if you think we might be able to help.