Anger and Anger Management

Anger is an emotion that we all experience from time to time. This emotion is characterized by tension and hostility. Usually, it arises from frustration, feeling that you’ve been injured by someone, or perceiving an injustice (1).

In many cases, anger can be a helpful reaction that motivates us to take action to make positive changes. For example, we might feel angry when we learn about the effects of climate change, which might then motivate us to start recycling or composting.

Although it’s quite normal to experience anger at times, for some people it can become an emotion that is intense, difficult to control, or leads to aggression.

This can create problems in our lives, at work, socially and legally. Anger is not the same as aggression, although the two are often associated. Anger - which is an emotion - can be a trigger for aggression, which is behavior that is intended to cause harm.

It’s common for people who frequently struggle with anger to also experience other mental health challenges like depression, anxiety, shame or substance abuse. Chronic anger can also lead to health problems like heart disease (2).

So, if you think you have a problem with anger, consider seeking help from a mental health professional. Therapy can help you learn to manage and overcome anger issues and associated challenges.

Prevalence of anger

A recent survey conducted by the Mental Health Foundation in the United Kingdom found that (3):

However, there are effective therapies available to help people manage anger. The American Psychological Association reports that around 75% of people who take part in therapy for anger management experienced improvements (4).

Symptoms of anger

Both internal and external events can trigger the emotional reaction of anger. This means that the trigger could be thoughts, memories, a person, or actual events.

The physical signs of anger are due to the activation of our body’s ‘fight or flight’ response. These include:

Remember, anger is a normal emotion to experience and it not always problematic. Feeling these physical signs does not necessarily mean there’s a problem. In fact, these physical symptoms can also occur when we are feeling other emotions, such as anxiety or excitement.

Signs that you may need help managing your anger include:

How to manage anger

Getting a handle on your anger can help you to feel happier, more relaxed, and have better relationships. There are many resources available to help you learn strategies to better manage your emotions and control the physical symptoms of anger. Consider one or more of these options:

Anger: Therapy types to consider  

The particular approach taken depends on your individual circumstances as well as your therapist. That said, some common therapeutic approaches to anger management include:

What to look for in a therapist for anger management

There are several factors to keep in mind when selecting a mental health professional, including:

Education and credentials: Look for a licensed mental health professional who has specialized training and experience in anger management. It can be helpful to take a look at therapists’ biographies; this is often where they note their experience and specializations.

Personal fit: It’s important to find a therapist with whom you feel comfortable working with and trust. The trusting working relationship between you and your therapist, known as the “therapeutic alliance” can have a huge impact on the efficacy of therapy.

Talk in advance: The best way to judge how you might feel about your prospective therapist is to ask for a preliminary phone call (you can do this with our vetted Zencare therapists). Most therapists will be happy to oblige. This gives you the opportunity to ask about:

Try to speak to a few different therapists before making your mind up.

Sources and references:

1. American Psychological Association, Dictionary of Psychology
2. American Psychological Association, “How to recognize and deal with anger
3. Mental Health Foundation, “Boiling Point: Problem anger and what we can do about it
4. American Psychological Association, "Understanding anger"
5. Physical Exercise for Treatment of Mood Disorders: A Critical Review