Anger is a normal, even healthy, emotion. It is a natural response to both environmental and internal events that signals you that something in your world is not right and needs to be addressed. However, anger can quickly spiral out-of-control and can cause significant problems in life as well as effect your overall health.
What is Anger?
Anger is an emotional state that sets off a cascade of physiological reactions that prepare the body either to fight or to flee. When you become angry, your heart rate and blood pressure increase, and your energy hormones are activated. Your body is primed to protect itself aggressively, but in modern society, aggressive behaviors are not appropriate. Your body doesn't know the difference between a primal threat, like a tiger attack, and a modern-day threat, like being treated unfairly at work, and it responds the same in either situation, whether the response is socially appropriate or not.
When is Anger a Problem?
Feelings of anger can become problematic when they are routinely suppressed. Suppressed anger often finds an inappropriate outlet, such as passive aggressive behavior or a sudden outburst. Anger may be a mask for other feelings such as sadness or anxiety as well. Sometimes people who are chronically angry are not even aware of that fact, but usually those around them are!
Your anger may be getting beyond your control if:
- You have difficulty expressing emotions other than anger
- Your relationships have suffered or you have lost a valued friend or family member due to an angry exchange
- You have difficulty compromising
- You misinterpret a difference of opinion as a personal challenge or threat
- Your feelings of anger are disproportionate to the event
- Your career and work performance are suffering
- Your family relationships are suffering
- You feel agitated much of the time
Tips for Managing Anger in the Moment
Much research has been dedicated to anger management, and fortunately there are a variety of strategies, both short- and long-term, that you can use to help you get a handle on your feelings of anger. For a long time it was thought that venting your anger helped alleviate it, but more recent studies show that venting often only increases and prolongs those feelings. There are a number of strategies that you can try to alleviate anger in the moment:
Take deep breaths - breathing deeply helps to restore physiological balance and releases feelings of tension
Visit your happy place - visualize yourself relaxing in your favorite spot, breath deeply and slowly
Be aware of your senses - acknowledging how your body feels can actually help dissipate those uncomfortable, angry feelings
Alleviating Chronic Anger
Though both acute and chronic anger can cause problems in your life, chronic anger is usually more serious and may require the help of a professional. People who are chronically angry may be dealing with overwhelming life events that cause them to lash out at others, and even themselves. This can lead to depression, anxiety and other mental health issues that negatively affect your overall quality of life.
Talking with a therapist can not only help you learn to deal with angry feelings in an effective manner, it can also help you uncover the underlying issues that create the anger. A therapist can help you gain insight into the situations and events that are bothering you and can help you problem-solve effective ways to deal with them.
Leaving anger unchecked and unresolved will make both you and those around you miserable and unhealthy. Through the process of therapy, you and your family can enjoy a happier, more fulfilling life, even in the face of adverse events.