You may feel angry when you feel that someone or something has wronged you, or when you feel frightened or threatened. It’s not good or bad to have some anger, but too much can be all-consuming and cloud your judgment. This guide will explain how to identify anger in yourself and provide some healthy ways to cope with it.
Two men looking at each other and talking in a hallway

What is it?

Anger is an emotion that’s experienced when a person feels slighted, threatened, disrespected or unappreciated. It’s usually an automatic response to frustrating or hard situations.

Everyone feels angry from time to time. But while anger is a common emotion, it exists in a range—from annoyance to rage—and it can sometimes be excessive or out of proportion to the situation. When that happens, anger can have a devastating effect on your personal life and relationships, as well as your overall health.

When we’re angry, we tend to feel it in our bodies. We might experience a change in body temperature, increased muscle tension, increased heart rate or blood pressure–we also may clench our firsts or grind our teeth. Many people even cry when they get angry. 

While anger does not feel or look the same in everyone, there are a few common ways anger is expressed:

  • Verbally by shouting, name-calling, or otherwise expressing oneself in a way we otherwise wouldn’t
  • Physically, by pushing, spitting, hitting, or breaking things. This reaction to anger can be particularly dangerous and traumatic to others.
  • Internally by redirecting the anger at oneself, and attempting to bury or ignore anger entirely
  • Passively by expressing anger in subtle and indirect ways. This includes giving another person the silent treatment or making snide remarks. 

Having some anger is normal and healthy. However, if you lose control of it, it can be detrimental. Learning ways to manage your anger and find a healthy outlet for it can make a huge difference in your quality of life.

What's causing it?

Anger can be caused by a number of different factors, but it’s generally related to feeling mistreated or disrespected in some way. You could be angry at a person or because of something that happened (like having someone cut in front of you in line), or you could be angry from stress or a major life change (like losing your job). 

Sometimes, anger is actually a replacement for other emotions that we aren’t yet ready (or do not want) to deal with such as loss, loneliness or fear. 

The ability to feel angry is something deeply ingrained in our biology.1 Anger, like sadness or frustration, is caused by a mismatch between what we expect to happen in any situation and what actually happens. That triggers our brain's reward circuit and activates the fight-or-flight response to prepare us for physical aggression. When anger is triggered, it can cause our heart rate and blood pressure to increase and a flood of adrenaline and testosterone. 

An area of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex usually helps to keep our anger in check: It allows us to consider how we’re responding to something in context and guides us to behave in a socially acceptable way. But that does not happen in all cases, and not for all of us. 

The sudden rush of adrenaline can cause us to react in extreme ways, such as a sudden outburst or physical aggression. These reactions can cause a fallout in our relationships and social life that we’re then forced to deal with after the fact. 

Anger is often a byproduct of other underlying emotions or life situations. Understanding the root of your anger can help you better manage it.

Sometimes the inability to control anger can be a sign of a mental health condition.

How should I deal with it?

Anger can feel random, unexpected and hard to control because it requires being calm at a time when your other impulses and emotions might be pushing you to act out. 

Sometimes anger is masking other feelings. Other times it may be a result of learning during childhood that acting out got us noticed, so we tend to cope with more anger than the average person. 

Identifying the situations and behaviors that trigger your anger is an important first step. You’ll then need to consider ways to deal with anger in the moment and in the long term. If you can, try to step away, even just temporarily, to decompress. 

Finding a proper outlet to channel your anger can make a huge difference. It’s also important to prioritize ways to deal with anger in a healthy way, whether that’s physical activity, rest or other forms of stress management. 

Trying a few things and finding what works for you can have tremendously positive effects on your well-being and the relationships you have both with yourself and the people you care about–it can even turn a bad experience into an empowering one by redirecting negative energy into something positive. 

Things to try

There are a number of effective ways you can attempt to deal with anger. The most important thing is finding one or more ways that work best for you and that you'll continue to use.

Book Read
Go for a walk
Anger ,
Burnout ,
Loneliness ,
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Relationship issues & breakups ,
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Walking might sound almost too easy to be effective, but it elevates your heart rate enough to count as exercise and also has some amazing benefits. Research shows it can boost your mood, energy level, creativity, and productivity, making it a perfect way to clear your head and take a break. It can also help to reduce symptoms of depression, strengthen your immune system, and improve heart health. This makes it a great habit to stay physically and mentally strong so you’re better equipped to deal with stress.

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Stop and observe your breath
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Take a few minutes (even just 5-10) to sit in silence and focus solely on your breath as you inhale and exhale. This is a simple way to calm your mind and body and can help shift your focus to the present moment and give your mind a rest from negative thoughts. It may take some practice, so don't beat yourself up if you catch your mind wandering—noticing when this happens is actually a great sign. All you have to do is refocus and keep going, which is a skill in itself.

Lightbulb Activity
Try talking about it
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Substance use
It might be that talking about what you're going through is the last thing you feel like doing. Or, it might be that you don't feel like talking to your loved ones about it. Ironically, this is usually a sign that getting something off your chest may be essential to healing. Consider asking a therapist or someone you trust to be a sounding board for you. You only need to start with one person.

What can I do now?

When you feel angry, you may lose control of your actions and say or do things that are self-destructive or hurtful to others. It’s a lot of energy expended in a way that generally doesn’t serve you. 

Finding a way to calm yourself and channel that energy into something creative or productive is a healthy way to take control of the situation. Try to take a beat and a breath before you react: Give yourself some space to think about why you’re reacting that way. Most importantly, prioritize getting enough rest and physical activity—this can be helpful to prevent future angry reactions and have a positive impact on your overall mindset.

  • Online interactive tool(s)
    Where to get help | Mental Health America
    Mental Health America offers a "Where to Get Help" interactive tool to recommend locating mental health support resources based on your needs.
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    National Domestic Violence Hotline
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    Man Therapy
    Man Therapy® was created by a multidisciplinary team of suicidologists, mental health experts, marketing strategists, and creatives to make mental health approachable by using humor to break stigma and help men take action with tools and resources.
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