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.
Related emotions, moods and life challenges
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.
- Anger ,
- Burnout ,
- Loneliness ,
- Sadness ,
- Worry ,
- Money issues ,
- Non-substance addiction ,
- Relationship issues & breakups ,
- Substance use ,
- Opening up to friends & family ,
- Trauma ,
- Non-substance addiction ,
- Relationship issues & breakups ,
- Substance use
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.
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