When people have angry feelings, they often behave in angry ways too. Angry behaviours include yelling, throwing things, criticising, ignoring, storming out and sometimes withdrawing and doing nothing.
Anger can often lead to violence if not properly controlled and some people use anger as an excuse for being abusive towards others. Violence and abusive behaviour gives someone power and control over another person usually through creating fear.
Why do we get angry?
Anger is often associated with frustration - things don't always happen the way we want and people don't always behave the way we think they should. Anger is usually linked with other negative emotions or is a response to them. You may be feeling hurt, frightened, disappointed, worried, embarrassed or frustrated, but may express these sorts of feelings as anger. Anger can also result from misunderstandings or poor communication between people.
Men and women often, but not always, manage and express anger in different ways. With men, anger may be the primary emotion, as many men believe that anger is a more legitimate emotion to express in a situation. Often men find it harder to express the feelings underneath the anger, like hurt, sadness or grief. For women the reverse may often be true - the anger gets buried under tears.
When is anger a problem?
Anger becomes a problem when it creates trouble for you with other people, your work, your health, day-to-day living or the law. Anger is also a problem when other people around you are frightened, hurt or feel they cannot talk to you or disagree with you in case you become angry. Some signs that anger is a problem are outlined here.
- Anger involves verbal, emotional, physical or psychological abuse.
- You feel angry a lot of the time.
- People close to you are worried about your anger.
- Anger is leading to problems with personal relationships and work.
- You think you have to get angry to get what you want.
- Anger seems to get bigger than the event that set it off.
- Anger lasts for a long time, and well after the triggering event has passed.
- Anger affects other situations not related to the original event.
- You are becoming anxious or depressed about your anger
- You are using alcohol or other drugs to try to manage your anger.
- You are getting angry with the people who are closest to you, or with people who are less powerful than you, rather than dealing with the situation that sparked off your anger in the first place.
Why manage anger?
Anger is not usually a good solution to problems, even if it seems helpful in the short term. Unmanaged anger creates problems - sometimes for you and often for others around you. People with poor anger management are more likely to have problems with personal relationships or work, verbal and physical fights and/or damaged property. They can also experience anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, psychosomatic illnesses and problems with alcohol or drugs. It is important to manage anger before it leads to other serious problems.
Some people used to believe that venting anger was beneficial. Researchers have now found that ‘letting it rip' actually escalates anger and aggression and does nothing to resolve the situation. On the other hand, sitting on your anger and not expressing it may lead to the pressure cooker experience that many people are familiar with. Expressing some feelings of anger in a controlled way, rather than bottling it up, gives you an opportunity to release some of your underlying feelings, so that you can start to tackle the issues that are making you angry.
What is anger management?
Anger management is about understanding your anger and why it happens. It is about learning and practising better ways of expressing anger, and knowing how to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Specifically, anger management is about knowing the triggers and early warning signs of anger, and learning techniques to calm down and manage the situation before it gets out of control.
Seeking professional assistance
You can seek help from a clinical psychologist if you feel your anger is out of control. Your APS psychologist can assess if your anger is a problem, and help you understand your anger. Together, you can work out how to get what you want in a better way. Your clinical psychologist can also help you manage other problems that may be associated with anger, such as depression, violence or difficulties in your personal relationships.
From anger tip sheet, APS