Anger isn't always bad, but it must be handled appropriately. Consider the purpose anger serves and the best approach to anger management.By Mayo Clinic Staff
Anger itself isn't a problem — it's how you handle it. Consider the nature of anger, as well as how to manage anger and what to do when you're confronted by someone whose anger is out of control.
Anger is a natural response to perceived threats. It causes your body to release adrenaline, your muscles to tighten, and your heart rate and blood pressure to increase. Your senses might feel more acute and your face and hands flushed.
However, anger becomes a problem only when you don't manage it in a healthy way.
Being angry isn't always a bad thing. Being angry can help you share your concerns. It can prevent others from walking all over you. It can motivate you to do something positive. The key is managing your anger in a healthy way.
There are many common triggers for anger, such as losing your patience, feeling as if your opinion or efforts aren't appreciated, and injustice. Other causes of anger include memories of traumatic or enraging events and worrying about personal problems.
You also have unique anger triggers, based on what you were taught to expect from yourself, others and the world around you. Your personal history feeds your reactions to anger, too. For example, if you weren't taught how to express anger appropriately, your frustrations might simmer and make you miserable, or build up until you explode in an angry outburst.
In other cases, changes in brain chemistry or underlying medical conditions can contribute to angry outbursts.
When you're angry, you can deal with your feelings through:
- Expression. This is the act of conveying your anger. Expression ranges from a reasonable, rational discussion to a violent outburst.
- Suppression. This is an attempt to hold in your anger and possibly convert it into more constructive behavior. Suppressing anger, however, can cause you to turn your anger inward on yourself or express your anger through passive-aggressive behavior.
- Calming down. This is when you control your outward behavior and your internal responses by calming yourself and letting your feelings subside.
Ideally, you'll choose constructive expression — stating your concerns and needs clearly and directly, without hurting others or trying to control them.
Some research suggests that inappropriately expressing anger — such as keeping anger pent up — can be harmful to your health. Such responses might aggravate chronic pain or lead to sleep difficulties or digestive problems. There's even some evidence that anger and hostility is linked with heart disease.
Learning to control anger is a challenge for everyone at times. Consider seeking help for anger issues if your anger seems out of control, causes you to do things you regret, hurts those around you or is taking a toll on your personal relationships.
Apr. 13, 2014
- Controlling anger before it controls you. American Psychological Association. http://www.apa.org/topics/anger/control.aspx. Accessed Nov. 20, 2013.
- Son J, et al. The effect of an anger management program for family members of patients with alcohol use disorders. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing. 2010;24:38.
- Van Middendorp H, et al. Effects of anger and anger regulation styles on pain in daily life of women with fibromyalgia: A diary study. European Journal of Pain. 2010;14:176.
- Ropper AH, et al. Adams and Victor's Principles of Neurology. 9th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2009. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=54. Accessed Nov. 20, 2013.
- Chida Y, et al. The association of anger and hostility with future coronary heart disease: A meta-analytic review of prospective evidence. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2009;53:936.
- Wright S, et al. Mindfulness and the treatment of anger problems. Aggression and Violent Behavior. 2009;14:396.
- Nay WR. Behind the mask: Understanding anger and its expression. Taking Charge of Anger. New York, N.Y.: The Guilford Press; 2004:29.