What's the best way to handle anger?
When you're angry, you can choose to express or suppress the emotion. Here's the difference:
- 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 or ignore your anger. It also includes passive-aggressive responses — in which you don't express your anger constructively but instead scheme to retaliate.
Ideally, you'll choose constructive expression — stating your concerns and needs clearly and directly, without hurting others or trying to control them.
Can anger harm your health?
Some research suggests that inappropriately expressing anger — such as keeping anger pent up, seething with rage or having violent outbursts — 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 stress and hostility related to anger can lead to heart disease and heart attack.
When is professional help needed?
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. You might explore local anger management classes or anger management counseling. With professional help, you can:
- Learn what anger is
- Identify what triggers your anger
- Recognize signs that you're becoming angry
- Learn to respond to frustration and anger in a controlled, healthy way
- Explore underlying feelings, such as sadness or depression
Anger management classes and counseling can be done individually, with your partner or other family members, or in a group. Request a referral from your doctor to a counselor specializing in anger management, or ask family and friends for recommendations. Your health insurer, employee assistance program (EAP), clergy, or state or local agencies also may offer recommendations.
What can you do if you're confronted by someone whose anger is out of control?
Usually, the most rational thing to do is to walk away. If you stay, the situation may escalate into violence. If leaving the situation is difficult or impossible, take reasonable precautions to protect yourself. Don't engage the other person in a manner that's likely to increase the angry behavior.
Jun. 24, 2011
See more In-depth
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- 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.
- The limbic lobes and the neurology of emotion. In: Ropper AH, et al. Adams and Victor's Neurology. 9th ed. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.; 2009. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=3634161&searchStr=anger. Accessed March 8, 2011.
- 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.
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- Hall-Flavin DK (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 22, 2011.