Anger management is a process of learning to recognize signs that you're becoming angry, and taking action to calm down and deal with the situation in a positive way. Anger management doesn't try to keep you from feeling anger or encourage you to hold it in. Anger is a normal, healthy emotion when you know how to express it appropriately. Anger management is about learning how to do this.
You may learn anger management skills on your own, using books or other resources. But for many people, taking an anger management class or seeing a mental health counselor is the most effective approach
Anger management helps you recognize frustrations early and resolve them in a way that allows you to express your needs — and keeps you calm and in control.
Some signs you need help controlling your anger include:
- Often feeling that you have to hold in your anger
- Frequent arguments with your partner, children or co-workers that escalate frustrations
- Trouble with the law
- Physical violence, such as hitting your partner or children or starting fights
- Threats of violence against people or property
- Out-of-control behavior, such as breaking things or driving recklessly
A number of books and websites offer information about ways to manage anger. But, if learning skills on your own isn't enough to help you stay calm and in control, you may benefit from seeing a mental health professional or by taking an anger management class.
It can take a little work to find an anger management program, a counselor specializing in anger management, or other resources. Here are some places to start your search:
- Check your local library for books, videos or other resources.
- Search online for resources, such as blogs, support groups or books.
- Ask your primary care doctor for a referral to a program or counselor.
- Ask someone who completed an anger management program or took other steps to manage anger.
- Check with your health insurance company, employee assistance program (EAP) or church.
- Ask state or local agencies for recommendations.
- Check with your district court.
When you start working on anger management, identify your particular triggers and the physical and emotional signs that occur as you begin to get angry. Pay attention to these, and write them down:
- Identify any stressors that commonly trigger or worsen your anger. Examples include frustration with a child or partner, financial stress, or issues with a co-worker.
- Pay attention to physical signs that your feelings of anger are rising — for example, clenching your jaw or driving too fast.
- Take note of emotional signs your anger's on the rise, such as the feeling you want to yell at someone or that you're holding in what you really want to say.
Anger management classes or counseling for anger management can be done one-on-one; with your partner, child or other family members; or in a group setting. The setting, length of sessions and how many sessions you'll need to attend can vary depending on the program or therapist and your needs. Typically, anger management courses or psychological counseling for anger lasts for a period of weeks up to a few months.
Generally, counseling for anger management focuses on learning specific skills and ways of thinking to cope with anger. If you have any other mental health conditions, such as depression or addiction, you may need to work on these other issues for anger management techniques to be effective.
The aim of counseling and anger management classes is to teach you to:
- Identify situations that are likely to set you off and respond in nonaggressive ways before you get mad
- Learn specific skills to use in situations likely to trigger your anger
- Recognize when you aren't thinking logically about a situation, and correct your thinking
- Calm yourself down when you begin to feel upset
- Express your feelings and needs assertively (but not aggressively) in situations that make you feel angry
- Focus on problem solving in frustrating situations — instead of using energy to be angry, you'll learn how to redirect your energy to resolve the situation
- Communicate effectively to defuse anger and resolve conflicts
Improving your ability to manage anger has a number of benefits. You'll feel as if you have more control when life's challenges turn up the heat. Knowing how to express yourself assertively means you won't feel frustrated because you feel that you need to "hold in" your anger to avoid offending someone.
Anger management can help you:
- Communicate your needs. Learn how to recognize and talk about things that frustrate you, rather than letting your anger flare up. Knowing how to express yourself can help you avoid impulsive and hurtful words or actions, resolve conflicts, and maintain positive relationships.
- Maintain better health. The stress caused by ongoing angry feelings can increase your risk of health problems, including headaches, sleep problems, digestive problems, heart problems and high blood pressure.
- Prevent psychological problems linked to anger, which can include depression, problems at work and troubled relationships.
- Use your frustration to get things done. Anger expressed inappropriately can make it difficult for you to think clearly, and may result in poor judgment. You'll learn to use feelings of frustration and anger as motivators to work harder and take positive action.
- Help avoid addictive escapes. It's common for people who feel chronically angry to turn to alcohol, drugs or food. Rather than using alcohol, drugs or food to dull anger, you can use anger management techniques to keep your cool and your control.
Jun. 23, 2011
- Barbara Woodward Lips Patient Education Center. Understanding anger. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2004.
- Controlling anger — before it controls you. American Psychological Association. http://www.apa.org/topics/anger/control.aspx. Accessed April 12, 2011.
- Scott CL, et al. Psychotherapeutic approaches to treating chronic aggression. In: Hales RE, et al. The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Psychiatry. 5th ed. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Publishing; 2008. http://www.psychiatryonline.com/content.aspx?aID=319794&searchStr=aggressive+behavior. Accessed April 12, 2011.
- Reilly PM, et al. Anger management for substance abuse and mental health clients: A cognitive behavioral therapy manual. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://store.samhsa.gov/product/SMA08-4213. Accessed April 12, 2011.