Anger management is the process of learning to recognize signs that you're becoming angry, and taking action to calm down and deal with the situation in a productive 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 professional is the most effective approach.
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Why it's done
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 that you need help controlling your anger include:
- Regularly feeling that you have to hold in your anger
- Persistent negative thinking and focusing on negative experiences
- Constant feelings of irritation, impatience and hostility
- Frequent arguments with others that escalate frustrations
- Physical violence, such as hitting your partner or children or starting fights
- Threats of violence against people or property
- Out-of-control or frightening behavior, such as breaking things or driving recklessly
- Avoiding situations because of anxiety or depression about anger outbursts
How you prepare
Learning behavioral skills is an essential part of anger management. 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:
- Ask your primary care doctor or mental health professional for a referral to a program or counselor.
- Search trustworthy online sites for resources, such as blogs, support groups or books.
- Ask someone who completed an anger management program or took other steps to manage anger.
- Check with your employee assistance program (EAP) or church.
- Check your local library for books, videos or other resources.
What you can expect
Here's what you can expect from anger management education or counseling.
Anger management classes or counseling
Anger management classes or counseling for anger management can be done in a group or one-on-one with your partner or someone else. The setting, length and number of sessions vary, depending on the program or counselor and your needs. Anger management courses or counseling can be brief or last for weeks or months.
Beginning anger management
When you start working on anger management, identify your triggers and the physical and emotional signs that occur as you begin to get angry. Recognizing and managing these warning signs early is an important step in controlling your anger. Pay attention to and make a list of:
- Stressors that commonly trigger or worsen your anger, such as frustration with a child or partner, financial stress, traffic issues, or problems with a co-worker
- Physical signs that your feelings of anger are rising — for example, sleeping poorly, clenching your jaw, a racing heart or driving too fast
- Emotional signs that your anger is 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
During anger management sessions
Generally, counseling for anger management focuses on learning specific behavioral skills and ways of thinking so you can cope with anger. If you have any other mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression or addiction, you may need to also work on these issues for anger management methods to be effective.
The aim of counseling and anger management classes is to teach you to:
- Manage factors that may make you more likely to get angry, such as improving sleep so you're not tired and keeping stress low by using stress management skills
- Identify situations that are likely to set you off and respond in nonaggressive ways before you get angry
- 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, for example, by using relaxation skills or taking a break
- 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 several 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 the frustration of holding 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, such as headaches, difficulty sleeping, digestive issues, heart problems and high blood pressure.
- Prevent psychological and social problems linked to anger. Examples include depression, problems at work, legal difficulties 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. People who always feel angry may turn to alcohol, drugs or food to decrease feelings of anger. Instead, you can use anger management techniques to keep your cool and maintain control, without adding an additional problem to your life.