What is anger management?

Anger management involves steps and processes that can help you to manage and reduce your anger. This can involve changing the way you think about certain things that make you angry and changing the ways you react to anger to be constructive, rather than destructive or counterproductive.

What is anger?

Anger is a normal emotion that everyone feels at some point in their life. It can range from a mild annoyance or frustration to extreme rage. Anger has three main components, which are cognitive, physical and behavioural changes:

  • Cognitive features during anger include how we think or perceive certain occurrences. For example, you may think that something has happened to you that is unfair, undeserved or wrong;
  • Physical features include a rush of adrenaline, an increase in blood pressure and heart rate and a stiffening of muscles in response to what has occurred, and;
  • Behavioural features include how you respond to anger. This can involve looking and sounding angry by raising your voice, yelling or turning red. Other features can include becoming physically violent, refusing to talk or storming away.

Angry person.Anger has three main components: cognitive, physical and behavioural. 

Adrenaline

A substance secreted primarily by the adrenal glands that helps to prepare the body for exertion. It is involved in regulating blood pressure, heart rate and breathing. Adrenaline can also be used as a drug to treat a number of conditions, including cardiac arrest and anaphylaxis.

Health problems associated with anger

The physical effects of anger can be harmful to your body. When you are angry, your body initiates a 'fight or flight' response, which involves your adrenal glands flooding the body with stress-related hormones including adrenaline and cortisol. This leads to an increase in breathing, blood pressure and heart rate. Over time, a continuous flow of stress chemicals places pressure on your body that can lead to short and long-term health problems. These can include:

Adrenal glands

Two glands, each located on top of a kidney, that produce hormones including cortisol and sex hormones.

Adrenaline

A substance secreted primarily by the adrenal glands that helps to prepare the body for exertion. It is involved in regulating blood pressure, heart rate and breathing. Adrenaline can also be used as a drug to treat a number of conditions, including cardiac arrest and anaphylaxis.

Cortisol

1. A chemical produced by the adrenal glands that is involved in stress responses, maintaining blood sugar levels and helping the immune system. 2. A steroid hormone that can be used to treat inflammation, especially of the skin and joints.

Types of anger

Anger can be expressed in many different ways, but there are two main types of anger:

Anger repression

Anger repression is also known as 'bottling your anger up'. This is not a healthy way of dealing with anger as it can lead to anxiety and depression. You may feel that anger is an inappropriate or bad behaviour, but bottling it up can later lead to venting on innocent people, such as children. It is important to deal with your anger and not hold it inside.

Anger explosions

Anger explosions are the opposite of anger repression and can be experienced by people with a 'hot temper' or a 'short fuse'. These include fits of rage involving yelling and screaming and can also lead to physical violence or abuse. Anger explosions can occur if you have little or no control over your anger. Some people who have anger explosions also have low self-esteem and use anger as a way to feel powerful.

Anger management techniques

It is important to understand that anger is a normal emotion that you may feel when you have been mistreated or wronged. It can cause you to act in ways that can be harmful to yourself or others, but the good news is, there are many ways to better manage your anger.

Identifying the cause of anger

If you are experiencing anger, one of the most important steps in anger management is identifying what is causing it and addressing it. Sometimes anger can be caused by arguments, stress, or a threat to your self-image or your loved ones. Other causes include hurtful or unexpected situations, 'road rage', or an injustice to certain people. It may help to keep a diary of when you have become angry and then try to understand what the cause is.

Dealing with arguments

Arguments are a common cause of anger. If arguments are not dealt with, they can become worse or uncomfortable. It is important to find solutions and resolve conflicts to prevent anger from increasing. If you have become angry with someone, it can help by talking to the person at a later date and communicating honestly and openly about your feelings. Apologies are also often welcomed.

Thinking differently

If you are angry, it can make your thoughts illogical and exaggerated. Changing the way you think when you get angry can help to manage it. This can involve:

  • Recognising that the emotion of anger is a normal part of life;
  • Changing from exaggerated thoughts such as 'why does this always happen to me?' to more rational thoughts such as 'does this really affect me?';
  • Reminding yourself that the world is not out to get you;
  • Putting it in perspective and thinking about the future. It can help to ask yourself, 'will this really matter the next day, the next week or next year?', and;
  • Not putting unrealistic expectations on yourself or others.

Relaxation

It is common to jump to conclusions when angry, which can cause you to say and do things you will later regret. It is important to slow down when feeling angry. Some simple relaxation techniques, including breathing deeply and repeating calming words such as 'relax' or 'calm down', can help with this. It may also help to imagine or remember a happy or relaxing experience. Listening to relaxing music or doing yoga or meditation can also make you feel calmer. With practice, relaxation becomes easier; if possible, it is best to give yourself some 'time out' each day to practise relaxation.

Regular exercise

Stress is commonly associated with anger. Regular exercise can help you de-stress, so going for a run or a bike ride is great for your mental health. Exercise can improve your mood and lower stress levels by increasing the amount of mood-regulating neurotransmitters, including endorphins.

Problem solving

If you have identified a certain cause of anger, you may be able to express your anger in a positive way. For example, if you commonly experience road rage on your commute to work, set yourself a challenge to find an alternative route. This could be a more scenic route and gives you a chance to 'start fresh' without letting road rage get to you. You can also look into public transport options such as a bus or train. Another example is using your energy to volunteer for a good cause that shares your belief about a certain injustice.

Endorphins

A type of chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) that is produced by the brain in response to fear, emotion and pain.

Preventing anger

To prevent anger, it can help to identify situations or people that make you feel angry and avoid them. It is also good to let go of the past, not hold any grudges and resolve arguments where possible. If you are experiencing a continuing anger problem, it can help to visit your doctor or a counsellor to help resolve any anger issues.