Dealing with anger
Everyone is prone to anger from time to time - it can even be good for us sometimes, allowing us to vent our frustrations and change things that make us angry. But when it comes to 'losing it' and harming yourself (or someone else), that's different. The Mix looks at dealing with anger.
Jump to section:
- What is anger?
- How to know that you have an anger problem
- Getting help with anger
- Long term anger management techniques
- Medical treatment for anger
What is anger?
Anger is an emotion that almost every person has felt before – we’re only human! It’s something we might feel if we’ve been let down by someone, or if we feel unfairly treated. But anger isn’t necessarily a bad thing; in fact, anger can actually be healthy! It can help us:
- Understand problems that we didn’t know existed
- Protect ourselves in dangerous situations (known as a fight or flight response)
- Create positive changes in our lives
Regardless of how often you get angry, or how severely, it’s important that we’re able to process our anger in a healthy way so that we don’t react in the moment and take an action that we’ll later regret once we’ve calmed down. If you feel that you are doing things in the heat of the moment that you later regret, then it might be time to look at getting help dealing with anger.
Is anger a mental illness?
On its own, anger is not a mental illness – it’s a completely natural emotion that most people are likely to feel from time to time. However if you spend a lot of your time feeling angry, then there’s a chance that you might be experiencing some mental health issues that need to be addressed.
How to know that you have an anger problem
While anger is completely normal, it’s a good idea to know when your anger might be getting in the way of your life – especially if you spend more of your time angry than not.
First of all, it’s best to try and recognise how you feel about your anger. It could be that you’ve grown up in a household where anger and violence are normal, and therefore make excuses for your temper. If this is you, then it might be time to get help dealing with anger.
How do you know if your temper is getting out of control?
Most people will struggle to cope with excess stress, but you might need help dealing with anger if you’re letting it out in unhealthy ways, for example:
- You are always, or very often, irritated and stressed to the point where you shout at people, throw or break things
- You often look back and regret an angry outburst
- Friends, colleagues and family find it hard to forgive your anger
- People seem frightened of you
Getting help with anger
If you’ve recognised that you have a problem with anger, you might feel like it’s just a part of your personality and that you and the people you’re close to will just have to live with it – but that’s not the case. There are a few things you could try when you feel yourself beginning to lose your temper, to try and keep it under control.
One reason why some people get angry is that they find it hard to express themselves. They tend not to speak up for themselves and bottle everything up only to surprise everyone by exploding in anger. The trick here is to learn to be assertive rather than aggressive. This means that in relationships, at college, or at work, you need to learn to put your point of view across sooner rather than later – and while you are still calm.
In order to do that, you have to feel that you are entitled to have your say. The way to be assertive is to use the word “I” a lot. It’s also best to avoid using phrases starting with “you’ -you’ll sound angry and accusatory. Here’s some phrases you should and shouldn’t use:
How to be assertive using “I” examples:
“I don’t understand exactly what you’re asking me to do. I’d like you to explain it again.”
“I really don’t want to go to Prague for my hen night. I’d much prefer Dublin.”
“I’m not keen to stay in and have a take-away. I’d like us to go to the cinema. We haven’t been out for ages.”
Avoiding “you” examples:
“You never explain things. You’re hopeless.”
“You are so bloody bossy. You must stop organising me.”
“You make me sick. You’re so mean and boring.”
Hopefully you should see that the first set of examples are more likely to be effective, while the ‘you’ examples are more likely to upset you and others.
Steps to stop an angry outburst
In the moment, it’s particularly difficult to keep calm and stop an outburst of anger. If you get to the point where you’re so furious you are ‘seeing red’ and are ready to hit someone, try these steps to feel better:
1. Step back. People who lose control, and who may even hit someone, are always moving forward. So by taking a step back, you literally stop yourself in your tracks
2. Steady yourself by holding onto something like a desk or the top of a chair
3. Breathe deeply. This is the best way to defuse your anger and tension. Mentally count to 10 – breathing in and out as you do so
4. Punch something soft. If you’re still furious, punch a cushion. If there’s nothing soft, then bang on the door, the wall or a table; anything rather than taking out your anger on a person
Long term anger management techniques
Managing your temper isn’t just about being able to do something about it in the moment -i t’s about taking care of your mental health the rest of the time so that you’re less prone to getting angry in the first place. You can work on becoming a calmer person by trying the following activities:
- Taking part in a sport
- Walking in the open air
- Making more time for yourself
- Eating regularly and healthily
- Getting more sleep
- Drinking less alcohol
Medical treatment for anger
If you’ve tried handling your anger yourself, but it doesn’t seem to be working, you may be able to get professional help to get that temper under control.
If you neeed help dealing with anger, Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) could help you. Your doctor (GP) may be able to refer you for this on the NHS. If you are able to pay privately for CBT, you can find a therapist through the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies.
- If you're under 25 and would like free confidential telephone counselling from The Mix to help you figure things out complete this form and we'll call you to arrange your first session.
- Our Crisis Messenger provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK. If you’re aged 25 or under, you can text THEMIX to 85258
- Mind offers advice and support to people with mental health problems. Their helpline runs nine to six from Monday to Friday. 0300 123 3393
- Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
By Holly Turner
Updated on 17-Jan-2021
Photo by Stefano Cavoretto
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