The Psychology Of Anger

This post was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.

Humans are prone to experiencing a range of emotions, some positive, and others negative. Our emotions are what allow us to relate to and connect with other people, sense danger, and even identify what makes life personally meaningful. While emotions are natural byproducts of living life, it’s crucial to be able to understand and manage them—particularly when it comes to emotions like anger.

The Psychology Of Anger

Anger is a powerful emotion that can motivate us in some situations and cause aggression in others. Therefore, it’s critical to find healthy ways to manage and express angry feelings. In this article, we’ll delve into the psychology of anger, including its definition, common causes, and tips that can be useful for managing it effectively. 

What Is Anger?

Anger is a strong, intense, yet natural emotional reaction to something or someone. People normally feel angry when they feel they’ve been treated unfairly or had their boundaries violated. However, external events, like something someone reads in the news, can also cause feelings of anger. 

Where Does Anger Stem From?

Intense emotions are often the root cause of anger, particularly those that haven’t been expressed, acknowledged, or worked through. Thus, other emotions like sadness, surprise, fear, shame, or grief often precede anger. These uncomfortable feelings may turn into annoyance, frustration, or even rage—all of which are representative of different degrees of anger.

People might experience anger for any number of reasons. It can come from being slighted, disrespected, or undervalued, and may also develop when someone is facing financial problems, issues in their romantic relationships, or concerns at their workplace. Anger can also be a normal reaction to being harmed by another person, thinking about something that happened in one’s past, or feeling threatened.

While certain people and situations may cause someone to get angry, there are also times when anger can fester over time or even develop as a result of mental illness. For example, someone may experience consistent anger when living with a mental health condition like intermittent explosive disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, borderline personality disorder, or bipolar disorder. 

It’s crucial to be able to control angry feelings, as they can lead to violence when left unaddressed.  

Anger Management Tips

People who struggle with anger may find that it interferes with how they speak or behave at school, work, or home, affecting their performance, relationships, and overall quality of life. Leaving anger unaddressed can cause depression, anxiety, and health issues, as well as other poor outcomes like getting in trouble with the law. Below are some tools and tips that may be useful for those seeking to control their anger: 

  • Start therapy: Going to therapy can be an effective way to discover the underlying causes of one’s anger and learn new coping strategies to control it effectively. BetterHelp offers online therapy for mental disorders involving anger, such as those mentioned previously. However, someone doesn’t need to have a diagnosed mental health condition to benefit from working on their anger in therapy. 
  • Engage in self-care: Self-care can promote stress relief and relaxation, allowing people to take a step back from the chaos of life and collect themselves. Getting enough sleep at night, eating a healthy diet, engaging in enjoyable hobbies, and spending time with friends can all provide relief from anger. 
  • Try breathing exercises: Various breathing exercises can effectively calm the mind and body, which can help people make healthier, more rational choices instead of acting on their impulses. Consciously focusing on and controlling one’s breathing patterns can help the body lower its guard, thereby allowing the mind to relax.
  • Exercise regularly: Engaging in physical activity can provide an outlet for angry feelings while also boosting the number of endorphins in the brain. This can lead to an improved mindset and overall happier mood. Instead of exploding on another person, saying something regrettable, or behaving irrationally, people can learn how to choose healthier responses when something upsets them. 
  • Journal: Research shows that journaling can be a powerful way to work through distressing emotions such as anger. Writing down one’s thoughts and feelings can provide an effective way to recognize triggers, identify which coping methods are working best, and manage feelings like anxiety or depression that may be contributing to angry feelings. Putting pent-up frustrations on paper may also lessen the likelihood of a future outburst as it can give people a chance to feel heard just by writing down their thoughts. 

Everyone is uniquely affected by anger, meaning that the strategies that help one person cope effectively may not be useful for someone else. Therefore, it can be important to try a variety of methods until something works.

Life Beyond Anger

Emotional regulation, effective coping strategies, and healthy daily habits can all be key to productive expressions of anger. While it is possible to manage anger alone, sometimes professional intervention can be helpful and even necessary, particularly if there’s any type of violence involved.

Reaching out for support and guidance for anger issues is a sign of strength, highlighting one’s desire for self-improvement. The earlier that help is sought, the more time there is to establish healthy patterns and coping skills, allowing for a happier, more productive life.