Managing Anger

Call Us Toll Free:

866.588.2264

Toll-Free: 866.588.2264

What is anger?

Anger is a very powerful emotion that can stem from feelings including frustration, hurt, annoyance, and disappointment. Anger is a normal human emotion that can range from slight irritation to strong rage.

Anger can be harmful or helpful, depending upon how it is expressed. Knowing how to recognize and express anger in appropriate ways can help people to reach goals, handle emergencies, and solve problems. However, problems can occur if people fail to recognize and understand their anger.

What are the dangers of suppressed anger?

Suppressed anger can be an underlying cause of anxiety and depression. Anger that is not appropriately expressed can disrupt relationships, affect thinking and behavior patterns, and create a variety of physical problems. Chronic anger has been linked to health issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease, headaches, skin disorders, and digestive problems. In addition, anger can be linked to problems such as crime, emotional and physical abuse, and other violent behavior.

What steps can I take to help manage my anger?

  • Try to interrupt the anger cycle with tactics such as deep breathing, positive self-talk, or stopping your angry thoughts. Breathe deeply from your diaphragm. Slowly repeat a calm word or phrase such as "relax" or "take it easy." Repeat it to yourself while breathing deeply.
  • Although expressing anger is better than keeping it in, anger should be expressed in an appropriate way. Frequent outbursts of anger are often counter-productive and cause problems in relationships with others. Anger outbursts are also stressful to your nervous and cardiovascular systems, and can make health problems worse. Learning how to use assertiveness is the healthy way to express your feelings, needs, and preferences. Being assertive can be used in place of using anger in these situations.
  • Seek out the support of others. Talk through your feelings and try to work on changing your behaviors.
  • If you have trouble realizing when you are having angry thoughts, keep a log of when you feel angry and list the thoughts that are going through your mind at the time you’re feeling angry.
  • Try to gain a different perspective by putting yourself in another’s place.
  • Learn how to laugh at yourself and see humor in situations.
  • Practice good listening skills. Listening can help improve communication and can facilitate trusting feelings between people. This trust can help you deal with potentially hostile emotions.
  • Learn to assert yourself when you feel strongly about something. Assertiveness is a learned behavior that lies between the two extremes of bottling up emotion or exploding with anger. When you assert yourself, you choose to express your feelings calmly and directly without becoming defensive, hostile, or emotionally charged up. Consult with self-help books on assertiveness or seek help from a professional therapist to learn how to use assertiveness and anger management skills.

What else can I do to deal with my anger in a healthy way?

If you believe that your anger is out of control and is having a negative affect on your life and relationships, you might want to seek the help of a mental health professional. A psychologist or other licensed mental health professional can work with you to develop techniques for changing your thinking and your behavior in response to angry feelings. You can learn to manage your anger in an appropriate way. Choose your therapist carefully and make sure to seek treatment from a professional who is trained to teach anger management and assertiveness skills. In some cases, your therapist may recommend that you see a physician to prescribe medications to help you deal with psychological issues such as depression or anxiety that often underlie chronic anger problems.

© Copyright 1995-2010 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved.

This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 6/18/2010…#12195

Cleveland Clinic Mobile Site