Anger Management


Understanding what causes anger and aggression, and some self-help tips and advice in helping you control your own anger.

Anger is a normal, healthy, natural emotion evolved as a way of surviving and protecting yourself from what is considered a wrong-doing. But anger can be a problem if it not kept under control and can cause serious problems in your life, in your relationships, and can be very damaging to the people around you.

Anger is not a simple, solitary trait; is it often complex and involves a dynamic and complex range of expressions and emotions. Anger and aggression is often a learned behaviour too; for example we have observed the aggressive behaviours of our parents when growing up, or aggression within our peer group, or violence within society, or violence in the workplace, and then copying this behaviour. Feelings of anger and lashing out either physically or verbally can be linked to many different causes including stress, depression, anxiety, addictions, and other mental health issues.

We all get angry when we see an injustice, and arises depending upon how we interpret and react to certain situations. People interpret situations differently; a situation that makes one person feel very angry may not make someone else feel any anger at all. Everyone has their own triggers for what makes them angry, but some common ones include:

  • Feeling threatened or attacked.
  • Feeling frustrated or powerless.
  • Feeling like we're being treated unfairly.
  • Feeling like people are not respecting us, our feelings or possessions.


We can also feel irritated by other people’s beliefs, opinions and actions, and hence anger can affect our ability to communicate effectively - making us more likely to say or do unreasonable or irrational things. How a person interprets and reacts to a certain situation can depend on lots of factors including:

  • Their childhood and upbringing   
  • Their past experiences
  • Their current circumstances

Whether your anger is about something that happened in the past, or something that's happening in the present, thinking about how and why you interpret and react to situations can help you learn how to cope with, and control your anger. For example if you have not been able to express your anger in the past with a particular experience including physical or emotional abuse, trauma or bullying, you might still be coping with those angry feelings now. Or, if you're dealing with a lot of problems in your life at present that seem overwhelming, you might find yourself feeling angry at things and people more easily than usual. Anger can also be a part of grief; if you've lost someone important to you, it can be hugely difficult to cope with all the conflicting things you might be feeling.

Everyone has a responsibility to control their anger and there are a number of things you can do to help with this. Firstly recognise your anger signs and then try to realise what is causing you to feel angry and/or what are the trigger mechanisms, and then put them into two categories; a) those that can be immediately dealt with (for example someone's behaviour) and b) those that will take longer to control (for example the current situation you are in). Once you have identified and categorised what is causing your anger, you can then work at changing your behaviour and/or environment.


Other things that you can do to help control your anger are:

  • When you feel anger start to build, count to 10 and breathe slowly – this gives you time to cool down and to think more clearly, and it helps you overcome any impulses for violent or aggressive behaviour you might be having.
  • Exercise regularly - physical exercise can be very effective in helping you reduce stress, get rid of irritation and control your anger.
  • Relax and try to get a good nights sleep, or look at ways of improving your environment so you can get more restful sleep.
  • Be mindful - mindfulness is a mind-body approach to life that helps us to relate differently to experiences and involves paying attention to our thoughts and feelings in order to better manage difficult and potentially situations that might make us angry. For example, when you are angry be mindful to keep away from using words like 'always' ("you always do that"), 'never' ("you never listen to me"), 'should' or 'shouldn't' ("you should do what I want you to do" or "you shouldn't to that") and of saying "it's 'not fair."
  • Cut down on alcohol - alcohol can make anger and aggressive behaviour problems worse.
  • Be creative - writing, making music, dancing or painting can release tension and reduce feelings of anger.
  • Talk it out – talking about what makes you angry to a good friend, family member or therapist/counsellor can be useful and can often help you get a different perspective on the situation.
  • Let go of angry thoughts – other people are who they are, and do what they do, so try to let go of the people and things that make you angry, and focus instead of those things and people who don't make you angry.
  • Applying relaxation techniques for example yoga or meditation - focusing on relaxing your mind and your muscles, especially in situations that make you angry.
  • Join a therapy or support group where other people with similar problems meet.
  • Don't hold a grudge – don't get swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice, learn how to forgive.
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© Robin Barratt