What is Anger Management?

Anger Management is a therapeutic intervention whereby a patient with a dysregulated relationship to anger and temper learns to deploy anger in more constructive ways.  

Getting angry is a normal and healthy part of being human, helping us to process anxiety and trauma. When individuals cannot control anger consistently to the point where it interferes with their own quality of life and that of their loved ones, it is considered an anger disorder. Anger disorders are sometimes co-morbid with other mental health issues.

Healthy Anger

Those with anger disorders experience unhealthy anger, i.e. destructive rages or anger that hurts others, causes conflict, legal woes, etc. These individuals cannot process anger in a healthy way. When someone has a healthy relationship with anger, it is temporary and dissipates quickly.

Patients who experience destructive and persistent anger in keeping with an anger disorder should contact a mental health professional to discuss their options.

Disordered Anger - A Common Problem

Those with anger disorders should not feel isolated or stigmatized. Many individuals in the US suffer with anger disorders, with some estimates placing the occurrence of Intermittent Explosive Disorder in the US at around 7 percent of the population. Some believe this number is higher with adolescents.

The Benefits of Therapy

While an anger disorder can make you feel like you lack hope or control, there are an array of therapeutic options you can consider. A trained mental health professional can help you uncover which interventions will work best for your situation.  Part of the diagnosis process is helping patients and their loved ones understand that an anger disorder is a disease and that patients deserve patience and compassion.

Group or individual therapy sessions can be an immense help to those with an anger disorder. In some cases, a therapist may recommend combining therapy with medication. Any interventions for an anger disorder are tailored specifically to fit a patient's needs.

Anger Disorder Symptoms

Stereotypes around anger disorders typically characterize the individual with the disorder as someone who lashes out. An indIvidual with an anger disorder, however, can have a disordered relationship with passive anger and not yell and rage. In these cases, the patient may not even realize that the issue relates to anger. Patients with passive anger disorders act out via self-destruction, sarcasm, and detachment.

Common Symptoms of Anger Problems:

  • Ongoing, bottled-up rage

  • Focusing on the negative constantly

  • Violence

  • Destruction of belongings or others property

  • Threats against individuals or property

  • Dangerous driving

  • Constant irritability

  • Frequently arguing with others

The symptoms of an anger disorder can appear to have a cause or appear unrelated to any outward stimuli. Friends and family of patients with anger disorders often feel as though they need to tiptoe around. Therapy can help the patient identify triggers and build tools to respond differently to those triggers.

Friends, family, and associates are often the victims of those with anger disorders. Anyone suffering abuse from someone with an anger disorder should seek help.

Anger & Depression

Anger and depression often walk hand in hand. While some think of the depressed individual as unable to move or get out of bed, depression sometimes manifests via anger. A depressed individual is barraged by inner voices, oftentimes, that criticize and chastise. Expressions of anger can give the patient temporary relief from these inner voices. Working with a therapist can give the patient better techniques for dealing with esteem issues and depression. Studies have shown that poorly managed anger can increase the severity of depression, so patients experiencing these issues should seek out professional help.

Managing Anger

Learning to manage anger can be a long and difficult process, but is an essential one. The results of an anger disorder can cause harm to loved ones, property, and patients' lives. Anger management strategies are a critical element in any intervention for this disorder.

Anger management techniques include:

  • Taking a moment before acting or speaking: When you feel anger building up, ask the person you are with to let you take a moment. Responding immediately makes it more likely that you will default to hurtful, angry statements.  

  • State your feelings simply and calmly: After taking a moment, you do not want to pretend nothing happened. Address your feelings, but do so in a calm and simple way. Bottling them up will only compound the situation and the act of speaking them can help you with processing your anger.

  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Regular exercise, good sleep hygiene, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol are ways in which you can maintain a healthy lifestyle that encourages better anger management.

  • Practice forgiveness: Learn to forgive those around you. Holding onto any resentment foments more anger and stalls the healing process.

The above may not be sufficient in many cases. Working in tandem to combine such interventions with other therapies is a good idea for patients.

Types of Therapy

Patients with anger disorders can benefit from several types of therapy, including:

  • Group Therapy: Group sessions led by trained counselors. Patients discuss triggers and tools. Confidence is built via a growing understanding that the patient is not alone in their struggle.

  • Individual Therapy: One-on-one sessions with a mental health professional.

  • Inpatient Treatment: In some cases, patients may need to be admitted for treatment in the short term. This is especially helpful when suicidal ideation is present.  

In any of these settings, the patient works on identifying triggers of anger and implementing tools for processing the resulting anger. In some cases, the addition of medication intervention may be necessary.