What is Anger?
According to Dr. Charles Spielberger, a psychologist specializing in the study of anger, anger can be defined as “an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage.” Anger is accompanied by physiological and biological changes, such as increased heart rate, blood pressure, and energy hormone levels.
Anger is a natural human reaction and can help us in certain situations, such as responding to threats of harm. However, if you are unable to manage your anger, it can become destructive and cause problems within your personal and professional relationships.
Types of Anger
Anger can manifest in several different ways within a person, with varying levels of intensity. Below are various types of anger:
Anger that is directed internally. It may include dark or depressing thoughts and negative self-talk. People who experience this type of anger may punish themselves by denying themselves pleasure or enjoyment.
Anger that is expressed verbally or physically toward other people or objects. Examples include smashing objects, physically attacking someone, or shouting and cursing.
Anger that is expressed through subtle and indirect behavior. It may include being sarcastic or degrading toward someone, giving someone the “silent treatment,” making snide remarks, or sulking.
Anger may be caused by events within you (internal factors) and in the outside world (external factors). You could be angry at a person in your life (such as a partner or family member) or about an event (such as financial issues). You could also be angry at yourself for something that happened in the past that you continue to ruminate about.
Signs of Anger Issues
While experiencing and expressing a certain amount of anger is healthy, it may become problematic in your life if you are angry too often and cannot control your anger. It is important to be aware of how you deal with your anger and seek counseling if necessary.
You may be experiencing anger issues if you:
- Are verbally or physically aggressive or harm others
- Have difficulty controlling your anger
- Feel that your level of anger is often disproportionate to the situation at hand
- Often regret things you say or do when you’re angry
- Notice that minor things cause you to lash out
- Have been confronted by a loved one about your anger.
Gender Differences in Anger
Studies demonstrated that men and women experience anger in similar frequency and intensity. A study conducted by researchers at Southwest Missouri State University found that women expressed and responded to their anger as frequently as their male counterparts. However, they found that men felt less effective when forced to contain their anger, whereas women seemed better able to control immediate, impulsive reactions to anger.
Men are more likely to exhibit aggressive behaviors when feeling angry. One study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that while the amygdala is similar in men and women, the orbital frontal cortex is much more prominent in women. This brain region is involved in controlling aggressive impulses. This finding could help explain why women seem better able to manage lashing out behaviors compared to men.
Moreover, socialization of men and women and societal expectations for gender roles may play a role in differences in anger. As Dr. Sandra Thomas, a leading researcher in anger, said, “Men have been encouraged to be more overt with their anger. If [boys] have a conflict on the playground, they act it out with their fists. Girls have been encouraged to keep their anger down.” Anger in men is often seen as “masculine” and “manly,” whereas women receive messages growing up that anger is unpleasant and unfeminine. Women’s anger may come out in passive-aggressive ways such as sulking or destructive gossip, says Dr. Thomas.
Anger Management Strategies
There are numerous strategies you can utilize to manage your anger. Some of these you can do on your own, while others may involve the help of friends, family, or mental health professionals.
Strategies for anger management include:
Think before speaking
Anger often emerges in the heat of the moment. You might want to say the first thing that comes to mind. However, take a few moments to take a deep breath and think about what you are about to say or do before speaking or acting.
Express your anger in a constructive way
Once you’ve taken a moment to calm down and think clearly, express how you are feeling in an assertive but non-confrontational way. Share your concerns and frustrations clearly in a not hurtful manner to the other person.
Identify potential solutions
The main driver of anger is a focus on the problem at hand. Instead, try directing your attention to resolving whatever is making you angry. It is helpful to remind yourself that being angry will not solve anything and might make things worse for you.
Introducing some humor into a tense situation can help to bring down the intensity of the moment.
Be physically active
Physical activity can positively impact an individual’s ability to manage anger by releasing powerful endorphins that relieve stress. If you feel angry, going for a run or exercising can help alleviate those angry thoughts and feelings.
Use relaxation techniques
Using deep breathing and relaxing imagery techniques can help calm angry feelings. These techniques can be used during anger-inducing situations and practiced daily.
Ask for help when you need it
You do not have to deal with your anger alone. Seeking professional help from a trained mental health professional for anger issues is a sign of strength.
Connect with a therapist who’s specialized in women’s mental health today.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is anger bad for my mental health?
Research has shown that uncontrolled anger can be harmful for your physical and mental health. For some individuals, anger outbursts may be a symptom of an underlying mental health disorder.
Further, suppressing anger can cause anxiety and depression. Anger that is not expressed can negatively influence your relationships, which may impact your mental health. If you experience anger outbursts or difficulty expressing your anger, you may benefit from speaking to a mental health professional.
How do I know I have anger issues?
Several signs may indicate you struggle with anger issues. You may have anger issues if:
- you feel angry often
- you feel that your anger seems out of control
- your anger is impacting your relationships
- your anger is hurting others
- your anger causes you to say or do things you regret
- you’re verbally or physically aggressive.
Do men and women express anger differently?
Dr. June Tangney highlights how men and women express their anger differently. Women tend not to be as aggressive as men in expressing anger and talk about their anger more. “They are more proactive and use more problem-solving approaches in discussing a problem with a person they are angry with,” Dr. Tangney stated.
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