What is Anger Management?
Anger management is a kind of talk therapy that helps people who struggle to control their tempers. In these sessions, patients learn new ways to cope with stress, express their feelings appropriately, and learn to deal with anger in healthy ways.
It is perfectly natural and healthy to feel anger sometimes. Anger can help people avoid those that would hurt them, cope with past trauma, and even find solutions to problems. However, anger that becomes uncontrolled or excessive can hurt the people who feel it and those around them. Some people who have unhealthy anger may also need treatment for an underlying mental health illness.
Unhealthy vs. Healthy Anger
Each person expresses anger differently. When people feel mad, they may yell, freeze, cry, or remove themselves from the situations. Even healthy anger can cause people to feel a rise in body temperatures and increased pulses. Any of these reactions signals that a person experiences anger healthfully and may not need anger management.
However, people who do not process frustration in any of these health ways may need help from mental health professionals. Unhealthy rage can cause people to act violently, harmfully, or destructively.
People with this disordered anger can present a danger to the people and property around them. They may also destroy the positive things in their lives and let the frustration linger for too long. Behavioral health professionals can offer relief to anyone who feels anger this way.
Is Uncontrolled Anger Common?
Unhealthy anger is sometimes the result of Intermittent Explosive Disorder. Unfortunately, research on this subject remains scarce. However, the few existing studies estimate that about seven percent of people in the United States live with this disorder.
Other problems can cause people to feel destructive or misplaced anger as well. For example, teenagers have higher rates of misplaced rage than the general population. Regardless of the exact cause, it’s important for people with difficulty controlling their anger to know that they are not alone.
What Patients Learn in Anger Management
Uncontrolled anger can leave people feeling hopeless. However, patients who seek professional help for these problems can find hope once again. Behavioral health professionals can use scientifically proven techniques for anger management to help people who struggle with unhealthy rage.
Counselors encourage people with uncontrolled anger to think of the rage as a symptom of an underlying problem, much like when a person gets a sore throat from a head cold. In anger management, patients learn to make new behavior patterns. They also address the emotional problems that cause the anger to come out in such destructive ways.
Signs of Disordered anger
Typically, people associate unhealthy anger with frequent violent outbursts. Certainly, violence and explosiveness are common in people with uncontrolled rage. In these situations, people correctly identify their emotion as anger, but they feel unable to stop the violence they commit as a result.
Anger can manifest in more passive, unhealthy ways as well. For example, some people do not use violence but instead resort to sarcasm when they feel uncontrolled anger. People with these symptoms may not even know that anger is the cause.
Common symptoms of anger disorders include:
- Purposefully destroying property
- Loved ones protect themselves by “walking on eggshells” around the person
- Reckless or aggressive driving
- Violence and threats against others, including family and friends
- Experiencing anger and irritation more often than calmness
- Threatening or committing property destruction
- Seeking out fights and arguments
- Obsessing over perceived slights and negative events
- Bottling negative emotions until they explode
To some people close to the patient, the anger may seem to follow a pattern. However, it can also seem random or chaotic to outsiders. Counselors help patients and their loved ones find their triggers and learn to cope with them.
In some cases, the signs of unhealthy anger show up on the victims rather than the person with the disorder. Although people with anger disorder do deserve treatment, their victims should not use that as a reason to maintain relationships with their abusers. The people who get hurt during violent outbursts should get therapy to help them heal and process the trauma.
Can People with Depression Have Unhealthy Anger?
While many people associate depression with sadness and fatigue, people with this emotional disorder can also experience anger as a symptom. People who live with depression often have loud inner critics that constantly make them feel bad about themselves. Over time, anger about this inner voice can build up and cause the person to act out.
Some people have anger problems before they develop depression. In these situations, the depression can worsen the symptoms of unhealth rage, which then increase depression symptoms. Medication and therapy can help people with depression and anger.
Anger Management Techniques
Because of the sheer intensity of their rage, people with anger disorders can sometimes feel terrified of the idea of getting help. Controlling these feelings can seem like a Herculean task. However, therapy can really help people learn new coping mechanisms. Little by little, they change their lives.
No matter how patients control anger, the important thing is to do it safely and productively. If you want to learn to control your rage, try some of these proven techniques as soon as you feel the anger rising:
- Get regular exercise. When you feel rage starting to take hold, you can get some of that energy out of your system with physical exertion. Lifting weights, practicing martial arts, and running are great options. You can also help prevent outbursts by keeping a regular exercise schedule.
- Think before you speak. It may sound like something an elementary school teacher would say, but thinking about your words before you say them can give you the time you need to control your feelings. Rather than reacting with the first thing that comes to mind, remove yourself from frustrating situations and return when you have had the chance to calm down.
- Explain your emotions with a calm tone. Once the initial wave of anger subsides, try explaining to your loved ones how you feel. Start your sentences with “I,” rather than putting the blame on the other person.
- Forgive and let go. Forgiveness can be difficult for anybody, especially for people with anger disorders. However, it remains one of the most effective anger management techniques. When you have a disagreement, let go of your anger as soon as it ends. Holding onto those emotions only hurts you.
People with mild disordered anger may find relief with just these techniques. However, most people with unhealthy anger need further help from mental health professionals.
Anger Management Therapy
Several types of therapies can help patients with unhealthy anger. Therapists can use one specific technique or combine methods to give patients personalized help.
In group therapy sessions, one or two counselors help several people with similar anger management issues. Participants share stories, learn from each other, and understand how to cope with stressors in healthier ways.
In individual therapy sessions, one patient meets with one mental health professional. In these sessions, they identify the patient’s unique anger triggers, decide on healthy coping mechanisms, and discover if there are underlying mental health illnesses to address.
People who have severe anger issues or suicidal thoughts need supervision and support 24/7. In residential treatment programs, these patients get daily therapy and medications they need. They may attend both individual and group sessions each day.
People with severe anger or other conditions related to their anger may need medication to heal. Some patients need medication only for a short while, but others need to stay on these prescriptions permanently.