Everyone gets angry from time to time. Anger is a normal and natural part of being human. The feelings and sensations that we understand as anger have evolved as we have to manage and overcome threats and difficulties.
Anger isn’t just a collection of feelings and emotions. It actually causes physical changes in your body that range from an increased heart rate and blood pressure to sweating and jaw clenching.
Recognising and controlling anger
For most people, anger is a temporary state in response to a threatening or stressful situation. Usually, with a ‘normal’ anger response, the feelings subside once the stressor that induced the anger is gone.
However, for some people, anger can become more than just a passing feeling, so much so, that strong feelings of anger may persist long after the stressful situation has passed. The angry feelings may occur often enough, or are so intense, that the anger can feel like it has become part of a person’s character.
Understandably, this can cause problems. So how can you tell if anger is a problem?
When is anger a problem?
Anger is a problem if it happens often enough, or with such intensity, to have a damaging, long-term and/or noticeable effect on behaviour and general outlook.
“When anger is out of control, it can affect quality of life, whether it’s your relationships, employment, general wellbeing or even physical health.”
Intense anger can lead a person to doing things that they wouldn’t normally do. It might be ‘lashing out’ verbally at someone (even someone close), firing off angry texts or emails, driving recklessly, or engaging in physical intimidation or even violence.
If you are concerned that anger may be a problem, then consider whether the angry behaviour is affecting your quality of life. Have you regretted any of your actions? Has your anger resulted in you becoming abusive or even physically violent? Have family members, friends or colleagues remarked about your actions? Or has your anger caused you problems with real consequences, such as legal action, fines, damage to social or personal relationships, or employment problems?
Whatever your situation, it’s never ok to get to the point where your behaviour is abusive, violent or poses a risk to yourself or someone else. To get on top of your anger means recognising that anger can be an intense feeling. You may feel that you have no control over your anger – but in actual fact, you’re probably capable of a lot more control than you thought.
Controlling anger does not mean suppressing or ignoring the situation. Instead, getting on top of anger means acknowledging that yes, there are stressful and difficult situations, and that managing them relates to how you respond to them. The key to controlling anger is to minimise any damaging consequences, both to others and yourself.
This is what is meant by the term anger management.
Anger and staying in control
It is an absolute and unavoidable fact that throughout life you will need to deal with stresses, worries, frustrations and many other situations where you feel threatened. A threat can be perceived as taking many forms: to your physical safety (someone pushes you), to your status (such as via an insult), to your ambition (someone is undermining you at work), etc.
It’s highly likely that you cannot prevent these situations from happening. What you can control, though, is how you respond to the situation that resulted in you feeling this way.
Admittedly, this can feel challenging in the heat of the moment.
This is where anger management strategies can be effective. The intention is not to suppress those feelings or try to ignore a threatening or frustrating situation. Rather, such strategies seek to modify the response to that situation, with the ultimate goal of reducing harm to you and those around you.
Here are some common anger management techniques to try if you notice you are feeling the warning signs of anger:
- Step away and disengage from the situation if you can
- Use self-talk calming strategies. Tell yourself things like “I’ve got this”, “keep it cool”, “just relax for a moment”, “stay in control” and so forth
- Try to steer clear of alcohol and drugs if you think they affect your outlook
- Get into a physical exercise routine. Not only is it good for your physical and mental health, it can also help you better manage feelings of anger and frustration.
- Take up relaxation and mindfulness. The benefits of mindfulness are being widely recognised, so much so that mindfulness is being adopted in places like schools, workplaces and the armed forces of several nations
- Talk to a professional SuicideLine Victoria counsellor about your anger. Counsellors will help you develop coping strategies to help you manage your anger. Counselling is free to people in Victoria and is available 24/7.
If you feel you struggle to control your anger call SuicideLine Victoria. We’re available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help you out with all your mental health concerns.
Call us on 1300 651 251 or access free video and online counselling.
If it is an emergency, please call 000.