Young woman with red shirt experiencing anger issues and quarreling with man in black shirt.

Anger Issues: How to Manage Them

The Nystrom & Associates provider consulted for this article on anger issues is Abby Peterson, LGSW, JD, and Outpatient Therapist.  

Depending on who you are, you may have many different feelings about anger. Many people were raised to feel ashamed of their anger, while others were taught anger is the only way to demand respect and attention. We all carry a lot of baggage around the topic, but anger is not good or bad – it just is. It’s a normal human emotion that everyone experiences (some more than others). 

Outpatient therapist Abby Peterson reminds us that anger is normal and healthy to feel: 

Anger is a human emotion that just comes from experiencing something we find unpleasant or unwanted. Everyone feels anger!

But while everyone feels anger, not everyone feels it at the same intensity or expresses it in the same way. People who struggle with anger issues are often people who experience explosive anger that they feel helpless to control. If you suspect you struggle with anger management issues (or know someone who does), you might be wondering what options are available to you, and if you can regain a sense of control in your life. 

In this post, we’ll discuss the signs of an anger issue, and three key strategies for learning to manage your anger more effectively. 

Related: Anger Management & Mental Health 

What are the Signs of an Anger Issue? 

How do you know if you have an anger problem? While everyone feels and expresses emotions differently, there are a few key signs that indicate you may have an issue with anger. For example, if: 

  • You are aggressive physically or verbally 
  • You recall what you said or did when you were angry with regret 
  • Your anger feels out of control and occurs frequently 
  • Your relationships are impacted by your anger 

If this sounds like you, it’s important not to judge or shame yourself. While it’s normal to feel some guilt around words you’ve said or actions you’ve taken while angry, try not to let it tip into self-condemnation and shame. If you’re experiencing anger issues, you’re not beyond help. 

There are several things you can do to help with anger. Here, we’ll highlight the top three. 

Related: 6 Signs of Mental Illness 

Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques 

First, you can try mindfulness and relaxation techniques. Now, mindfulness is more than relaxing or meditating. It’s the act of paying attention, on purpose, to your moment-to-moment experience without getting attached to a thought, feeling, or sensation while also not fighting those things. You can think of mindfulness as becoming aware, non-judgmentally, of everything that you think, feel, and do. As you practice, you begin to realize that you are more than your thoughts, feelings, and actions. You don’t have to believe everything you think or act on every feeling you have.  

For example, instead of being overtaken by your anger issues, practice watching it. Begin to investigate what it feels like in your body. Are you clenching your jaw, balling your fists, or feeling warmth in your head? Whatever arises, accept it. Are there any thoughts fueling your anger? Things like, “I can’t believe this is happening,” or “Why would he do that,” that agitate or reignite your angry feelings? The moment you start to notice them, you rise above them.  

Abby describes it as “living in the gap,” a concept she learned from Pavel Somov, PhD. She says: 

People who learn to manage their anger effectively still experience anger but have more control over how they respond to it. They learn to "live in the gap" between the urge to act on anger and the action itself. 

Some other things you can do are relaxation techniques like deep belly breathing or box breathing. 

Related: 8 Mindfulness Practices to Reduce Stress 

Effective Communication

The second strategy is learning effective communication. One of the common refrains of people who experience anger issues is that they’ve said something they later regretted. Learning how to communicate better can help this. 

When you’re angry, it can be tempting to accuse someone or name-call, but one of the easiest ways to start communicating better is to use “I feel statements.” For example, instead of saying something accusatory like, “You’re so irresponsible,” you can say, “I feel frustrated when you don’t do something you said you would do.”  

Of course, this isn’t a silver bullet for anger issues, but it can certainly improve the quality of your relationships as you work on developing mindfulness skills to calm these turbulent emotions. 

Additionally, once you begin to develop awareness through mindfulness, you’ll likely find it easier to practice communicating effectively. 

Related: 4 Steps to Assertive Communication 

Find Professional Help for Anger Issues

Lastly, consider professional help. Working on anger issues is not an easy thing to do on your own, and you don’t have to do it alone. Many people benefit from anger management classes or individual therapy with a counselor who specializes in anger issues.  

At Nystrom, we offer both individual therapy and anger management classes. If you need some help, please contact us at 1-844-NYSTROM or request an appointment online.  

Related: So You’re Starting Therapy: Here’s What to Know 

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