Anger is a normal emotion, but there’s a reason why it is classified as one of the seven deadly sins. In moderation, anger is just an expression of overstepped boundaries or ways to communicate what hurts you. But when it is directed at harming someone, breaking them down, or pulling them, it becomes a problem – a mortal sin.
The Mental Health Organisation’s ‘Boiling Point’ report found that one in five people (20%) have ended a relationship or friendship with someone because of uncontrolled anger or anger issues. Living with someone with anger is not easy – it can drain your energy, impact your mental health, and damage relationships beyond repair. When angry emotions are expressed negatively, it affects your well-being and leaves you feeling frustrated and unheard.
Anger can take various forms and range in severity – from mild annoyance to intense range. But first, let’s explore the various causes of anger issues.
What causes anger issues that lead them to take anger management therapy?
Anger has many triggers – it isn’t restricted to just one. Things like stress, family issues, and financial issues are just some of the common problems. While anger might not be considered a disorder, it can be a symptom of several mental health conditions. It can also be some underlying disorder like alcoholism or depression.
Thinking about how to deal with someone with anger issues? Treat their depression first. Often it has been found that people with anger issues have deep underlying depression – persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest lasting at least two weeks.
Anger can be suppressed or overtly expressed. The intensity of the anger and how it’s expressed varies from person to person. Symptoms can be:
- loss of energy
- feelings of hopelessness
- thoughts of self-harm or suicide
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by obsessive thoughts and compulsive behavior. A person with OCD has unwanted, disturbing thoughts, urges, or images that drive them to do something repetitively. In 2020, an estimated 3 million people suffered from OCD in the U.S., as per NAMI.
A 2011 study by Trusted Source found that anger is a common symptom of OCD. It affects approximately half of people with OCD.
Anger may result from frustration with your inability to prevent obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors or having someone or something interfere with your ability to carry out a ritual.
According to NAMI, 1 in 15 U.S. adults experienced both a substance use disorder and mental illness. Moreover, it has been found that drinking alcohol increases aggression.
Alcohol impairs your ability to think clearly and make rational decisions. It affects your impulse control and can make it harder for you to control your emotions.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder marked by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
Symptoms usually start in early childhood and continue throughout a person’s life. Some people are not diagnosed until adulthood, sometimes referred to as adult ADHD.
Anger and short temper can also occur in people of all ages with ADHD. Other symptoms include:
- problems focusing
- poor time management or planning skills
Living with someone with anger issues might also mean you are dealing with someone with bipolar disorder. A changing shift in mood characterizes the bipolar disorder.
These intense mood shifts can range from mania to depression, although not everyone with bipolar disorder will experience depression. Many people with bipolar disorder may experience anger, irritability, and rage periods.
During a manic episode, you may:
- be easily agitated
- feel euphoric
- have racing thoughts
- engage in impulsive or reckless behavior
During a depressive episode, you may:
- feel sad, hopeless, or tearful
- lose interest in things once enjoyed
- have thoughts of suicide
Intermittent explosive disorder
A person with the intermittent explosive disorder (IED) has repeated aggressive, impulsive, or violent episodes. They may overreact to situations with angry outbursts that are out of proportion to the situation.
Episodes last less than 30 minutes and come on without warning. People with the disorder may feel irritable and angry most of the time.
Some common behaviors include:
- temper tantrums
- physical violence
- throwing things
People with IEDs may feel remorseful or embarrassed after an episode.
Anger is one of the stages of grief. Grief can come from the death of a loved one, a divorce or breakup, or losing a job. The anger may be directed at the person who died, anyone else involved in the event, or inanimate objects.
Other symptoms of grief include:
How to help someone with anger issues: Identifying the signs of anger issues Therapy or Counseling
It's never late to seek help. Anger issues can have a severe impact on your mental and physical well-being. Reaching out for online therapy or in-person counseling can help understand the core issues and triggers and how anger issues can be managed for life-long changes.
A therapist will understand the signs leading to extreme anger issues like:
- Irritability – either with themselves or other people
- Snapping and display of annoyance when asked simple questions
- Angry or tense all the time, with no apparent trigger
- Behaving aggressively whenever angry
- Holding a grudge and entertaining thoughts of revenge
- Verbally hurts themselves or others. Also, emotionally or physically
- Intolerant of others' mistakes or weaknesses
They specialize in treatment processes like Talk therapy, Cognitive-behavioral therapy, and group therapy to help you better manage anger issues.
“Do not return anger with anger, instead control your emotions. That is what is meant by diligence.” (Siddhartha Gautama). Let the person be angry and recognize that they will calm down eventually; returning anger with anger will only escalate the situation.
When someone is angry, they are operating from their amygdala – the area of the brain responsible for the fight-or-flight response and fear processing. When someone begins to feel angry, they are not thinking with their higher brain; they are thinking with their ‘lizard’ brain. Give them the time and space to calm down and have a rational conversation. The calmer you remain, the quicker they will calm down.
Active listening and asserting yourself
Once the person has calmed down, you can have a more rational conversation. Express your own needs and wishes, and speak honestly, but be respectful. It is essential to consider the other person’s needs, feelings, and desires and to show them that you are considering these. Appearing to ignore the way they feel will only trigger anger again; people often become angry when they feel unheard, so it is essential to show that you are trying to hear and understand them.
Go beneath what they are saying to understand why they might be saying it: what has led to this situation? What could this anger be an expression of? What are their deeper emotions? Ask clarifying questions such as; “you are saying… is that correct?”. Active listening doesn’t mean agreeing with everything that they are saying. It is about recognizing and considering the other’s perspective.
Compassion and patience
Understanding the more vulnerable emotions that anger could be hiding, such as fear, hurt, sadness, or pain, is essential. Likely, the person cannot safely access these emotions or address them, an issue potentially stemming from other mental health problems.
Anger can make a person feel powerful and in control in the face of these unwanted vulnerabilities. Be patient with them, and remember to take deep breaths. It may be too painful for you to confront them with these deeper emotions, but understanding the reasons behind the anger might help you to take a step back and re-evaluate the situation.
Lose the battle to win the war
It is often said that we need to pick our battles and be selective about who, what, and when we fight. This applies to anger management. We only have so much energy, and if we are to ‘win’ in the long run, we might need to concede or ‘lose’ in the short term. Providing help for anger doesn’t mean ‘defeating’ it. This is also true of arguments in a relationship. Let go of what matters the least. You may not ‘win’ the argument, but you will strengthen your relationship in the long run.
Take some responsibility
Effective anger management includes accepting your role – if any – in how things are. This includes situations where you meet someone’s anger with frustration or reflect on what you may have done to trigger their anger. Sometimes a person’s anger is out of your control, but often, there are certain words or actions you could have avoided.
In the same way, it is essential to look at what triggers you to behave the way you do. The more aware you (and the other person) become, the less reactive and the more constructive you can be.
Address the conflict when you are both calm
As mentioned before, when you or your partner are angry or emotionally charged, your cognitive state is likely impaired. Avoid storming out and slamming doors. Instead, let the other person know that you need some time to calm down or that you are giving them time to calm down so that you can later come together to have a rational conversation. Use the time to gather and organize your thoughts so that you can have a constructive discussion later. Heading-off potential escalations before they’re allowed to occur is an excellent method of anger management.
Lead by example and set boundaries
Trying to control someone angry is like waving a red flag at a bull. It is only going to escalate their anger. Angry people often see themselves as simply reacting to an unfair world, so they are likely to feel attacked if you point out that they are being unreasonable.
Lead by example by remaining calm and coherent. If you can calm the person down this way, then do so. If not, assert your boundaries by disengaging from the conversation until your partner is calm. This gives you both space and time to think and shows your partner a different way of dealing with anger and arguments.
Impact of Anger management Issues
Wondering how to help someone with anger issues? Anger can seem effective in the short term; for instance, someone who gets mad at their kids and shouts at them may feel satisfied if it means they do their chores. However, in the long term, anger issues can take a toll on the person’s health, relationships, work, and overall quality of life.
Impact on Relationships
Anger issues have a heavy impact on relationships. Friends, family members, and co-workers may feel like they must walk on eggshells when dealing with a person who has anger issues. Explosive anger can make it hard for others to trust the person, speak honestly to them, or feel comfortable around them, negatively impacting their relationships.
The person’s anger issues can make them feel socially isolated because people don’t want to be around this behavior. Aggressive and violent tendencies can put the person’s family and friends at risk for harm and make them feel unsafe. These factors can disrupt the harmony in the person’s family and social circle and make it hard for them to hold a job.
Impact on Physical Health
Anger is an emotional and physiological state accompanied by a surge of energy and specific biological changes in the body. These changes include:
- Muscle tension
- Rapid heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- A surge of hormones, such as adrenaline
Frequent, intense, or prolonged bouts of anger can affect the person’s physical health. Long-term effects include:
- High blood pressure
- Increased risk of heart disease
Though anger management can be a challenge for some people and a strain on mental health, there are several things you can do to help them control an anger problem. Therapy can help with long-lasting results, make impactful changes to the person's thought process and interpersonal skills, and enable them to live balanced lives.