What is Anger?
Anger is said to be an emotion which can be felt when someone has been wronged, hurt, or misunderstood. Anger is typically thought of as “the bad emotion” and most people could think badly of you if you are more inclined to experience anger episodes. Anger is experienced both on an emotional and physical level and, unless we learn how to control it, it can turn into a destructive behavior which worsens over time.
There are many triggers for anger, but the most common incidents include:
Feeling threatened or attacked
Feeling frustrated or powerless
Feeling as though we've been invalidated or treated unfairly
Feeling as though our thoughts and emotions are being disrespected
Research states how we interpret situations can also influence anger reactions, which can depend on someone’s childhood upbringing, behaviors modeled and learned through-out life, and coping skills taught to manage anger emotions.
How does anger manifest and affect the body?
Simply put, anger can manifest as yelling, hitting, kicking, cursing, isolation, silence, slamming doors, breaking objects, hurting others, and even hurting ourselves. Anger affects our body (physically and mentally) by increasing blood pressure, heart rate, headaches, strokes/aneurisms and can lead to an increase in depression and anxiety.
How does anger affect socialization, occupation, and relationships?
Anger negatively impacts several important life areas by decreasing our ability to focus and concentrate on important tasks, increase poor social skills and communication styles, and decrease satisfaction and healthy expression of emotions with family or friends. Anger is an emotion that can quickly lead to negative consequences such as: losing family or friendships, job reprimands or termination, and limiting social support.
Helpful coping skills for managing anger emotions:
Below is a list of helpful skills and techniques for managing anger in a healthy and appropriate manner, without causing consequences or negatively impacting important life areas:
Self-care involves addressing important personal needs, such as: hygiene, proper eating habits, good sleep routine, attending doctor and therapy appointments, engaging in hobbies and activities, socializing with family and friends, and leaning on religious and spiritual beliefs.
Research shows that exercise can be an important tool for releasing stress and anger. When we exercise, our body releases healthy chemicals (endorphins), which helps to improve mood and acts as a natural pain killer for both the body and brain. Emotional release coping skills also include crying, attending a rage room, talking to trusted family or friends and journaling/painting.
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not becoming overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Several mindfulness exercises to help reduce anger includes mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, yoga, mindfulness eating, and grounding techniques using the five senses (5-4-3-2-1).
In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, we are taught that our thoughts lead to feelings, which leads to behaviors and for us to decrease negative and unwanted reactions, we must focus on changing our perspective in hopes of improving emotions and behaviors.
Something even more interesting is that behind our anger, are a series of other emotions which may be felt simultaneously and can lead to more intense emotions, such as: sadness, shame, guilt, frustration, and disappointment. Therefore, it is very important to identify cognitive distortions and utilize thought challenging questions and reflection of our thoughts, known as metacognition, to assess the validity, errors, and/or alternative perspectives in hopes of improving thought patterns and moods. Once these techniques have been incorporated, we can take appropriate action to express anger in beneficial and productive manner. While these are not the only helpful coping skills for reducing anger and improving thoughts and behavior patterns, starting with one or several techniques and interventions could help greatly reduce poor anger control and management.