Most people feel angry sometimes, but if it is affecting your life, there are things you can try that may help.
Anger is a normal, healthy emotion - it's part of being human. Anger is a change of mood but sometimes masks other emotional states or uncomfortable feelings that are harder to express, such as disappointment or sadness. It changes the way we feel, think or behave. It changes the way our body works.
Anger is not necessarily a "bad" emotion; in fact, it can sometimes be useful. It can be a motivator to create change or achieve our goals. It is also a tool to help us stay safe and defend ourselves in dangerous situations by giving us a burst of energy as part of our fight or flight system.
But anger is not always helpful. Have you ever said or done something out of anger that you later regretted? This is because sometimes anger can hijack our brain and take over, which leads to actions that may be completely out of character when we are calm. Whether your anger is a big problem or it just leads to the occasional issue, there are likely things you can do to manage anger better. In fact, we likely all have room for improvement.
If you're worried about yourself or someone else and how it's making you feel, there is support available.
Speak to a member of the Keeping Well in South East London team by opening the chatbox, and they will be able to direct you to appropriate help.
Everyone knows the feeling. It can vary in strength from mild irritation to intense fury and rage. Some people describe it as a ball of fire in the chest or a 'red mist' coming down on them.
Most people will experience episodes that feel manageable and don't have a big impact on their lives. Learning healthy ways to recognize, express and deal with anger is important for our mental health and physical health because in the long-term anger can be linked to depression, anxiety, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Where does my anger come from?
Anger is different for everyone. What makes someone angry may not bother others at all. This could be due to many factors, including:
- Early life experiences. This includes learning angry responses from people around you, developing deep beliefs on how things should be, temperament, culture, abuse, trauma and not learning how to effectively manage difficult emotions or challenging life circumstances
- Current life circumstances. If there is a lot going on for you at the moment, even if unrelated to anger triggers.
- Past experiences. Like abuse, trauma and bullying
Some common triggers are:
- feeling threatened or attacked
- being invalidated, powerless or treated unfairly
- feeling like people are not respecting our feelings, authority or possessions
- being interrupted when you are trying to achieve a goal
- stressful day to day things (e.g. juggling childcare, work and home life, bills, rush hour traffic, stress in general)
Remember that everyone will interpret situations differently so what makes you angry may be different from what makes others angry!
Well, when it gets out of control and harms you or people around you. This is for example when you express anger through unhelpful or destructive behavior and it becomes your go-to emotion to try and block out other more uncomfortable emotions.
Examples of unhelpful behaviors are:
- Outward aggression and violence towards others (e.g shouting, name-calling, throwing things)
- Inward aggression, including aggressive self-talk (e.g. "I hate myself, I am so stupid"), denying yourself basic needs like food or things that make you happy as punishment or self-harming
- Passive aggression, including ignoring people or sulking
Anger can affect how you feel physically or emotionally, or how you behave. You might experience some of the things listed below, and you might also have other experiences or difficulties that aren't listed here. Remeber that anger feels different for everyone.
How you feel physically
- fast heartbeat
- head pounds
- tense muscles and aches
- clenching your fists
- legs go weak
- tightness in your chest and breathlessness
- feeling hot and sweaty
- urge to go to the toilet
- shaking or trembling
How you feel emotionally
- angry, tense or nervous
- a "red mist" comes down on you
- irritable at little things
- restless and unable to relax
- feeling humiliated
- resenting other people
How you think
- think the worse of other people
- not remembering what happens when you get angry
- everything becomes a huge problem
- life seems unfair
- other people seem to treat you unfairly
- negative self-talk
How you behave
- ignoring people or sulking
- starting fights or arguing with people
- breaking or throwing things
- hurt others
- drink alcohol, smoke more or take drugs
Recognising these signs gives you the chance to think about how you want to react to a situation before doing anything. This can be difficult in the heat of the moment, but the earlier you notice how you're feeling, the easier it can be to choose how to express and manage your anger.
- See a GP if you feel you need help with dealing with anger. You can get help and information from your doctor and nurse. They may be able to refer you to a local anger-management programme or counselling.
- You can also speak with a member of our team for additional support or self-refer to us for a comprehensive assessment.
- Support is also available if you're finding it hard to cope with stress, anxiety or depression. As we mentioned, often anger is just the expression of other emotions. Use the self-assessment tool to find out more.
If you would like to get more help or information, you can get in touch with these people:
British Association of Anger Management for training, support and information for people struggling with anger.
Telephone: 0345 130 0286
Everyman Project for information and support for men who struggle with anger
Telephone: 0203 642 8850
Respect for information and support for people who are worried about their violent or aggressive behaviour towards loved ones, and for male victims of domestic abuse.
The Freedom Programme runs online and in-person courses for anyone who wants to change their abusive behaviour.
The Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) runs courses to help people learn new ways to tackle situations where violence could arise.
If you have experienced abuse, violence or hate crime, please visit our page on Domestic Abuse and Violence.
If you are struggling with drugs or alcohol, visit our Addictions page for further information.
Click on the links to access materials
Self-help material and tools
- Self-help for anger on Getselphelp.co.uk
- Video CBT tools for anger
- STOPP Tool (can also use video guidance)
- Music, meditation, relaxation and talks about anger on Insight Timer website
- NHS Controlling anger a self help guide
- Mind Website on Anger
- NHS Website: Get help with anger
- Problems with anger self-help guide. A work through a self-help guide for managing problems with anger based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
- Try practising mindfulness: check out our mindfulness page.
- "Beating Anger" by Mike Fisher
- "Overcoming anger and irritability" by William Davies
- "The compassionate mind approach to managing your anger" by Russell Kolt
- "How to control your anger" by Albert Ellis and Raymond Chip Tafrate
"Anger: how to live with and without it " by Albert Ellis
- STOPP App
- Happify - as the name suggests, Happify is motivated to make you feel happier
- Headspace app
- Mood Kit
- Calm app
- "How to Manage your Anger Better" podcast by Amy Morin
- "Anger management and more: The difference between self esteem and confidence" podcast by Mike Fisher
- "How to be Angry Better" in the podcast series The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos
It can be very difficult when someone you care about is experiencing problems with anger – especially if they sometimes direct their anger towards you, others close to them, or themselves. The main message is that we are all responsible for our own actions, so ultimately it will be up to them to learn how to manage and express their anger appropriately. But there are still lots of things you can do to help support them.
- Mind has some tips and resources for family and friends of people struggling with anger. Click here to open.
What if I am supporting a young person?
If you are supporting a young person, have a look at the Young Minds' website and the page on anger here.
What if their behaviour is abusive or violent?
Just because someone seems very angry, it doesn't necessarily mean that they will become violent or abusive. But if this does happen, the most important thing is to make sure that you are safe.
- Don't confront someone who is behaving aggressively. If you want to talk to them, wait until the situation has calmed down.
- You may want to make a safety plan. This might include: (1) Making a list of phone numbers of people, organisations and services that you can call if you are scared. (2) Arranging to stay at a friend's or neighbour's house until things are calm. Make sure you take any children or other people at risk with you. (3) Having a bag prepared to leave in an emergency.
- Refuge runs safe houses for women and children escaping domestic abuse. You can contact them to find a place in a refuge.
- The National Domestic Abuse Helpline is available 24 hours day on 0808 2000 247 for women experiencing domestic violence who need advice and support.
- Women's Aid offers information, an online forum, support and information for children and young people, and a directory of local services for women and children experiencing domestic abuse.
- Men's Advice Line offers support to male victims of domestic abuse on 0808 801 0327, or you can email them at email@example.com.
- Galop offers support to lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer people who've experienced domestic abuse on 0800 999 5428.
- You can call the police. If your safety is in danger – or the safety of others in your home, such as children – dial 999. You might feel worried about getting your loved one in trouble, but it's important to always put your own safety first.
Check our page on Domestic Violence and Abuse for further information and help you stay safe.
What if they don't recognise they have a problem?
It can be difficult for people to recognize they have a problem and sometimes the person you are supporting refuses to seek help. Remember that they are an individual, and there are limits to what you can do to support another person. This could leave you feeling frustrated, distressed and powerless. It is fundamental to take time for yourself and your well-being. You can check our pages on managing stress and our Keeping Well page.