What causes feelings of anger?
Anger is an emotion that causes us to express negative thoughts and feelings such as frustration, rage, bitterness, resentment, hostility, and hatred.
There are many reasons why we can feel angry, such as:
- Feeling like people have done the wrong thing
- Losing patience with others
- Feeling unappreciated
- Feeling threatened
- Feeling disrespected
- Feeling embarrassed
- Past trauma
- Stress, anxiety, and worry.
How we deal with anger can also be influenced by our personal and family history, our expectations, and our current circumstances.
While anger is often thought of as a negative emotion, it can be helpful in certain situations. Feeling angry may motivate you to change a behaviour, find a solution to a problem, or stand up for yourself.
However, it is important to be aware of your anger triggers and manage them appropriately. If you don’t control your anger, your actions can escalate and may cause harm to you and others around you.
What are the most common warning signs of anger?
Like stress, anger is a natural response to perceived threats. People experience feelings of anger differently, and warning signs can be physical, emotional and behavioural. Being aware of your personal warning signs will help you become more self-aware so you can take steps to manage your anger.
Physical signs of anger can include:
- Clenching your jaw or fist
- Grinding your teeth
- Stomach pain
- Rapid heart rate
- Feeling hot in the face and neck
- Shaking or trembling
Emotional signs of anger can include:
- Feeling like you want to lash out verbally or physically.
Behavioural signs of anger can include:
- Being sarcastic, rude or unkind
- Raising your voice
- Yelling, screaming or crying
- Craving alcohol, cigarettes or drugs.
Extreme reactions to anger can cause people to become physically or emotionally abusive. Anger issues that lead to abuse are serious problems that need addressing.
How to manage your anger
There are several useful anger management strategies available, and anger doesn’t have to be extreme for you to take steps to manage it. If you are concerned that your feelings of anger are becoming a problem, try these tips.
Controlled breathing is when you slow your breathwork by taking long, deep breaths. Deep breathing can help you process a situation and consider things rationally instead of reacting emotionally.
To practise controlled breathing: Close your eyes and breathe in while counting to five. Pause, then breathe out while counting to five and repeat. Thinking of calming imagery can help, too. As you breathe in and out, keep your eyes closed and imagine that you are in a relaxing place, like floating in the ocean or walking through a luscious forest.
Positive self-talk can help you to calm down angry or anxious thoughts. Positive self-talk involves telling yourself that you can control your reaction, that the situation is not a big deal, and that you can look on the bright side.
Examples of positive self-talk include the following:
- I am happy for myself
- This situation isn’t ideal, but it could be worse
- I am successful/confident/in control
- I am open to change
- I will learn from my mistakes.
Positive self-talk takes your focus away from the negative feelings or voices in your head that often make you feel worse when you’re angry. Combined with controlled breathing, positive self-talk can help you feel less angry and more optimistic.
If you find yourself in a situation that makes you feel angry, such as a confrontation, stepping away to cool down will help you reframe and refocus.
Remove yourself from the situation so you can practise controlled breathing and positive self-talk. As you cool down, focus on something else that is positive or makes you happy. Go for a walk, listen to music, or do something else entirely to distract you from the anger trigger.
Looking after your health and wellbeing
Living a healthy lifestyle can help you feel more positive and balanced in general. Exercise, a healthy diet, and regular sleep support a healthy mind and body. Limit alcohol and caffeine, as these substances can make you feel more irritable and angrier in stressful situations.
When to seek professional help
If you’re having trouble managing your anger and it is impacting your life, you can speak to a counsellor, psychologist, or your GP.
While controlling anger can be difficult, physical and emotional violence are never acceptable. Seek help if you or someone you know is being violent or has out-of-control anger issues that are affecting your daily life.
If you are experiencing or are impacted by violence and abuse, you can contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732. If it is an emergency, please call 000.
If you’re concerned about your stress levels, talk to your GP or health professional. You can also call our Mind Health counsellors on 1300 029 131 or click the floating chat button on the right.
If is an emergency, please call 000.