What is Anger Management?
Frustration and anger are both normal parts of life. Often, anger helps people process trauma, solve issues, and set boundaries with harmful people. However, excessive and uncontrolled rage can damage a person’s mental health, relationships, and life. People with this type of anger may need anger management therapy.
In anger management therapy, patients learn how to gain control over their anger and use healthy coping mechanisms to handle life stressors. Anger management does not teach people to avoid irritation altogether. Instead, therapists show patients how to feel and express anger in healthier ways.
How to Tell if Anger is Disordered or Healthy
Each person expresses anger in a unique way. Frustrated people may cry, yell, isolate, or even freeze altogether. Many people feel warm when they are angry and their heart rates rise. These reactions to anger generally do not indicate that someone needs assistance in managing their frustrations.
When someone processes anger in a disordered way, they can be destructive or violent. People with disordered anger also tend to stew on those emotions for unusually long amounts of time. Uncontrolled anger may lead someone to:
- Destroy property
- Cause physical harm to another person
- Ruin their important relationships
- Get into legal trouble
People with this type of anger can feel isolated due to the personal or legal issues that the anger causes. This isolation can lead to more uncontrolled anger and a violent cycle. Mental health care providers can offer relief.
Is Disordered Anger Common?
The most common form of disordered anger is Intermittent Explosive Disorder. The best research available estimates that about seven percent of adults in the United States live with this disorder. There are also other types of uncontrolled, misplaced, or disordered anger. For example, some people may feel rage as a symptom of another mental health disorder, such as depression.
Anyone with unhealthy anger issues should know these two things: you are not alone, and help is available.
How to Manage Anger
Unhealthy anger often feels impossible to control, especially in the moment. The key to managing anger is to let the anger go in ways that are safe and productive. If you struggle with uncontrolled anger, these techniques can help:
- Take a beat to think. When you feel anger rising up, take a moment to think before you say anything. Sometimes simply pausing for this brief moment can keep you from saying or doing hurtful things.
- Explain your feelings calmly. Controlling your anger does not mean bottling it up. Be sure to say how you’re feeling, but keep the tone in your voice calm. Try statements like, “I feel frustrated by that.”
- Forgive. Once you have expressed your feelings, try to forgive the other person for any wrongdoing. Remember that forgiveness is to help you, not necessarily to help the other person. Doing it allows you to move forward.
While practicing these techniques alone can help, many people with unhealthy anger need additional help. Individual therapy, group therapy, inpatient treatment, and medication may provide the relief they need. While some people may only need one of these options to heal, others may need a combination of treatment options.
In individual therapy sessions, a mental health care provider meets one-on-one with a patient. Therapists can use several types of talk therapy to help people control their anger. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy can help. Providers can also determine if there are underlying causes.
In this setting, one or two mental health care providers lead discussions with a group of people who struggle with anger management. Together, the participants learn new coping techniques and find ways to manage symptoms. They also find help in the community and simply knowing they are not alone.
When people experience extreme depression, thoughts of suicide, or thoughts of harming others, they may need round-the-clock care as they learn to cope. Inpatient treatment options give patients the intensive care they need.
For some people, medication is an important part of controlling their anger. This is particularly essential when anger is a result of another condition, such as depression. Some patients need medication for a short while, but others use it as a long-term solution.