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Mental Health and Anger Management

Anger is a very powerful emotion that can stem from feelings of frustration, hurt, annoyance, or disappointment. It is a normal human emotion that can range from slight irritation to strong rage.

Anger can be harmful or helpful, depending upon how it is expressed. Knowing how to recognize and express anger in appropriate ways can help people to reach goals, handle emergencies, and solve problems. However, problems can occur if people fail to recognize and understand their anger.

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What Are the Dangers of Suppressed Anger?

Suppressed, unexpressed anger can be an underlying cause of anxiety and depression. Anger that is not appropriately expressed can disrupt relationships, affect thinking and behavior patterns, and create a variety of physical problems. Chronic (long-term) anger has been linked to health issues such as high blood pressure, heart problems, headaches, skin disorders, and digestive problems. In addition, poorly managed anger can be linked to problems such as alcohol and substance abuse, crime, emotional and physical abuse, and other violent behavior.

What Steps Can I Take to Help Manage My Anger?

  • When you start feeling angry, try deep breathing, positive self-talk, or stopping your angry thoughts. Breathe deeply from your diaphragm. Slowly repeat a calm word or phrase such as "relax" or "take it easy." Repeat it to yourself while breathing deeply until the anger subsides.
  •  Avoid alcohol or illicit drugs that can make you more likely to act on angry feelings impulsively.
  • Although expressing anger is better than keeping it in, anger should be expressed in an appropriate way. Frequent outbursts of anger are often counterproductive and cause problems in relationships with others. Anger outbursts are also stressful to your nervous and cardiovascular systems and can make health problems worse. Learning how to use assertiveness is the healthy way to express your feelings, needs, and preferences. Being assertive can be used in place of using anger in these situations.
  • Seek out the support of others. Talk through your feelings and try to work on changing your behaviors.
  • If you have trouble realizing when you are having angry thoughts, keep a log of when you feel angry.
  • Try to gain a different perspective by putting yourself in another's place.
  • Learn how to laugh at yourself and see humor in situations.
  • Practice good listening skills. Listening can help improve communication and can facilitate trusting feelings between people. This trust can help you deal with potentially hostile emotions.
  • Learn to assert yourself, expressing your feelings calmly and directly without becoming defensive, hostile, or emotionally charged. Consult self-help books on assertiveness or seek help from a professional therapist to learn how to use assertiveness and anger management skills.

What Else Can I Do to Deal With My Anger in a Healthy Way?

If you believe that your anger is out of control and is having a negative effect on your life and relationships, seek the help of a mental health professional. A psychologist or other licensed mental health professional can work with you to better understand the causes behind anger and develop techniques for changing your thinking and your behavior. A professional can help you to deal with your anger in an appropriate way. Choose your therapist carefully and make sure to seek treatment from a professional who is trained to teach anger management and assertiveness skills.

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on May 31, 2014
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