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Mental Health and Anger Management

What Is Anger?

Anger is a very powerful emotion that can stem from feelings of frustration, hurt, annoyance or disappointment. It can be caused by anxiety over personal problems or external situations like a cancelled airline flight. Anger is a normal human emotion that can range from slight irritation to strong rage. Sometimes, a pattern of inappropriate anger can also be a symptom of a mood disorder, a personality disorder, a substance use problem, or another mental health problem.

Anger can be harmful or helpful, depending on how it is expressed. If it is turned into healthy assertiveness -- it can be expressed without hurting someone else -- it can be a positive emotion. Unexpressed or suppressed anger can lead to passive-aggressive behavior like ''getting back'' at people without telling them why, being critical and hostile, and physical ailments like hypertension and depression.

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Knowing how to recognize and express anger in appropriate ways can help people reach goals, handle emergencies, solve problems, and hold on to meaningful relationships. 

What Are the Dangers of Suppressed Anger?

Suppressed 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, anger can be linked to problems such as crime, emotional and physical abuse, and other violent behavior.

How Can I Manage 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.
  • Although expressing anger is better than keeping it in, anger should be expressed in an appropriate way. Frequent outbursts of anger are often counter-productive and cause problems in relationships with others. Angry 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.
  • Consider the value of physical activity such as exercise as a way to both improve mood and discharge tension and anger.
  • Avoid recreational drugs and excessive use of alcohol, which can lower inhibitions and the ability to tolerate frustration.
  • 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.

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