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Why Am I So Angry?

Anger can be a force for good. But ongoing, intense anger is neither helpful nor healthy. Here's how to get a grip.

Warning Signs of an Anger Issue continued...

Looking closely at yourself can help. “People may ask themselves, 'Am I alone? Have I lost jobs, lost friends, lost family because of my anger?'” Abrams says.

In most cases, though, people are usually blind to their own issues, he says. Denial is common, too. Usually, it’s someone else who persuades them to seek help.

“Many people will say things like: 'There is nothing wrong with me. Somebody else or something else is causing me to be angry.'”

Kassinove agrees. “The first step is understanding that anger is caused by how you interpret an event. No one can force you to be angry," he says. "Once you recognize that, you are in charge of your own anger.”

Tips to Tame Anger

Kassinove suggests these tips to adjust your thinking and get off to a good start:

  • Instead of calling a situation “awful or terrible,” tell yourself, “This is unpleasant.”
  • Avoid upsetting extremes like, “I can't take it.” Instead, try the more realistic, “I really don't like it.”
  • Stay away from thinking someone “should” or “ought to” act differently. “I wish she would act differently” is a better choice.
  • Try not to use exaggerations like “always” or “never” to describe how often something upsetting happens. And judge the behavior -- not the person. (“That driver is a jerk.”)

Other tips to handle anger:

  • When you feel rage coming on, slow down your breathing and relax your muscles. That can stop your body's “fight or flight” reaction that makes anger worse, Abrams says.
  • Imagine a beach or other peaceful scene. Breathe in and out with the tide, picturing your stress washing away. The more you practice, the better and faster these relaxation techniques will work in an unexpected situation.
  • Quiet yourself with soft music. Instrumental and nature sounds without words seem to work best.
  • Know what makes you mad, and plan your reaction. “The earlier you intervene in the anger process, the better. The key is to calm yourself down before you explode,” Abrams says.
  • Finally, accept that you can't completely prevent it. “Never feeling angry is not the goal,” Abrams says. “Learning skills to control your anger is.”

Don't wait to get help from an anger management specialist or program. Ask staff at a hospital, university, or professional organization for a referral.

Reviewed on August 28, 2014

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