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Mental Health Center

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.
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Warning Signs of an Anger Issue

How can you spot an anger problem?

“When it occurs too frequently, when the intensity is too strong, or when it endures too long,” says Howard Kassinove, PhD, director of Hofstra University's Institute for the Study and Treatment of Anger and Aggression. He also co-wrote “Anger Management for Everyone: Seven Proven Ways to Control Anger and Live a Happier Life.”

Kassinove sees degrees of anger: annoyance, anger, and rage. Occasionally feeling annoyed or even angry is nothing to worry about.

“Most people report that they get angry once or twice a week,” Kassinove says, “but people who rate high for the anger trait become angry about once a day. Holding on to anger for too long is another sign of trouble. We see patients who are still angry at people who died years ago.”

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.”)

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