Anger Management

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Casarella, MD on August 28, 2022
3 min read

Anger management is a way to lessen the effects that anger has on you. Anger is a normal reaction and feeling, so you can’t make it go away. But you can learn to manage it better.

Anger is a powerful feeling. It’s a normal and healthy emotion that happens when you are frustrated, hurt, annoyed, or disappointed. It could be the result of something that happens to you, something someone said or did, or something you remember. Anger can help or hurt you, depending on how you react to it. If you can react without hurting someone else, it can be good. It’s useful when we need to protect ourselves, and it can motivate you to change things. But it can also make you lash out in ways that you shouldn’t.

If you hold your anger inside, it can lead to passive-aggressive behavior like ''getting back'' at people without telling them why or being critical and hostile. Knowing how to recognize and express these feelings in appropriate ways can help you handle emergencies, solve problems, and hold on to meaningful relationships.

When you’re angry, you might have feelings anywhere from a slight irritation to rage. When that happens, try this:

  • Breathe deeply from your diaphragm.
  • Give yourself a pep talk.
  • 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.
  • After that, express yourself clearly and calmly.

Angry outbursts are stressful to your nervous and cardiovascular systems and can make health problems worse. They also don’t usually have a productive outcome.

  • Physical activity like regular exercise is a way to both improve your mood and release tension and anger.
  • Avoid using recreational drugs and drinking too much alcohol, which can make you less able to handle frustration. Alcohol can also loosen your inhibitions so that you say or do something you normally wouldn’t.
  • Get support from others. Talk through your feelings and try to work on changing your behaviors.
  • If you have trouble realizing when you’re having angry thoughts, keep a written 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.
  • Really listen. Listening can help improve communication and can build trusting feelings between people. This trust can help you deal with potentially hostile emotions. A useful communication exercise is to say to someone, “Let me make sure I understand what you’re saying” and then restate back to them what you think was their main message or point of view. This approach can help to clarify misunderstandings that can lead to frustrations, and identify issues on which you may ultimately “agree to disagree” without argument.
  • Assert yourself, expressing your feelings calmly and directly without becoming defensive, hostile, or emotionally charged. Read self-help books or seek help from a professional therapist to learn how to use assertiveness and anger management skills.

If you don’t deal with your anger, it can lead to anxiety and depression. It can disrupt your relationships and raise your risk of illness. Long-term anger has been linked to health problems including:

Unchecked anger also can be linked to crime, abuse, and other violent behavior.

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.

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 teach you techniques for changing your thinking and your behavior. A mental health professional can help you deal with your anger in an appropriate way.

Ask your doctor if medicines could be helpful. Sometimes, antidepressants, certain anticonvulsants, and low-dose antipsychotics can help manage sudden attacks of rage or anger. Avoid alcohol, short-acting benzodiazepines like Xanax, or street drugs that can make you say or do things more impulsively. Choose your therapist carefully, and make sure to talk to a professional trained to teach anger management and assertiveness skills.