What is Anger Management?
Anger management is a type of therapy that teaches patients to control their tempers and cope with stressors. Patients also learn how and when to express anger in healthy ways.
Anger and frustration are healthy parts of the human experience. In the right situations, anger can help people process trauma, avoid toxic people, and solve problems. However, uncontrolled, inappropriate, or excessive anger is unhealthy. People who experience rage in this way may also have underlying mental health conditions that need treatment.
Disordered vs. Healthy Anger
Anger looks different in every person. Frustrations can cause people to cry, yell, walk away, or freeze. Healthy anger can cause a perceived rise in body temperature and increased heart rate. All of these are typical anger reactions that do not usually indicate a mental illness.
However, when someone cannot process rage in those healthy ways, it could be a sign of something more serious. Disordered anger is destructive, violent, and harmful. People who feel this way may hurt people or property, destroy meaningful relationships, and stew on their feelings for a long time. When uncontrolled anger causes personal or legal problems, mental health professionals can offer relief.
How Common is Uncontrolled Anger?
Although research remains scarce on the subject, best estimates conclude that Intermittent Explosive Disorder affects approximately seven percent of American adults. This disorder is just one kind of uncontrolled anger, and some evidence suggests that teenagers suffer even higher rates of misplaced anger. It’s important for people with these feelings to know that they are not alone, and that treatment can help.
Benefits of Anger Management Therapy
Patients who seek treatment for their anger problems can find hope, even though they often feel defeated before they begin. Psychiatrists, therapists, and counselors use clinically proven anger management techniques to help such patients create new behavior patterns.
People with disordered anger and their loved ones should think of anger as a symptom of a disease, much like body aches are symptoms of the flu. Not only do professionals treat the troubling sign (anger), but they may also care for the underlying problems, such as unmanaged stress or anxiety.
Anger management therapies are not exactly what the movies make them out to be. Learning new coping skills looks different for every patient. Some psychiatrists recommend medication in addition to therapy.
Anger Disorder Signs
Many people closely associate violent outbursts with anger management problems. While these moments can indicate that someone experiences rage in an unhealthy way, aggression is just one way that unhealthy anger presents. When people feel aggressive outrage, they can correctly identify their feelings but feel incapable of stopping the violence that follows.
Unhealthy anger can also seem passive. People who use sarcasm or apparent apathy to deal with frustrating situations often do not even realize that they feel anger. People with passive disordered anger may also partake in self-destructive behaviors.
Other common symptoms of anger disorders include:
- Loved ones feeling like they “walk on eggshells” around the person
- Feeling irritated more often than not
- Starting fights and arguments
- Bottling up negative emotions
- Ignoring anything good that happens
- Obsession over negative events
- Violence against other people, including loved ones
- Driving recklessly
- Destroying property
- Threatening violence against others or their property
While the symptoms sometimes come up in a noticeable pattern, they often seem random to outsiders. Therapy can help patients learn their unique triggers and appropriate ways to manage these issues.
Sometimes, people see the evidence of anger disorders on the patient’s victims rather than the patient themselves. While anger disorder is a disease that deserves treatment, victims should not use this fact as a reason to maintain relationships with their abusers. People on the receiving end of violent rage should also seek counseling and support.
Is Anger a Sign of Depression?
Inappropriate anger is one of the lesser-known signs of depression in some patients. Sometimes the depression causes a person’s inner critic to be so loud that they get frustrated and act out in anger. While most people think of depression as keeping a person in bed or incredibly sad, the disorder has a broader range of symptoms than that.
Depression can also aggravate a person’s existing anger problems because people with depression feel inadequate or unimportant. It also works the other way around when uncontrolled rage worsens current depression symptoms.
Counseling and medication can help people with coexisting anger and depression understand their disorders and learn healthier coping techniques.
How to Manage Anger
Due to the intensity of anger, patients often feel overwhelmed by the task of getting it under control. The delicate balance of not bottling feelings up but also not engaging in destructive behaviors can prove difficult as well. However, counseling reveals several ways for patients to manage their symptoms.
The key to all of these methods is to let the anger go in safe, productive ways. If you struggle with anger, you can try some of the following techniques when you feel the rage rising:
- Think, then speak. When you feel anger starting to bubble up inside, tell the people around you that you need a moment to think. Instead of saying the first thing that comes to mind, consider the alternatives and more productive ways to communicate your needs.
- Calmly explain your feelings. After you give your initial rage time to subside, be sure to communicate your emotions–even anger. Saying things like, “I feel frustrated about this problem,” can communicate what you need the other person to know without hurting anyone.
- Practice forgiveness. This is often one of the most difficult anger management techniques to learn, but it can be the most effective. Once a disagreement ends, let it go. Holding onto that feeling only hurts you and serves no other purpose.
- Exercise regularly. Physical exertion, such as with exercise, can help you get some energy out. You can work out on a regular schedule or go for a session whenever you feel anger starting to get out of your control. Weightlifting, running, and martial arts are all great options.
While these techniques alone can help people with mild anger problems, other people may need more support. In addition to these lifestyle changes, patients can seek professional help for their anger.
Anger Management Therapy
Mental health professionals can use several types of therapies to help patients with disordered anger heal quickly. While some people need just one of these kinds of treatment, others may benefit from a combination of therapies.
In group therapy, one or two mental health professionals lead discussions among many people with anger disorders. The patients learn from each other and discover new coping techniques for their symptoms.
Individual therapy sessions involve just one patient and either a therapist, counselor, or psychiatrist. Together, the two people find the patient’s triggers, devise personalized coping methods, and even address underlying conditions like depression.
Patients who suffer from severe depression or suicidal thoughts with their anger may need round-the-clock supervision. Residential treatment programs give patients the intense treatment they need as they live in the facility and attend daily group and individual sessions.
In some cases, medication is a vital part of the solution. Patients with severe cases or comorbid problems may need medication either in the short term or more permanently.