Anger is a vital emotion that is triggered when a person feels threatened and has an instinct to defend themselves. But overwhelming anger can destroy the foundations of life – relationships, career, home, family – and violent anger puts lives at risk. Therapy can help clients experience, accept and manage anger and feelings like it.
When a person demonstrates they’re angry by raising their voice, lashing out with words or actions, or by hurting others, they and people around them will assume they are angry.
When a person uses inaction or withholding when they are angry, people around them might interpret this avoidant behaviour as ‘passive’ aggression. Passive aggression is still an expression of anger.
A person might worry about their anger if they or people around them notice that they’re displaying any of the following behaviours:
Anger is a normal emotion, but it is not always appropriate (or advisable) to just let it out. Feeling irritable, cynical or angry from time to time is normal. But it is not normal for anger to feel overwhelming or out of control, to dread or look forward to losing your temper, or for friends and family to feel unsafe around you.
If a person has been advised that they might lose their job, children, partner, home, driving licence or other privileges or relationships due to their outbursts, they may choose to get help.
Anger can feel uncontrollable when it doesn’t ‘fit’ a setting – for example, feeling very angry at home or school, at a work event, or in public.
All anger is ‘normal’ but not all expressions of anger are acceptable. When anger and outbursts put relationships, work, safety or sense of belonging at risk, it might be a sign that feelings underneath the anger need space and attention. Therapy is a good way to begin dealing with those feelings.
People with chronic health conditions or PTSD and people who’ve been bereaved might be more likely to experience uncontrollable anger. While it’s understandable that circumstances might make it harder to manage emotions, people are obliged to deal with their anger whatever they are going through.
Anger is a natural emotion and causes vary wildly, even in the course of a day. But for most people most of the time, anger is a manageable emotion.
Overwhelming anger might be a sign of chronic stress, or common mental health problems like depression and anxiety.
If your partner is persistently angry or passive aggressive, particularly for petty reasons or no reason at all, it makes relationships stressful and difficult. In a few cases it might make a person feel unsafe if their partner has a short fuse. Therapy is a good place to make decisions about how to cope with the way your partner expresses anger, why you might be choosing to stay with an angry partner, and whether the relationship can survive the anger in it.
It takes a while for children to learn to regulate their emotions, and even adults struggle to keep a lid on it sometimes. But when a young child is angrier than peers or siblings, it can make parents worry that something is wrong with them, or at school, in the family or in the community. When a teenager is angry, it can be hard to know what is ‘normal’. But feeling unsafe, or worrying that your child will hurt you, themselves or others, might lead you to seek help.
Anger is often characterised with physical sensations such as:
Anger might also make a person feel or think of:
Anger problems can resolve of their own accord, but they can also continue or escalate. Leaving anger without treating it means living with the risks, or feeling, it could worsen. If a person is worried about the potential damage their anger could cause, then seeking help can protect them, and those around them.
Therapists deal with anger with almost every, if not every, client they work with. Therapy is a safe place to unpack passive aggression, and look at reasons why it feels impossible to voice anger or express your anger directly. Therapists can also give clients a chance to explore the emotions that anger overshadows, many of which will have stayed hidden out of shame or guilt. Therapy can also help better understand and contextualise the circumstances that cause persistent anger, such as stress, abuse or ill health.
CBT is a common approach to anger management, and some therapists will specialise either in CBT or in CBT for anger management.
Therapists might be able to advise clients on exercises or techniques to help them slow down when they feel they are about to lose their temper.