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Learn to manage your anger

Anger is a normal emotion that everyone feels from time to time. But when you feel anger too intensely or too often, it can become a problem. Anger can put a strain on your relationships or cause problems at school or work.

Anger management can help you learn healthy ways to express and control your anger.

Understanding Anger

Anger can be triggered by feelings, people, events, situations, or memories. You may feel anger when you worry about conflicts at home. A bossy coworker or commuter traffic may make you angry.

When you feel anger, your blood pressure and heart rate go up. Certain hormone levels increase, causing a burst of energy. This allows us to react aggressively when we feel threatened.

There are always going to be things in life that make you angry. The problem is that lashing out is not a good way to react most of the time. You have little or no control over the things that cause your anger. But can you learn to control your reaction.

Who Needs Anger Management

Some people seem to be more prone to anger. Others may have grown up in a household full of anger and threats. Excess anger causes problems both for you and the people around you. Being angry all the time pushes people away. It can also be bad for your heart and cause stomach problems, trouble sleeping, and headaches.

You may need help controlling your anger if you:

  • Often get into arguments that spin out of control
  • Become violent or break things when angry
  • Threaten others when you are angry
  • Have been arrested or jailed because of your anger

How Anger Management Works

Anger management teaches you how to express your anger in a healthy way. You can learn to express your feelings and needs while respecting others.

Here are some ways to manage your anger. You can try one or combine a few:

  • Pay attention to what triggers your anger. You may need to do this after you calm down. Knowing when you may get angry can help you plan ahead to manage your reaction.
  • Change your thinking. Angry people often see things in terms of "always" or "never." For example, you may think "you never support me" or "things always go wrong for me." The fact is, this is rarely true. These statements can make you feel that there is no solution. This only fuels your anger. Try to avoid using these words. This can help you see things more clearly. It may take a little practice at first, but it will get easier the more you do it.
  • Find ways to relax. Learning to relax your body and mind can help you calm down. There are many different relaxation techniques to try. You can learn them from classes, books, DVDs, and online. Once you find a technique that works for you, you can use it whenever you start to feel angry.
  • Take a time out. Sometimes, the best way to calm your anger is to get away from the situation that is causing it. If you feel like you are about to blow up, take a few minutes alone to cool off. Tell family, friends, or trusted coworkers about this strategy ahead of time. Let them know you will need a few minutes to calm down and will return when you have cooled off.
  • Work to solve problems. If the same situation makes you feel angry over and over, look for a solution. For example, if you get angry every morning sitting in traffic, look for a different route or leave at a different time. You could also try public transportation, riding your bike to work, or listening to a book or calming music.
  • Learn to communicate. If you find yourself ready to fly off the handle, take a moment to slow down. Try to listen to the other person without jumping to conclusions. DO NOT respond with the first thing that pops into your mind. You may regret it later. Instead, take a moment to think about your answer.

For More Help

If you need more help dealing with your anger, look for a class on anger management or talk with a counselor who specializes in this topic. Ask your health care provider for suggestions and referrals.

When to Call the Doctor

You should call your provider:

  • If you feel like your anger is out of control
  • If your anger is affecting your relationships or work
  • You are concerned you might hurt yourself or others

References

American Psychological Association. Controlling anger before it controls you. www.apa.org/topics/anger/control.aspx. Accessed October 13, 2016.

American Psychological Association. How a psychologist can help you manage anger. www.apa.org/topics/anger/help.aspx. Accessed October 13, 2016.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Division of Population Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. BAM! Guide To Getting Along. Updated May 9, 2015. www.cdc.gov/bam/life/getting-along.html. Accessed October 13, 2016.

Suls J. Anger and the heart: perspectives on cardiac risk, mechanisms and interventions. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2013;55(6):538-547. PMID: 23621963 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23621963.

Review Date 7/22/2016

Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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