Picture this! You’re driving home from work, and suddenly there’s a car swerving abruptly in front of you, without giving the proper signal? What would you do? Does the situation cause your blood to boil? Do you express your anger by continuously blaring the car horn and shouting profanity towards the reckless driver?
Or…imagine this! One day, you are lying on your bed, a song from your Spotify playlist has triggered memories of enduring physical and emotional abuse from your significant other…Suddenly, that situation makes you enraged…?
Anger is one of our primary inevitable emotions, which can erupt due to both external or internal events. Being angry is totally normal, however when it is misplaced or uncontrolled, it can quickly become problematic (American Psychological Association, 2019).
According to Charles Spielberger, a psychologist who specializes in the study of anger, anger is defined as “an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage’.
Now, let’s look at what are the signs that indicate a person might have anger management issues and the proper ways to combat it.
- You lash out impulsively
Have you ever noticed that when an animal in the wild encounters a perceived threat, it becomes angry and thus growls or hisses, baring its teeth in an attempt to appear more threatening? Comparatively, humans would also respond to anger in the same way, in an effort to make the perceived threat stop and go away. Sometimes, there are those who would express their anger by punching the wall, or they might lash or threaten the people that stir the negative emotion out of them (Taibbi, 2014). Other physical expressions include sulking, banging the desk, or hitting the wall, which are learned by the forces of reinforcement and copying others (American Psychological Association, 2012).
How to counter this problem ? When something pisses you off, instead of screaming, or trying to destroy the car horn, take a deep breath. Spend 2-3 minutes breathing deeply. In through your nose, and out through your mouth. Imagine inhaling a calm, blue air and exhaling that red toxic air.
- You have low tolerance towards criticism
You reprimand your assignment partner because of certain grammatical mistakes, however he becomes defensive and infuriated. If you encounter such a situation, most probably you have met a partner with anger management issues.
According to American Psychological Association (2019), people who are easily irritated generally have what some psychologists call a low tolerance for nuisance, meaning simply that they feel that they should not have to be subjected to frustration, inconvenience, or annoyance. They can’t take things in stride, and they’re particularly infuriated if the situation seems somehow unjust: for example, being corrected for a minor mistake. These kinds of people instantly become angered, defensive or simply shut down because they are unable to accept the criticism directed at them.
It’s important to put your anger in a context by thinking rationally instead of emotionally. Think about it, are you gonna be angry tomorrow? Ehh, probably. What about a week from now? Urm…, maybe…? A month? Probably not.
3. You find it hard to express anger, which leads to prolonging physiological symptoms
Have you ever wondered what are the physiological consequences of uncontrollable anger reactions?
According to American Psychological Association (2012), when we become angry, the autonomic nervous system is aroused. For instance, anger precipitated by the discovery of a spouse’s secret affair will likely lead to arousal of the sympathetic nervous system and associated hormonal and neurochemical changes. These physiological reactions can lead to increases in cardiovascular responding, in respiration and perspiration, in blood flow to active muscles and in strength. As the anger persists, it will affect many of the body’s systems, such as the cardiovascular, immune, digestive and central nervous systems. This will lead to increased risks of hypertension and stroke, heart disease, gastric ulcers, and bowel diseases, as well as slower wound healing and a possible increased risk of some types of cancers.
Anger has also been shown to increase both systolic and diastolic blood pressure (Hull et al., 2002). Research has found that anger is an independent risk factor for heart disease. Having a tendency to experience anger frequently, in many types of situations, is known as high trait anger. One study followed 12,986 adults for approximately three years and found a two to three times increased risk of coronary events in people with normal blood pressure but with high trait anger. Another study followed 4,083 adults for 10 to 15 years. Those who were lowest on anger control had the highest risk of fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular events. After reviewing the literature, experts have concluded that high trait anger, chronic hostility, anger expression, and acute anger episodes can lead to new and recurrent cardiovascular disease. When anger is experienced moderately and expressed assertively it may be less disruptive than when it is frequent, intense, and enduring (American Psychological Association, 2012).
What is advisable for you to do when you experience such tension in your muscles? Unclench your fists, make a conscious effort to loosen up those shoulders and slump a little. Great posture is awesome, but for now, let those muscles unwind.
4. You grew up in a chaotic environment
Certain mental health disorders or personality types are more prone to anger outburst. According to an American therapist, Robert Taibbi (2014), anxiety is usually a common driver of anger. For instance, those who grew up in chaotic environments – alcoholism, abuse, volatile parents – they have few childhood coping skills except to become hypervigilant – always on guard, always externally focused on others, always on edge waiting to see what is going to happen next. With their brains wired in this way, even as adults in more stable environments, they are still on duty, ready to react, coping in the same childhood way. When looking at anger from the angle of personality, those who are internalizers are more susceptible to anger reaction. According to an Austrian neurologist, Sigmund Freud, it is easy for internalizers to automatically assume that whatever happened is undoubtedly their fault, they would mentally beat up on themselves, leading to depression.
After you take a deep breath and relax your muscles, grab your journal. Write down what exactly makes you angry : traffic, ex-lover, work. Try to spill all the emotions that you feel when you become angry.
5. You express anger using self-harm or isolation
You logged into your instagram profile, and you saw one university friend posted a picture of her cut wrist, and posting a caption, lamenting about her devastating life. Most probably, your friend might have manifested an anger reaction due to certain psychiatric illnesses.
Isolation and self-harm are outward manifestations of anger.
As stated in the fifth version of the Statistical and Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), self harm is termed as nonsuicidal self-injury disorder (NSSID). Nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI), defined as the deliberate, self-inflicted destruction of body tissue without suicidal intent and for purposes not socially sanctioned, includes behaviors such as cutting, burning, biting and scratching skin (International Society for the Study of Self-injury, 2007).
These two criterias (isolation and self-harm) can be individually presented in patients with different types of psychiatric disorders; namely borderline personality disorder or bipolar disorder patients who are in a depressive cycle. (Zetterqvist, 2015).
If you notice your loved ones having isolated themselves or displaying self-injurious behaviour or if you yourself want to cure yourself from such a problem, don’t hesitate to give a visit to your nearest psychiatrists or psychologists.
6. You turn to substance abuse
You are living in a flat, where every night you would overheard the screams and cries from the neighbour’s wife who lives just next door, and the sound of glasses breaking and the raised voice of the husband. One night, you have encountered the husband, walking into the lift of the flat, he was seemingly drunk.
According to Nichols et al. (2008), there is some initial evidence that individuals with high levels of anger are more likely to engage in substance abuse. One study found that young adults (ages 17-22) with high levels of anger were more likely to drink alcohol, drink to intoxication, and have more alcohol-related negative consequences than those without high levels of anger (Leibsohn, 1994). As stated by Parrott & Gianocola (2004), adult men that were identified as social drinkers with high levels of trait anger were found to be more likely to demonstrate aggression when they were intoxicated and had difficulty controlling their anger responses.
Anger due to addiction or substance abuse requires on-going care. Several treatment options are available, and most people experiencing addiction will receive a combination of approaches. None of the treatments for addictive disorders work for every person. Common interventions might involve a combination of inpatient and outpatient programs, psychological counseling, self-help groups and medications.
7. You have interpersonal problems
Around 1.6 million people across the world die due to violent and anger related acts according to the World Health Organization (WHO). One out of five people have problems in their interpersonal relationships due to their anger feelings and expressions. Mostly, when anger is articulated in awkward and unsupportive ways, it becomes a problem specifically when it appears to require management of healthy, respectful and affectionate relationships. An international report states that 1 out of 5 people have problems in their interpersonal relationships due to their anger feelings and expressions (Mental Health Foundation, 1999). According to a study about anger and interpersonal relationships done in 2017, there is a significant negative relationship between anger and interpersonal relationships among adolescents. The present study investigated the gender differences in anger among the adolescents and found that male adolescents experience more anger as compared to female adolescents (Alghamdi et al., 2016).
People who suffer with interpersonal conflict due to anger issues should learn how to handle their anger more effectively and work on their communication skills.
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Zetterqvist, M. (2015, September 28). The dsm-5 diagnosis of nonsuicidal self-injury disorder: A review of the empirical literature. Retrieved March 26, 2021, from https://capmh.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13034-015-0062-7