Did you know that anger can be a helpful emotion? Anger tells you that there are threats to your well-being and happiness. If you can direct and use anger in constructive ways, you can resolve such threats to protect yourself and improve your life. For example, when your friends lie to you and you feel angry, it may be because they have hurt your sense of trust. You can talk your friends to repair friendship or decide to find new, more trustworthy friends.
On the other hand, if you can’t manage and express anger properly, it can hurt relationships, career, and even health. Check out the following nine signs of unhealthy anger and see if you may have anger issues.
1. You show physical or verbal aggression.
When you are upset, do you scream at people, call them names or use profanity, hit them, or throw or damage objects (e.g., punch walls)? Angry people also blame and lash out on others instead of dealing with the cause of their anger. Expressing your anger with physical or verbal violence not only causes physical damages, but it can also leave deep emotional wounds in others.
2. You overreact to situations or get extremely angry over little things.
Suppose your co-workers made a small mistake and affected your project. Complaining to a friend about it may be OK, but yelling at your co-workers and calling them stupid is not. If you frequently overreact to stressful situations or become offended easily, you may be a person with anger issues.
3. You are impatient.
Dr. Redford Williams of Duke University Medical Centre says that angry people tend to be impatient (CBSNews, n.d.). They cut people off during conversations, because they have difficulty waiting for them to finish talking. People with anger issues exhibit impatient behaviours such as fidgeting, pacing back and forth, and becoming angry very quickly.
4. You experience frequent, recurring physical symptoms when you are angry.
Often, there are physical reactions that are associated with an emotion: when we are embarrassed, we blush; when we feel nervous, we get an upset stomach; when we are happy, we can’t help but to smile or laugh.
Anger comes with its own physical symptoms. If you have anger issues, you might experience following symptoms more frequently and intensely than others:
- increased blood pressure or heart rate
- tight chest
- muscle tightness, tremors, or tingling
- getting red in the face
- feeling hot, sweating
- headaches or dizziness, pressure in the head
- stomach aches
- heavy breathing
People with anger issues are also more likely to have heart attacks or stroke. The presence of these symptoms can be due to other health issues, so consult your doctor to identify the correct source of the symptoms.
5. You engage in self-sabotaging or self-harming behaviours.
If you engage in self-sabotaging behaviours, ask yourself if you are (even unconsciously) expressing anger towards someone or something through your actions. For example, if you are unhappy with your work or boss, perhaps you are always late for work or perform poorly at your work tasks.
Self-harm is another sign of an unhealthy expression of anger. You may be using physical pain (e.g., cutting, burning, hitting yourself) or negative self-talk (e.g. putting yourself down) as a form of punishment, because you are angry with yourself. Self-harming also may be a symptom of other mental health issues, so speak to your doctor to find out what’s causing it.
6. People around you act afraid and avoid you.
Once you have acted aggressively towards or around people, it makes sense for them to fear you and try to avoid your angry outbursts. If you notice that people (especially those who are close to you) look anxious around you, have difficulty communicating with you, or avoid you, it could be a sign that your anger has damaged your relationships.
7. You suffer from mental health issues.
It is normal to feel a variety of other emotions when you are angry. However, anger can be both the cause and the symptom of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and addiction. If you suffer from mental health issues, they can affect your ability to manage your emotions, including anger. Or, if you have chronic anger issues, they may affect your life negatively that you may develop mental health issues.
Whether your anger is the cause or the result of mental-health-related symptoms, speak to your doctor about it if you experience frequent anger and related emotions, such as:
- sadness or depression
- irritation or frustration
- stress and overwhelm
- racing thoughts, difficulty organizing thoughts
8. You hold onto grudges.
Angry people have difficulty forgiving others and letting go of old wounds. They may remind themselves of situations or people who hurt them, allowing anger and other negative emotions to be fresh in their minds. When people hold onto grudges, they are choosing to experience anger repeatedly.
9. You are sarcastic and mean to others.
One form of anger is passive-aggressive anger. Because symptoms of passive-aggressive anger are subtle, they might be difficult to notice. You may be expressing anger in forms of sarcasm or mean remarks to others. You may engage in passive-aggressive behaviours, such as giving someone a silent treatment, acting apathetic, complaining constantly, or being critical and judgmental.
When you notice yourself engaging in such behaviours, ask yourself why. When you give your criticism to people, is it a constructive feedback or a way to put them down? When you make a sarcastic joke about someone, are you expressing resentment towards that person?
Whatever your reason is for being angry, what you do with your anger can either help you, or damage yourself and aspects of your life. If you think you may have anger issues, seek professionals who can help you manage and express your anger in healthy and productive ways.
Amsel, B. (2015, April 27). Self-Sabotage: When Unexpressed Anger Undermines Success. GoodTherapy. https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/self-sabotage-when-unexpressed-anger-undermines-success-0427154
CBSNews. 7 Signs You’re an Angry Person. https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/7-signs-youre-an-angry-person/
Institute in Basic Life Principles. What are characteristics of an angry person? https://iblp.org/questions/what-are-characteristics-angry-person
Mayo Clinic Staff. Self-injury/cutting – Symptoms & causes. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/self-injury/symptoms-causes/syc-20350950
MentalHelp.net. Recognizing Anger Signs. https://www.mentalhelp.net/anger/recognizing-signs/
PsychGuides.com. Anger Symptoms, Causes and Effects. https://www.psychguides.com/anger-management/
Santos-Longhurst, A. (2019, February 9). Do I have Anger Issues? How to Identify and Treat an Angry Outlook. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/anger-issues
Smith, Kurt. (2018, November 13). 10 Signs that You Have Anger Issues. Guy Stuff Counseling & Coaching. https://www.guystuffcounseling.com/counseling-men-blog/10-signs-that-you-have-anger-issues