What is Anger Management?

Anger Management is training for temper control and is the skill of remaining calm and composed. It has been described as deploying anger successfully.

It’s healthy for people to feel mad sometimes. This important human emotion can play a vital role in processing trauma and everyday problems. However, too much anger or frustrations that someone cannot control may be signs of anger disorders. Uncontrolled anger can also be a sign of other untreated mental disorders.

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Anger

Everyone is familiar with the physical and mental ways that anger can manifest. However, people with certain mental disorders may have difficulty processing anger healthily. To know whether a person needs anger management, one must first determine if the anger is healthy or a sign of a bigger problem.

When a patient’s rage becomes destructive, hurts relationships, and gets in the way of everyday life, anger management therapy may be the best course of treatment. Furthermore, if the anger creates legal problems or causes the person to be violent against others, the patient may need treatment.

How Common is Disordered Anger?

It’s vital for those who struggle with anger to know that they are not alone. While the scientific community must still conduct more research into the prevalence of unhealthy outrage, some of the best estimates find that about seven percent of American adults suffer from Intermittent Explosive Disorder, which is just one type of disordered anger. This number could be a little higher in teenagers.

Benefits of Anger Management Therapy

Although patients with anger disorders may feel out-of-control, there is hope. Trained counselors, therapists and psychiatrists can help people work through proven anger management techniques to learn how to manage anger. It’s important for patients and their loved ones to realize that out-of-control anger is a symptom of a disease–much like overwhelming sadness is a symptom of depression and a fever is a symptom of the flu. Like symptoms of other conditions, proper anger management treatment can help.

Individual and group therapies — which many people in popular culture refer to as “anger management classes” — can be part of the solution to a happier life for the patient. Professionals may use these techniques in conjunction with medicine. Despite what movies would have people believe, anger management programs look different for everyone.

Anger Disorder Symptoms

When many people picture someone with anger disorder, they imagine someone who has violent outbursts. While this can be a symptom, aggression is only one type of unhealthy anger. With this type, patients know that they are angry, but feel unable to control that emotion. Aggressive disordered anger may manifest as yelling or physical violence.

Passive anger can also be disordered. Patients with this type of anger may not even correctly identify their emotions as rage. As such, they may be sarcastic or display apathy. These patients also demonstrate self-destructive behaviors.

Common Symptoms of Anger Problems:

  • Constantly bottling up rage
  • Focusing on negative experiences and ignoring positive things
  • Violence against others, even family
  • Destroying property
  • Threats of violence against people or property
  • Reckless driving
  • Frequent arguments
  • Consistent irritation throughout most days
  • People walk on eggshells around the patient

These symptoms may occur in reaction to specific triggers or with no apparent pattern. Patients in anger management therapy can learn what their triggers are and how to handle them differently.

Due to the nature of anger disorders, people can often see the symptoms of rage in the victims rather than the patient. While it’s vital for anger patients to seek treatment, victims of violence should not see the disorder as an excuse for their abusers’ behaviors. Those who are affected by bursts of outrage should also seek help.

Is Anger a Symptom of Depression?

When someone talks about depression, the image is often of a person lying in bed all day or continually crying. While people with depression can exhibit symptoms in these ways, anger can also be part of a person’s depression symptoms.

People with depression often have loud inner critics that make them feel inadequate. As these criticisms grow, an angry outburst can help relieve some of the tension. Counseling can help these patients learn healthier coping mechanisms for these self-esteem issues.

Sometimes, uncontrolled anger makes existing depression worse. A 2016 study found that this misunderstood human emotion significantly impacts patients with all emotional disorders, including depression and anxiety. Another study concluded that rage can make depression more severe.

How to Manage Anger

Getting anger under control can feel overwhelming at first. On the one hand, it’s not healthy to keep those feelings completely bottled up, as doing so can lead to worsening depression. On the other hand, many ways that people know to express anger can be destructive to themselves, loved ones, and property.

The key to anger management is finding ways to let the rage out without harming anyone or anything. This often means re-learning how to deal with this difficult emotion. If you struggle with angry outbursts, you can try some anger management strategies when you feel the symptoms coming on.

Stop yourself before it gets extreme. It’s difficult to stop an outburst when the anger reaches its peak. Instead of waiting for that out-of-control feeling to begin, learn your triggers and what it feels like when you’re ramping up toward that feeling. Try some of the following techniques:

  • Pause before you speak. If you feel the rage coming on, tell the person you’re talking with that you need a moment to think before you respond. Giving yourself a few extra moments to breathe can keep you from saying the first and more hurtful thing that comes to mind.
  • Say how you’re feeling–calmly. Once you have given yourself a second to check your emotions, be sure to express how you feel. It’s perfectly fine to say, “I feel angry about this.” Simply acknowledging the feeling without yelling can often take the edge off and let the people around you know what you’re experiencing.
  • Get regular exercise. Plenty of physical movement can help get some of the angry energy out. Having a regular workout schedule can regulate your feelings. If you feel a spell of anger coming on, you can try to get away for a quick run or weightlifting session to help in the moment with a rush of endorphins.
  • Learn to forgive. Once you have solved a problem or an argument is over, try to forgive the other person. Holding onto a grudge only serves to make your anger worse. Forgive the other person, even if just to help you move on.

Some people find that the techniques above are not enough to help cope with feelings of anger. A trained professional can help patients learn strategies that are unique to their needs.

Anger Management Therapy

Patients and their medical teams can utilize several types of anger management therapies that can help. Some patients only need one of these methods, while others may require a combination of some or all of them.

Group Therapy.

In group therapy settings, a professional leads discussions between several group members who struggle with anger. Members can share strategies that worked and learn from one another.

Individual Therapy.

During individual therapy, patients can meet one-on-one with mental health professionals. Together, they discover the emotional triggers and devise ways to cope with negative feelings. Counselors can also address underlying issues, such as depression or anxiety.

Inpatient Treatment.

People with other difficulties, including those with suicidal thoughts, may need residential treatment. In these programs, patients live in the treatment centers and work closely with a medical team to get better.

In each of the types of therapy, the counselors and patients identify the stressors, physical symptoms, and emotional signs of the patient’s anger outbursts. From there, they can find ways to avoid triggers, find skills to cope with situations that patients cannot avoid, and find healthier ways to express anger.

When a person’s unhealthy anger is the result of an emotional disorder, medication may be a piece of the solution.

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