- Mental Health
Is Your Anger Managing You?- Or Are You Managing Your Anger?
What is Anger?
Stupid question eh? I bet you’re getting angry just thinking about it. However; it may surprise you to know that anger can be useful in some cases. Feelings of anger release hormones in your body – particularly adrenaline which is the fight or flight hormone. If you are in danger and angry it can give you the impetus to either run away or defend yourself, rather than being rooted to the spot and unable to do anything.
Anger is a response to one or more stimuli:
- Physical or verbal attack
Is anger a problem?
Being angry isn’t a problem in itself. It is how the anger manifests in you that can be a problem. If for example you simply shout when someone or something angers you and then get on with the rest of your day, that isn’t a problem.
Quite a lot of people do have a problem managing their anger, so if this is you; you aren’t alone. Incidentally, not expressing your anger can also be a problem which can harm your mental and physical health and emotions. The release of cortisol and adrenaline can be harmful especially if it happens repeatedly and your anger is prolonged.
Unexpressed anger can cause the following physical and mental/emotional problems:
- Self harm
- Eating disorders
- Addictions to drugs/alcohol
- Blood pressure
- Heart problems
- General digestive problems
It can also contribute to relationship breakdown and over-reaction to situations in the future.
Other harmful ways of dealing with anger
Often anger can turn into something else if you don’t know how to deal with it. The two main things that anger turns into are rage and violence. If this is how you usually express your anger then other people could be endangered. Even if you don’t normally hit out at people and vent your anger on inanimate objects instead; there could always be a time when in frustration you do attack someone. The reason for this is because you are out of control when the red mist descends. This type of anger is very frightening for anyone in the vicinity. It can be especially terrifying and harmful to children who witness it and can have a lasting effect on them.
What causes anger?
The neurological process that causes anger is due to the person not using the correct part of their brain to think. The cerebral cortex is redundant and the limbic cortex has kicked in.
Whilst it’s good to know that you are using your brain when in an angry state; the limbic cortex is very primitive and does not use logic and reason to solve the problem.
Within the limbic cortex is the amygdala - this part of the brain stores memories and also controls the fight or flight response. So if the amygdala identifies some past bad memory and decides to send the angry message to the limbic rather than the cerebral cortex, all logic will go out of the window.
Due to the hormones involved; sometimes the anger can last for a few minutes and then calm down only to resurface hours or days later.
It must be added that some people have mental issues which make it difficult or even impossible for them to deal with their anger:
Intermittent Explosive Disorder - Use link above to view information
Schizophrenia - Use link above to view information
Everyone has a different trigger for angry feelings. What may make me angry may not make you angry and vice versa. Life events can often make anger more intense. If you are short of sleep, hungry, have recently split with a partner, been bereaved or made redundant you may find you react in a more extreme manner than you would normally.
7 Common triggers:
- Feeling threatened
- Being made a fool of
- Being insulted
- Being blamed for things which were not your fault
- Feeling Misunderstood
Your background can affect how you deal with anger
- If, in your family, violent anger is the norm then it will seem normal to you too.
- If you were repeatedly bullied as a child your anger will be more intense if someone threatens or tries to control you.
- You could find it difficult to express your anger if you were made afraid by another family member expressing theirs when you were a child.
- If you are a drug or alcohol abuser your reaction to anger will probably be more extreme
How to deal effectively with anger?
Anger not dealt with appropriately can cause you to say and do things you will regret, either in the future or immediately after the outburst. It can be terrifying to people witnessing it and it will only ever earn you fear. Please note that it will very RARELY if EVER earn you respect and the people – children especially, who see it may be affected for life
Things you can do to control your anger
- Own it – it is YOUR anger; no-one else’s
- Learn what your personal triggers are by observing what causes the angry outbursts
- Notice the patterns that emerge
- Once you identify what causes it, try to avoid or defuse the triggers doing things a different way
Learn to recognize the warning signs and feelings
- Rapid heart beat
- Feeling hot
- Faster breathing
- Tensed up feeling
- Clenched fists
- Clenched jaw
- Eyes fixed and staring or darting about wildly
Defuse the tension
- If you are capable of rational thought try walking away if you feel you are in danger of hurting someone or damaging something
- Some people swear by wearing an elastic band around their wrist and when they recognize a trigger or warning sign snapping it hard against their skin and taking a deep breath. Sometimes it just gives you that brief moment to think before the amygdala kicks in and sends the message to the non logical limbic cortex.
- Other people find that breathing deeply and holding onto a piece of furniture tightly stops them from reacting violently.
- Once you’ve taken a minute to see if you are going to get violent and know you’re not, you need to get your argument across as soon as you can before the rage starts to build. It can help to tell the other person why you feel angry. Try not to say “You make me angry because:” It is far better to say “I am angry with you because:”
- Try to listen to what the other person has to say; give them time to express their feelings and don’t just shout them down or you may miss something important.
- As a general tip; try some form of relaxation technique such as Hypnosis, Meditation, Tai Chi or Yoga. It will have an overall calming effect every day, not just when you’re feeling angry.
What to do if none of this works
If none of the above strategies work you will probably have to face the fact that you need to get professional help. Warning signs:
- Inability to compromise
- Your temper is causing problems with your relationships at work or home
- Inability to express anything other than anger
- You have hurt someone physically in anger
- You feel everyone else but you is wrong. It’s either your way or the highway
- You have been arrested or convicted of a violent crime done in anger
- Anger Management classes
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
- Prescription Medication
- Talking Treatments
- Domestic Violence programs
Speak to your GP or Healthcare Professional. Some of these treatments are free on the NHS in some circumstances.
© Susan Bailey 2013 All Rights Reserved