Anger management: What are you so angry about?
By Mayo Clinic Staff
Jun 26, 2007
Anger is natural, but it can be destructive when expressed inappropriately. Gauge your anger level and identify your unhealthy expressions of anger.
Do you slam down the phone when faced with endless computerized voice prompts? Have you gotten into a shouting match with a stranger over a parking space at the mall? Ever put your fist through the wall after an argument with your spouse?
This is not anger management at its finest. Although anger is a natural emotion, it may be getting the best of you. Instead of expressing your anger in a healthy and assertive way, you may be expressing it in a hostile, aggressive manner — a manner that could lead to violence and a slew of personal and professional consequences.
Here are some points to consider when assessing whether you express your anger in a healthy or unhealthy manner, and how to get a better grasp of anger management.
Understand your anger
Anger itself isn't bad. Expressed appropriately, anger can be healthy. It can help protect you from dangerous situations, energize you to resolve problems or lead to sociocultural reforms, for instance.
Sure, everyday frustrations, impatience and resentment can all cause your temper to flare. For many people, these are fleeting moments. They're able to take these situations in stride and quickly return to a sense of calm without exploding.
But if your blood boils after minor irritations — such as losing that coveted parking space — or if you're constantly seething, you may need to improve your anger management skills. Anger that's out of control can be destructive, leading to problems in your relationships, at work, in your general enjoyment of life and with your health. You could even be arrested or face other legal problems.
Determine your anger level
So, just how angry are you? This chart is a barometer of sorts. Although it doesn't score your anger, you can use it as a tool to raise your self-awareness about your level of anger.
To use the chart, see if the words on the left describe your behavior or thoughts over the past week. Check the ones that apply to your anger.
Gauge your anger
[pre]Words Check if it applies
Ready to fight
If you have several check marks, your anger level is on the high side. Try anger management tips for several weeks to see if you can keep your anger under control. You may also want to consult an anger management professional to help you learn to handle anger in a healthier way and to understand more about what's behind your anger. Talk to your health care provider about resources, such as counseling or anger management classes.
You can repeat this exercise over time to see if your anger management skills are improving.
Examine your anger patterns
Why do you tend to fly off the handle more than others seem to? Anger responses can become habitual. That is, you may respond automatically to a situation that makes you angry, with little pause to think about your reactions. The intensity of your anger may even catch you by surprise.
How do you express your anger? Consider these questions to assess your anger responses:
- Do you express anger in a way that overwhelms you and others?
- Do you get angry more often than most people you know?
- Do you get angrier than is necessary?
- Do you use threatening language or gestures?
- Do you get angry enough to hit, throw or kick things, people or animals?
- Do you seethe for hours?
- Do you hide angry feelings from others or try to suppress your feelings?
- Do you use alcohol or drugs to calm your rage?
- Do you experience physical reactions such as muscle tension or a racing heart when you get angry?
- Does expressing your anger usually leave you feeling better about yourself and the person who angered you?
Identify the ways you express anger to help you determine if you need to change how you respond to upsetting situations. You may react too aggressively or even too passively. In either case, you can learn new methods to replace old, unhealthy habits. If your level of anger is high or you tend to express anger in an unhealthy way, make plans to deal with your anger.
Aim for constructive expressions of your anger
Anger management is not about stopping you from expressing your anger entirely. It's OK to feel angry. In fact, trying to suppress or deny your anger can lead to a host of physical complaints, such as headaches, depression, stress, and sleeping or eating difficulties. It can also lead you to erupt into violent behavior if your anger has been simmering without an outlet.
The key, though, is to express your anger in an assertive, controlled way. Managing anger effectively can benefit you and those around you. Your health may improve, you'll feel better about yourself, and strained relationships may heal. So get your anger under control, before it controls you.