by Sanjana Gupta
Anger is a normal human emotion. Everyone gets angry from time to time. It can be at a person (such as a spouse, coworker, or complete stranger), an object (such as a parking meter), or a situation (such as a missed flight or a traffic jam). Anger can also give us helpful information, such as when a boundary has been violated.
Anger can take various forms and range in severity from mild annoyance to intense rage. However, it is important for anger to be processed in ways that are not harmful or destructive to ourselves or others. Getting angry frequently and being unable to control one’s rage could indicate that a person has anger issues.
“Having anger management issues usually means that someone has trouble regulating or communicating their anger and often acts out in a destructive manner as a result, potentially harming others or themselves,” says Leigh McInnis, LPC, executive director at Newport Healthcare.
If this sounds like someone in your life, you may wonder how to help them with their anger issues. This article lists the indicators that a person has an anger management problem and some ways to help them. It also explores the impact of anger on relationships and some strategies that can help you deal with a person who has difficulty regulating their anger.
Signs of Anger Issues
According to McInnis, anger management issues can manifest in many different ways, which can include:
- The person often seems irritable, either with themselves or other people.
- The person is prone to snapping when they’re asked simple questions.
- The person seems angry or tense all the time, with no identifiable trigger setting off this anger.
- The person behaves aggressively when they get angry.
- The person tends to hold a grudge and entertains thoughts about exacting revenge.
- The person hurts themselves or others either verbally, emotionally, or physically.
- The person gets extremely irritated at slight annoyances or petty things, often beyond what seems like a normal reaction.
- The person is intolerant of others’ mistakes or weaknesses.
- The person gets angry at the memory of things that upset them.
- The person is often sullen and sulking.
- The person expresses their rage by slamming doors, punching walls, and other aggressive behavior.
- The person gets violent when they’re angry, hurting themselves or others around them.
- The person becomes a “level 10” angry in response to a level 1, 2, or 3 trigger.
Impact of Anger Issues
Anger can seem effective in the short term; for instance, someone who gets mad at their kids and shouts at them may feel satisfied if it means they do their chores. However, in the long term, anger issues can take a toll on the person’s health, relationships, work, and overall quality of life.
Impact on Relationships
McInnis outlines some of the ways that anger issues can affect a person’s relationships:
- Friends, family members, and coworkers may feel like they have to walk on eggshells when dealing with a person who has anger issues.
- Explosive anger issues can make it hard for others to trust the person, speak honestly to them, or feel comfortable around them, therefore negatively impacting their relationships.
- The person’s anger issues can lead them to feel socially isolated because people don’t want to be around this type of behavior.
- Aggressive and violent tendencies can put the person’s family and friends at risk for harm and make them feel unsafe.
These factors can disrupt the harmony in the person’s family and social circle, and make it hard for them to hold a job.
Impact on Physical Health
Anger is an emotional and physiological state that is accompanied by a surge of energy and certain biological changes in the body. These changes include:2
- Muscle tension
- Rapid heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Surge of hormones such as adrenaline
Frequent, intense, or prolonged bouts of anger can take a toll on the person’s physical health. According to McInnis, the long-term physical effects of uncontrolled anger can include:
- High blood pressure
- Increased risk of heart disease
How to Help Someone Who Has Anger Issues
If someone close to you has anger management issues, you may be concerned about them and want to help. McInnis shares some steps you can take to help them.
Urge Them to Seek Professional Help
Encourage the person to see a mental healthcare professional, such as a therapist. Many therapists specialize in anger management and anger issues. There are also different forms of therapy that can help treat anger, such as:
- Cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT): This is the most common type of therapy for anger-related issues.3 It involves identifying and changing unhelpful thought patterns and behaviors. For instance, a therapist may take a person with anger issues through scenarios that would normally trigger anger, working with them to recognize their overreaction and develop healthier coping skills.
- Family therapy: This form of therapy can help address issues caused by anger directed at one’s family. It can help people resolve issues with their partner, children, parents, and siblings, helping to improve communication and promote understanding and forgiveness.
- Internal family systems therapy (IFS): The family systems theory maintains that there are different parts of the self (just as there are different parts of a family). Some parts of the self may become affected by trauma. The goal of IFS is to give a person access to all parts of themselves so they are better able to manage emotions.
- Psychodynamic therapy: This form of therapy can help the person better understand and address the root causes of their anger.
- Sensorimotor psychotherapy: The sensorimotor approach to psychotherapy is body-oriented, which means it focuses on how trauma and emotions become stored in the body. This type of therapy uses movement to help heal trauma and release emotions such as anger.5
Somatic experiencing (SE): Somatic experiencing also focuses on the body and mind connection. It is sometimes used to help people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) regulate emotions by using body awareness and by thinking about positive memories.
Explore Anger Management Resources
There are several support groups and anger management programs, both in-person and online, that can be helpful. Identify one that could be appropriate for the person and encourage them to join it.
There are also several books, videos, podcasts, and other resources designed to help people with anger issues. You can share them with the person and encourage them to explore them, to help them improve their communication skills.
Suggest a Health Checkup
It can also be helpful for the person to get a health checkup and SPECT brain scan, which can identify any potential organic reasons contributing to the anger management issues.
How to Deal With Someone Who Has Anger Issues
McInnis suggests some strategies that can help you deal with a person who has anger issues:
- Stay calm and try not to lash out in response, even if it’s difficult.
- Give the person space to self-regulate while letting them know that you’re open to talk when you’ve both calmed down.
- Set emotional and physical boundaries in order to look after your own well-being. Communicate your limits to them before and after heated conflicts, rather than attempting to do so when things are heated.
- Avoid saying things like “You always ruin everything and you’re never going to change.” Stick to “I” statements instead. Try using the phrase, “I’m feeling _ because .” For example, you can say “I felt sad and scared when you yelled at me.” Let them know that you care about them and be authentic about the impact of their anger on you and the relationship.
- Follow up an “I” statement with how you’d like to feel instead and how you’d like to be treated. For instance, you can say “I want to feel and I request _.”
- Avoid making statements like “Why are you angry, it’s not a big deal,” or “Stop being so emotional/sensitive/dramatic.”
- When you are listening to a loved one with anger management issues, remind yourself it’s not your responsibility to “fix it.” You do not need to change yourself in any way to try to avoid or stop their anger.
- If the situation escalates, call a time-out and take some space from each other. It takes at least 20 minutes for the nervous system to regulate and calm down and for chemical levels associated with anger to return to normal levels. If you each take a time out, do so for at least 20 minutes, during which time you should try not to replay the incident in your mind as doing so might make you angrier. Try taking a walk if possible.
- Prioritize your safety. Create a safety plan if needed, including who you can call and where you can go to leave a dangerous situation. If necessary, seek support for domestic violence. If your partner or family member lashes out in anger, this can constitute physical, emotional, verbal, and/or psychological abuse.
- Leaving or ending a relationship is always an option if your loved one has trouble controlling their anger.
A Word From VeryWell
Dealing with someone who has anger issues can take a toll on your mental and physical health. While it’s important to get them the help they need, it’s equally important for you to take steps to protect yourself. Roughly 10% of anger experiences are followed by aggression.
McInnis recommends confiding in people you trust, seeking safety or support if you need it, and seeing a therapist or joining a support group so that you feel heard and supported.
Article originally published on VeryWellMind.com