Anger Management

Anger Management - Posted 7 March 2014 

Ever had that thought yourself? You’d be just fine if everyone would just “get off your case”? At times you may well be right but it’s hard to make any advances towards managing your anger if your anger triggers are seen to be largely external (e.g., other peoples’ behaviour/comments /beliefs) rather than internal (e.g., your thoughts, pre-existing stress & anxiety levels, rumination on unhelpful thoughts/events). Also, it can encourage people to isolate themselves from others, which can in turn maintain depression & cause relationship problems.

Anger tends to become a problem when it lasts too long, is too frequent, too intense, leads to aggression &/or depression, & affects your relationships, health & overall functioning. While anger is an important emotion, aggression is the expression of anger &/or anxiety, & it’s this aggression which tends to have a detrimental impact on ourselves, others, & property & can lead to legal problems as well.

We know that the fight-flight response, which is triggered in us when we become anxious, is also involved when we become angry, possibly due to a perception of threat in our environment (e.g., somebody’s behaviour or actions being inconsistent with our beliefs & expectations). As such, on the surface what people can see is an overly aggressive response which can be frightening to them, but underneath your hormones & neurochemicals are gearing you into ‘survival mode’.

This is why people trying to manage PTSD & anxiety often also experience difficulty managing their anger & aggression. Furthermore, due to the ‘neurological loops’ in the brain, they find that their aggression can be triggered more easily because of a process called ‘limbic kindling’. This means that their anger ‘standby button’ requires stimulation less to” go off”.

There are a number of helpful strategies for managing anger & anxiety such as learning to identify your common triggers, monitoring & managing unhelpful thoughts & distress levels (1-10), assertive communication & problem-solving training, relaxation & mindfulness training, the use of coping statements & ‘circuit breakers’, as well as considering the notion of forgiveness of oneself & others for past incidents/injustices. Unresolved issues can be one of the most challenging hurdles for learning how to manage long-standing anger, but it can also be a vital one as we know that anger tends to block the processing of trauma and can prolong & exacerbate the experience of PTSD for many years to come.

If you’d like to further discuss anger management or any of the above strategies, don’t hesitate to get in contact with the psychology team at mates4mates. We’d like to help!