Anger management is a therapeutic program or set of techniques that help people learn to control and manage their reactions when they experience anger. Everyone gets angry, but if your anger gets out of control in the heat of the moment, you may need help with managing your anger. While everyone can benefit from anger management techniques, these practices can help some people avoid long-term health problems and stop their anger from escalating to violence.
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What Is Anger Management?
Anger management is a psycho-therapeutic program used to help individuals reduce both the emotional and physiological effects anger causes.
The strategies of anger management acknowledge that angry feelings aren’t something you can avoid, but you can learn to control your reactions to anger.
While many anger management strategies like deep-breathing exercises or physical activity are common ways to handle anger, these are often not enough for some people with extreme anger issues.
Anger isn’t a mental illness but can be connected to mood disorders, substance abuse, and other mental health problems. Anger management therapy can help patients control anger and avoid aggressive behavior or long-term health issues.
5 Helpful Anger Management Techniques
Whether anger is a rare issue or negatively affects your life, there are techniques you can use to help manage angry thoughts and prevent them from getting out of control.
These methods help you prevent angry outbursts and promote healthy emotions and responses to stressful situations.
Relaxing can feel impossible when you’re in the heat of the moment because anger triggers the body’s “fight or flight” response, an automatic reaction that floods your body with adrenaline and stress hormones.
By employing relaxation techniques during these high-stress reactions, you can lessen the physical symptoms of anger like elevated heart rate and high blood pressure.
Common relaxation techniques used in anger management include:
- Breathe deeply from your diaphragm, counting a few seconds for each inhale and exhale
- Slowly repeat a calm word or phrase out loud or in your head
- Visualize something calming or a relaxing setting
- Try some easy stretches
- Listen to calming music
2: Take a Timeout
We often associate “timeout” with children, but adults can also benefit from this concept. For example, taking a break or removing yourself from a stressful situation can make a huge difference.
Find a quiet place away from others to decompress. If you’re arguing with someone and can feel the warning signs that your anger is about to boil over, take a break from the conversation.
Trying to resolve a situation while angry often doesn’t lead to production results, so don’t hesitate to tell the people around you that you need a timeout.
3: Cognitive Restructuring
Cognitive restructuring is a common tool in cognitive behavioral therapy and simply means changing your thoughts. This method works by using logic to challenge the more illogical angry thoughts.
While anger can be a healthy emotion, it can lead to irrational or untrue beliefs. During anger management therapy, a mental health professional walks you through the situation causing your anger and helps you identify what is true and untrue.
Finally, you replace the angry thought with a more balanced one that reflects what’s actually true about the situation. Luckily, this technique doesn’t require a therapist to work—you can use this process to begin challenging your anger in a healthy, productive way.
4: Use Humor
Humor can be a fantastic tool to help defuse and control anger. However, certain types of humor, like sarcasm or “laughing off” your problems, should be avoided. These types of humor have the potential to be interpreted as hurtful and worsen an angry moment.
Instead, opt for silly humor. If a co-worker has angered you and you can’t seem to manage it, imagine or even draw a picture of them in an embarrassing situation. No matter how silly or crude the idea might be, breaking up anger with laughter can help get your emotions back under control.
When experiencing uncontrolled anger, you may feel that focusing on anything other than anger is impossible. However, shifting focus to a solution can help lessen the anger, even if it’s a small action.
For example, if a nearby conversation angers you, put on headphones and block them out. If a project isn’t going well and working on it worsens your anger, take a brisk walk outside and blow off some steam.
While you won’t be able to solve every problem like this, shifting your focus to even temporary solutions can make a huge difference in anger management.
Why It’s Important to Manage Anger
Not only can anger problems lead to prolonged stress and damage your overall mental well-being, but anger can also damage your relationships. In addition, extreme uncontrolled anger can lead to violent altercations, physical harm, and even death.
According to research published in the Journal of Medicine and Life, prolonged anger issues have been linked to health issues like:
- Coronary heart diseases
- Skin problems
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
You can avoid violence or tragedy by minimizing intense anger in the early stages.
What Can Anger Management Help With?
Anger management can be helpful for people of all backgrounds and situations, as it encourages you to process anger in a more healthy way.
However, people with certain conditions prone to extreme emotion may significantly benefit from anger management techniques.
Anger management can help with the following:
- Mental health: mood disorders, personality disorders, substance use disorder, depression and anxiety, and eating disorders
- Physical health: high blood pressure, elevated heart rate, skin problems, heart attack, and stroke
- Career issues
- Relationship problems
Anger management is sometimes court-ordered for the following crimes:
- Disturbing the peace
- Domestic abuse or violence
Getting Help With Anger Management
If you or a family member struggles with anger issues, anger management can help manage anger and avoid negative consequences.
Finding a therapist or mental health professional is a great way to start managing your anger through individual or group therapy.
Some apps available for anger management can supplement therapy, like the US Department of Veterans Affairs created AIMS for Anger Management, Calm, and Happify.
FAQs About Anger Management
Why do I get angry so easily?
Depending on your life experience or pre-existing mental health conditions, you may be more easily angered than others.
If you tend to anger easily, you aren’t a bad person, and there is nothing to be ashamed of—you may just need to learn skills to help better manage these emotions.
Is anger a mental illness?
No. Anger is a normal, healthy emotion all people experience occasionally. However, anger can become an issue when it leads to aggressive behavior, damage to property, physical harm, and psychological harm.
What are some anger management techniques?
Common anger management techniques include:
- Relaxation like deep breathing or visualization
- Timeout or removing yourself from an angering situation
- Cognitive restructuring by applying logic to irrational anger
- Using humor to diffuse anger
- Problem-solving by focusing more on a solution than the angry emotions
Can anger management issues be genetic?
Yes. Specific genes that increase your likelihood of becoming angry more often can be passed through families.
Does anger management cost money?
Sometimes. There are many free online resources available that teach anger management techniques. However, if anger issues negatively affect your life, you may benefit from anger management therapy with a mental health provider.
Depending on whether or not you have insurance and what services are covered, anger management therapy may cost money.
What kind of tools help with anger management?
Therapy, support groups, apps, and learning anger management techniques are tools you can use to help with your anger management. However, each person may respond more to specific tools than others, so it’s important to experiment and determine what works best for you.