WHAT WE TREAT
Anger management is a psychological learning process that empowers individuals to recognize signs of emerging anger and deal with it in appropriate, healthy ways.
Many people can benefit from anger management therapy.
Approximately 7.8% of the U.S. population experiences inappropriate, intense, or poorly controlled anger.
What Is Anger Management?
It’s perfectly normal for a human being to occasionally experience feelings of anger. It’s also healthy to express those feelings in appropriate ways. However, many people experience frequent or intense episodes of anger that they have trouble controlling and expressing appropriately. Anger management is a type of therapy intended to address this problem.
Contrary to popular belief, anger management therapy is not intended to suppress anger or force a person to “hold it in.” Instead, individuals learn to identify the signs of an impending outburst of anger and redirect those feelings into appropriate and healthy expressions. People who learn to practice anger management are better able to cope with difficult situations and figure out how to resolve them because they do not allow their anger to cloud their judgment.
Signs Anger Management May Be Appropriate
Sometimes, a judge can order that a defendant complete a course of anger management therapy. This usually happens if the individual has committed an act of violence, such as domestic violence, physical assault, or road rage. Anger management therapy can help these individuals understand their behaviors and prevent them from committing future acts of aggression.
However, many people with anger issues can benefit from anger management therapy—even if they never actually commit an act of violence or property destruction. Note that frequent outbursts of anger harm the individual as well as everyone around them. Whole families are affected, as are workplaces or classrooms. When the individual commits to working through an anger management program, he or she can make life better for themselves as well as for others.
Some indicators that you may want to consider anger management therapy include the following:
Experiencing persistent negative thought patterns
Focusing on negative experiences, perhaps to the point of obsession
Feeling as though one has to hold in anger
Constantly feeling irritable, impatient, or hostile
Avoiding certain places, people, or situations because of fear of losing one’s temper
Engaging in uncontrollable behavior, such as driving recklessly or throwing objects across the room
Threatening violence against someone else or threatening to destroy property
Participating in frequent, aggressive arguments
Causes of Anger Issues
Sometimes, anger is a one-off outburst. People may experience anger due to a wide range of situations, such as being unjustly accused of something, getting into trouble at work or school, or being betrayed by a family member or friend.
However, anger can also be a persistent presence in someone’s life, caused by a deeper, underlying issue. Many people who are chronically stressed experience frequent episodes of anger. Persistent anger may also be due to ongoing dysfunctional relationships or long-term financial problems. In some cases, anger may be a sign of a disorder, such as alcoholism.
Some people who struggle with frequent anger are actually suffering from a depressive disorder. Since anger is a little known sign of depression, these individuals may go undiagnosed for years. Anger can also be a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and bipolar disorder.
In addition, some individuals who struggle with frequent anger may have intermittent explosive disorder (IED). This disorder is characterized by violent, aggressive, or impulsive behavior. These outbursts may seem to come out of nowhere, and may involve physical violence and property destruction. Individuals with IED often overreact to situations, experiencing an intensity of anger that is out of proportion to the trigger situation.
In children, anger issues may be diagnosed as oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). Children with ODD are easily irritated, argumentative, and defiant. They may frequently throw temper tantrums.
Diagnosis of Anger Disorders
It isn’t necessary to be diagnosed with an anger disorder to benefit from anger management therapy. Many people simply recognize that they have a problem with angry outbursts, and they seek counseling in an attempt to make life better for themselves and others.
However, people who may have IED and children who might have ODD may benefit from a diagnosis. The healthcare provider can conduct a physical exam to rule out any possible physical causes of the symptoms. Then, the provider will thoroughly evaluate the individual’s symptoms and compare them to the diagnostic criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). At this point, the provider may refer the patient to a psychiatrist or other mental health professional.
Treatment and Care with Anger Management
Anger management therapy can be very effective for individuals with anger issues. It can be conducted in group classes or one-on-one sessions. The first step in anger management is to identify the triggers for anger, and the physical and emotional symptoms that an outburst is imminent. For example, some individuals may determine that interpersonal problems with co-workers are the primary trigger for anger, while others discover that their root trigger is financial worries.
The provider can help the individual learn to recognize the signs of an imminent outburst. Physical signs may include muscle tension, clenching the jaw, and a rapid heartbeat. Emotional signs may include an urge to yell or throw things.
Once the individual can identify the triggers and warning signs, they can work on controlling them. It can be helpful to reduce exposure to triggers. An individual who learns that sleep deprivation is a precursor to irritability can work on getting more sleep, for instance. In addition, individuals can learn how to respond to their trigger situations in non-aggressive ways. An anger management therapist can also help individuals with the following:
Learning to express feelings assertively, not aggressively
Recognizing the signs of illogical thought and correcting one’s thought patterns
Using relaxation skills to calm down
Removing oneself from a situation before an act of aggression occurs
Communicating effectively with an eye toward resolving situations and defusing anger
When to Speak to Someone About Anger Management
Everyone experiences anger from time to time. It’s a normal part of the human experience. However, it may be time to talk to a mental health professional about your anger issues if you find that you frequently experience inappropriate or intense anger, or if you have difficulty controlling your anger and aggression.
In addition, consider talking to someone about your issues if you find that your anger interferes with your quality of life and ability to be a productive member of society. For example, if you’re beginning to have problems at work, school, or in your family life, it is likely time to seek help.
In some cases, poorly controlled anger can lead a person to commit aggressive acts. If you feel intense anger and you are tempted to commit self-harm or harm against anyone else, please call 911 immediately for help. Reaching out for help now may allow you to stop yourself from doing something that you may regret for the rest of your life.
If this is a medical emergency, please call 911. For mental health emergencies, call 988.