What is Anger?
Anger is an emotion that we all feel at times. It can become a problem if it is too extreme, occurs at inappropriate times, or lasts too long. Anger can be just a simple irritation with something or at the other extreme, it can result in hysterical shouting, screaming and lashing out. Anger can often have a negative impact on our relationships and our work. It can also change the way that we feel about ourselves. We might tend to blame other people or a particular situation for our anger – often we feel angry when we feel let down in some way or denied of something that we feel entitled to.
Frequent or chronic anger can have serious consequences for our health. In the long-term these include:
- High blood pressure
- Increased cholesterol levels
- Damaged or blocked arteries
- Aggravated heart disease
- A depressed immune system (and therefore increased susceptibility to infection)
- Longer recovery time from major traumas to the body such as operations or accidents
This happens because of the biological responses that are triggered when we are angry:
- Extra adrenaline is secreted
- More rapid heart beat and increased blood pressure
- Breathing becomes faster
- Cortisol production is increased, depressing the immune system
- An increased supply of testosterone in men
This leads to internal feelings of an urge to shout and move quickly and forcefully. Other people observe us
- Breathing rapidly with widely dilated pupils
- A reddening in facial colour and then perhaps turning pale
- Speaking quicker with a louder voice and
- Tensing our muscles (face contorted, fists clenched, shoulders hunched)
This state of heightened arousal puts great strain on the body. It is useful as a short-term emergency reaction, but not as a long-term personality trait or a lifestyle characteristic.
What Causes Anger?
There are many potential causes of anger, for example:
Life Events: there may be certain situations that are more likely to trigger an angry reaction. For example, some people find that they are much more likely to become angry whilst driving.
Learned behaviour: children consciously and subconsciously soak up everything they witness as part of their learning experience. A child in a household without guidance or boundaries may grow into someone who expresses anger in a socially unacceptable way. A child who has been taught to express their anger through violence as a result of parents who were verbally or physically violent towards one another may replicate such behaviour.
Thinking styles: our interpretation and thoughts about a situation can result in an angry outburst. Especially how we perceive the intentions of other people and the potential consequences to ourselves. Situations in which we feel wronged in some way can be particularly difficult, as can situations where we may feel an injustice has been done. Our beliefs about anger can change the way that we express or control our anger.
In reality it is likely that a combination of all these factors influence someone’s anger. However, in some ways it is less important to know what causes anger, and more important to know what stops us moving past it.
It is worth noting that there are also some physical conditions that lower the threshold for triggering anger:
- Sexual frustration
- Hormonal changes due to puberty, pre-menstruation, menopause and child birth
- Physical craving for addictive substances such as alcohol, nicotine, caffeine or other drugs
- Physical illness
- Living with chronic or acute pain
How Common are Anger Issues?
A recent poll found that 1 in 8 people say they have trouble controlling their anger and that 1 in 4 people worry about how angry they sometimes feel.
How Talking to Siobhan Can Help
You cannot control the situations that might provoke your anger, but you can learn to manage your attitude to them through anger management. Siobhan can help you address anger issues from mild irritation to explosive, violent rage, through:
- Understanding the root causes of your anger/irritability.
- Examining the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that contribute to your anger.
- Gaining self-understanding and insight, including identifying triggers.
- Improving your communication skills and self-expression.
- Developing coping strategies to manage anger-provoking situations.
- Learning techniques and tools that are applicable for the long-term.