What to Do If You Feel Angry

anger management

Verywell / Laura Porter

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Do you find yourself wondering, “Why am I so angry?” It might be a sign that you need to find some healthy ways to manage this difficult emotion.

Anger is a normal emotion that everyone experiences from time to time. There are many situations that can trigger feelings of anger, which may range in intensity from mild annoyance to profound rage.

It is when anger becomes extreme, uncontrollable, or chronic that it can pose a serious problem. It can lead to stress that harms your health or even affect your relationships with other people. Because of this, it is important to understand what you can do when you are feeling angry to get your feelings under control.

While anger is often connected to negative health consequences, research suggests that the use of constructive ways of managing anger is associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

5 Ways to Cope With Anger

If you are experiencing anger, there are things that you can do to manage your emotions. Below is a list of some things that may help.

Take Some Deep Breaths

When anger strikes, it’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment. Your body often enters a state known as the fight-or-flight response, which helps prime your body to take action. Your heart rate increases and you begin to breathe much more rapidly.

In order to take control and reduce feelings of anger, it can be helpful to focus on your breathing. Focus on taking slow, deep, controlled breaths. Rather than taking shallow breaths that only fill your chest, try taking in deeper breaths that expand your belly as well.

The great thing about deep breathing is that it is something that you can use quickly in the moment whenever anger threatens to overwhelm you. It can give you time to calm yourself, take some moments to think, and respond in a way that isn't going to have long-term negative effects.

Recognize Your Response to Anger

Feelings of anger are usually accompanied by both physical and mental symptoms. You might feel your heart rate and breathing increase. You may feel feelings of frustration, stress, irritation, and rage. Your anger may also trigger anxiety and feel overwhelming at times, and afterwards you might be left with feelings of guilt.

It is important to remember that anger isn't always expressed in the same way. Outward expressions of anger such as yelling or breaking things may be more apparent, but anger can also be expressed in more inward or passive ways.

When you direct your anger inward, you might do things to punish or isolate yourself. You might berate yourself with negative self-talk or even engage in actions that result in self-harm.

Passive anger often involves withholding attention or affection in order to punish others. The silent treatment and sulking are two examples of more passive expressions of anger.

Change Your Thinking

One way to reduce your anger is to change the way that you think about events, people, or situations. When you find yourself focusing on things in a negative or irrational way, it's easy to get caught up in emotions that feel dramatic and even overwhelming. 

Cognitive reframing is a technique that is often used in some types of therapy to help change the way that people think about the things that happen to them. By changing these thoughts, you may be less likely to experience negative emotions such as anger.

Use Relaxation Strategies

In addition to deep breathing, learning relaxation strategies such as mindfulness, meditation, visualization, and progressive muscle relaxation can help you keep your cool when you find yourself getting angry. 

For example, mindfulness is an approach that encourages people to focus on the here and now, including how they are feeling in the present moment. Learning how to be mindful of how you are feeling can foster a greater sense of self-awareness and often allows you to look at anger-provoking situations in a more detached way. 

Mindfulness-based treatment programs have been found to be an effective approach for reducing feelings of anger and aggression.

Understand Why You’re Feeling Angry

In addition to finding new ways to think and respond, it is also important to understand what might be triggering your anger in the first place. Anger can be caused by a number of different things.

Factors such as your personality, your coping style, your relationships, and your stress levels can all play a part in determining how much anger you experience in response to different situations and triggers.

Some things that can trigger anger include:

  • Conflicts in relationships
  • Family problems
  • Financial problems
  • Memories of negative events
  • Problems at work
  • Situations such as traffic, accidents, canceled plans, or being late

In some cases, however, anger may be a symptom of an underlying mental health condition. Some of the conditions that may cause anger include:

  • Alcohol use disorder: Consuming alcohol can contribute to feelings of anger, particularly if you drink too much at once or if you consume alcohol regularly. Alcohol can make it difficult to control your emotions, decrease inhibition, and affect your ability to think clearly, all of which may contribute to feelings of anger.
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that begins in childhood and is marked by symptoms of hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity. A short temper and outbursts of anger are also quite common.
  • Bipolar disorder: Bipolar disorder is marked by dramatic changes in mood. People often experience periods of depression that can be marked by hopelessness, sadness, and irritability. They may also experience mania characterized by agitation, euphoria, and impulsivity. Both mood states can produce feelings of anger.
  • Depression: Depression causes symptoms of low mood, irritability, and hopelessness. Such symptoms may also play a part in periods of anger.
  • Intermittent explosive disorder (IED): People with this condition experience episodes of angry, aggressive behavior. They often have intense bursts of anger that are out of proportion to the situations and are accompanied by arguments, tantrums, and even violence.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): OCD is characterized by the presence of unwanted obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. Research also suggests that many people with the condition also experience feelings of frustration and anger.
  • Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD): Children with this condition are often irritable, short-tempered, and angry. They frequently display defiance, argue with parents and others, and may have outbursts of anger and aggression.

How to Get Help

While everyone feels angry sometimes, it is important to remember that it can sometimes be a sign of an underlying mental health condition. If your anger is chronic, troubling, or causing problems in your ability to function normally, talk to your doctor.

Your doctor may evaluate you to see what other symptoms you might be experiencing. This might involve answering questions or filling out a questionnaire to screen for certain mental disorders.

Your doctor may also conduct a physical or perform lab tests to rule out any medical conditions that might be playing a role in your symptoms.

Your doctor may then recommend treatments such as psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of the two.

A Word From Verywell

Anger can often be a normal response to a difficult situation. When managed effectively, anger can even serve as a positive force, motivating you to make changes that will resolve the problem. But it is important to recognize when anger is excessive, chronic, or harmful.

Finding things to do when you are angry can help you reduce the harm that these emotions can sometimes cause—and inspire you to seek help if you think your anger might be a sign of something more serious.

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