Why Am I Always Angry?

man looking stressed at computer

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Anger is an emotion that many people repress because they don't want to express it, or maybe they don't know how to express it healthily.

We all feel anger at different times, to varying degrees. Anger is an emotion that is part of the human experience. Feelings of anger can arise in many different contexts and often for underlying reasons that we have yet to understand. Maybe we are burying past emotions and experiences, and one little trigger will result in an angry outburst.

Experiencing unfair treatment, hearing criticism, or simply not getting what you want are but a few of the potential triggers. The experience of anger can range from mild irritation to frustration, all the way up to seething rage. Boredom can often be viewed as a mild version of anger in the form of dissatisfaction with what is happening.

The article covers how anger affects the brain, signs of anger, and how anger impacts behavior.

Anger and the Brain

The cortex is the working part of our brain where logic and judgment reside. The cortex can be described as the strategy and control center of the brain. The limbic center is the emotional center of our brain and is known as the more primitive part of our brain. Within the limbic system is a small structure called the amygdala, a storehouse for emotional memories, which is also the area of the brain responsible for our “fight or flight” reactions aka our natural survival instincts. When we feel and express anger, we are using the limbic center of our brain.

When someone is experiencing and expressing anger, they are not using the thinking (cortex) part of the brain, but primarily, the limbic center of the brain.

When we become angry, our “fight or flight” response is triggered, releasing a flood of hormones that cause physical and emotional alarm. This anger is then carried out to yelling, impatience, frustration, and hurtful words.

Why Someone May Feel Angry

Anger is an emotion that can be triggered by many different causes. Some of these causes are deep underlying unresolved conflicts that have not been addressed, whereas other reasons include the following:

  • Being disrespected or treated unfairly
  • Feeling threatened or violated
  • Being physically harmed
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling powerless
  • High levels of stress or anxiety

Identify problems in your past that could contribute to your anger. Were you abused or harshly punished in your past? Do you have difficulty controlling your temper and your emotions? Do you lack a sense of inner peace? Identify present scenarios that make you angry, such as dissatisfaction at your job, spouse, self, or child.

Signs of Anger

  • Shouting and yelling
  • Swearing, name-calling, and making threats
  • A physical expression such as hitting people, animals, or objects
  • Becoming withdrawn and distant
  • Inflicting self-harm 

Causes

Suppose you are dealing with a stressful situation or are experiencing bullying or negative life circumstances. In that case, it is normal to experience anger and frustration, especially when dealing with chronic feelings of stress, isolation, and anxiety.

As a child or a young adult, you may have been raised around unhealthy and nonproductive ways to experience anger. Maybe your parents, caretakers, or elderly family members did not express their emotions in a healthy manner, which overflowed and carried into adulthood.

Recognizing that you did not learn healthy ways to manage your anger in childhood is the first step to understanding why your anger boils over into unhealthy emotions and circumstances in adulthood.

If you have experienced past traumatic events, it can be normal to feel residual anger as traumatic events can have a lasting effect on your psyche.

A licensed therapist or mental health counselor can help you work through your past trauma, present stressful situations, and underlying childhood conflicts in hopes of offering you guidance and healing.

Anger and Acting out

Anger is an emotion that does not always have to be acted upon. For example, we can become angry but not express our anger outwardly. Acting out our aggression often goes hand in hand with anger; however, not everyone who is angry will be aggressive, and not every aggressive behavior is fueled by anger. 

Can Anger Be a Positive Emotion?

Our society views anger as a negative emotion. Therefore, we often do not want to address it or feel guilty addressing it, but can anger become a healthy outlet when addressed appropriately?

Anger becomes harmful when you don’t regard it as a signal to correct the underlying problem. You let the anger fester until you dislike your feelings, yourself, and the person who caused you to feel this way.

It bubbles to the surface in the form of aggression. Unaddressed anger can fester and create more significant problems such as depression, anxiety, aggression, and broken relationships. Emotions, even anger, serve a purpose.

Healthy Anger

Healthy anger forces you to fix the problem initially because you’re not going to let your behavior go uncorrected. Secondly, because you don’t want your anger to turn into aggression, this is helpful anger.

Recognizing your anger and addressing the underlying triggers are the first steps to working through your anger and resolving any negative feelings and thoughts associated with the anger.

Anger can potentially be a positive emotion when we use it to solve problems and recognize conflicts. It is important to accept our anger as a normal emotion, and instead of acting on it in negative ways, we learn to express it in healthy manners, so we do not have to carry it around like a heavyweight.

Expressing our anger in healthy manners means that we take time to breathe, work through our emotions, and develop healthy solutions.

This may mean writing down our thoughts, setting boundaries and limits before becoming angry, recognizing any unresolved conflict or underlying ideas, forming a plan, talking to friends and family about our emotions, and going to therapy. 

Get Advice From the The Verywell Mind Podcast

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares how you can learn to tolerate uncomfortable emotions.

Think Before We Act

Despite the popular idea that we need to “express” our anger so that it doesn’t eat away at us, we need to be cautious about "expressing" anger "at" another individual.

Expressing our anger at another person is not constructive. Expressing our anger while angry makes us angrier and can make the other person hurt and afraid, so they get angrier, and this does not help anyone.

Instead of solving anything, this deepens the rift in the relationship. Therefore, the answer is always to calm down first. Then consider the more profound "message" of the anger before making decisions about what to say and do.

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