Anger Management

| Dr Ilse Ruane

Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion. But when it gets out of control and turns destructive, it can lead to problems such as problems at work, in your personal relationships, and in the overall quality of your life. And it can make you feel as though you’re at the mercy of an unpredictable and powerful emotion.

Anger can be caused by both external and internal events. You could be angry at a specific person (Such as a co-worker or supervisor) or event (a traffic jam, a cancelled flight), or your anger could be caused by worrying or brooding about your personal problems. Memories of traumatic or enraging events can also trigger angry feelings.

The instinctive, natural way to express anger is to respond aggressively. Anger is a natural, adaptive response to threats; it inspires powerful, often aggressive, feelings and behaviours, which allow us to fight and to defend ourselves when we are attacked. A certain amount of anger, therefore, is necessary to our survival.

On the other hand, we can’t physically lash out at every person or object that irritates or annoys us, as laws, social norms, and common sense place limits on how far our anger can take us.

What is Anger?

Anger is an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage. Anger triggers the bodies ‘flight or fight’ response. Other emotions that trigger this response include fear, excitement and anxiety.

During an anger outburst, the adrenal glands floods the body with stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. The body reacts by proritising blood towards the muscles, in preparation for physical exertion. Heart rate, blood pressure and respiration increase, the body temperature rises and the skin perspires. The mind becomes sharpened and focused on the task at hand.

However the constant flood of stress hormones and the associated metabolic changes that go with recurrent unmanaged anger can eventualy cause harm to many different systems of the body.

The more common physical effects of anger include numbness, sweating, muscle tensions and temperature changes to the body. Long term physical effects of anger can be serious as it can lead to headaches, disgestion problems, insomina and other more serious medical issues such as anxiety, high blood pressure, depressions, heart attacks and strokes.

Tips to manage anger

  • If you feel out of control, walk away from the situation until you cool down.
  • Recognise and accept the emotion as normal and part of life.
  • Try to pinpoint the exact reasons why you feel angry.
  • Once you have identified the problem, consider coming up with a different strategy to deal with the situation.
  • Do something physical such as going for a walk/run.

Therapeutic Anger Management

The goal of anger management in therapy is to reduce both your emotional feelings and the physiological arousal that anger causes. You can’t get rid of, or avoid, the things or the people that enrage you, nor can you change them, but you can learn to control your reactions, as well as increase your copying strategies.

  • Relaxation
    • Simple relaxation tools, such as deep breathing and relaxing imagery, can help calm down angry feelings.
  • Problem Solving
    • Using conflict resolution techniques to solve problems.
  • Better Communication
    • Combining good listening skills with good expression skills.
  • Changing sources of stress
    • When you become aware of a constant source of stress consider whether it is possible to change something within the stressful context.

For an appointment please call the practice on 083 376 1995.