Maintaining control of your anger takes patience and consistent practice – but the benefits can last a lifetime. Anger is a useful emotion when it’s expressed appropriately – for instance, you can address an injustice by using assertive communication and problem-solving techniques.
Yet anger can become a problem if it becomes a habitual reaction to all of life’s challenges, and leads to aggressive behaviour.
Frustration, loss and hurt are a part of life: but reacting in anger whenever you feel upset can do untold damage to your relationships, career and health.
If you often get uncontrollably angry, putting yourself and people you care about at risk, it may be time to seek support. Use our anger checklist to measure your anger levels, and identify areas for improvement in anger management skills.
1. Check your self-talk
Research shows that the thoughts that race through our mind when feeling angry, threatened or defensive have a direct effect on our behavioural reaction to an external event.
Negative self-talk (underpinned by beliefs we’ve formed about ourselves and others that are based on past experiences) can lead to angry outbursts or sullen withdrawal. These behaviours can wreak havoc in our personal and professional lives if left unchecked.
Consider the messages you give yourself when you are angry. Think about whether they are factual, biased or exaggerated.
A key component of effective anger management is transforming your inner dialogue. If you tend to default to negative, angry thinking habits, cognitive-behavioural therapy can help you to shift into a calmer, more rational mindset when confronted with upsetting situations and interactions.
2. Check over your history of anger
Take a moment to reflect on your past. Start by considering different situations when you lost your temper or behaved aggressively.
Below are some questions to get you thinking about what drives your anger – and what triggers it:
- Are there particular memories or relationships that you still feel angry about and haven’t been able to resolve?
- Do you tend to blame other people or events for your anger?
- Worry, stress and sadness often accompany anger – what other emotions come up when you feel angry?
- Can you see any patterns to your behaviour?
- Do certain relationships or situations provoke your anger time and again?
Sometimes people feel angry but can’t always pinpoint why; their family and friends may just experience them as volatile and unpredictable.
If you’re finding it hard to identify what triggers your anger, this 5-minute quiz presents a range of hypothetical anger-inducing situations, and gives valuable feedback about whether your anger-based reactions may be problematic:
It’s common for people to react angrily whenever they’re feeling stressed or defensive, but when angry outbursts become the default behaviour long after the original cause of anger is forgotten, it’s time to seek help.
Counselling can help you to learn how to express your anger safely, by revealing more about your anger style, it’s origins, and alternative approaches to managing your emotional responses.
3. Check in with family, friends and workmates
Ask anyone who has seen you angry how they feel about the experience. You may be surprised how much of an impact your anger has on them.
Take their responses seriously, and consider the cost of behaving aggressively and its impact on other people.
Did you jeopardise your job?
Have relationships been damaged?
Have you hurt people? How has that affected trust and safety within the relationship?
What would your life and relationships look like if you didn’t react in anger any more?
You can avoid these kinds of destructive consequences in future by understanding and controlling your emotional reactions and behaviour.
Finding healthier ways to express yourself by communicating assertively and effectively with others is a great place to start.
4. Check out anger management counselling
If you would like to learn how to manage your anger and frustration effectively, specialist anger management counselling can help you take control of your thoughts, emotions and behaviour.
Anger management counselling is a safe, completely confidential way to explore the different ways anger may be affecting your life and relationships.
Sessions of counselling are tailored to meet your personal needs, and help you deal with both the happy and the tough times of life with a greater sense of clarity, calm, and emotional control.
Taking control of anger research resources
Epstein, N. B. (2016). Anger Management Self-Talk. Techniques for the Couple Therapist: Essential Interventions from the Experts, 111.
Henwood, K. S., Chou, S., & Browne, K. D. (2015). A systematic review and meta-analysis on the effectiveness of CBT informed anger management. Aggression and Violent Behaviour, 25, 280-292.
Lee, A. H., & DiGiuseppe, R. (2017). Anger and aggression treatments: A review of meta-analyses. Current Opinion in Psychology.
Shahsavarani, A. M., Noohi, S., Heyrati, H., Mohammadi, M., Mohammadi, A., & Sattari, K. (2016). Anger management and control in social and behavioural cciences: A systematic review of literature on the biopyschosocial model. International Journal of Medical Reviews, 3(1), 355-364.
Short, D. (2016). The evolving science of anger management. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 26(4), 450.