At some point, every one of us will have felt anger.

It is a powerful emotion that runs from minor annoyance to fully-fledged rage. Anger is a natural, normal human emotion, but when it spirals out of control and becomes destructive, it can lead to personal and professional problems. Anger that becomes out of control could impact your overall quality of life. However, anger is quite unpredictable, and in this article, we’ll seek to understand the nature of this unpredictable emotion and provide tools and tips to control it better.

Education resources


What exactly is anger?

Anger is characterized by physiological changes such as increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and changes to hormonal levels. There are various triggers for anger, including external events like a person or situation or internal factors like personal problems or memories of past traumatic experiences. Dr. Charles Spielberger, a psychologist who focused on the study of anger, once described it as an emotional state that “varies in intensity” from “mild irritation” to “fury and rage”.

Understanding how we express anger

At its base level, anger is a natural and adaptive response to threats that can inspire powerful, often aggressive feelings and behaviors that allow us to defend ourselves when attacked. While a certain level of anger is necessary for survival (and may have been essential for our ancestors), we cannot physically lash out at every person or thing that irritates us due to social norms, laws, and common sense.

There are three main approaches to dealing with angry feelings: expressing, suppressing, and calming. Expressing anger assertively, rather than aggressively, is the healthiest way to do so. This involves learning to make your needs clear and meet them without hurting others, being respectful of yourself and others, and not being pushy or demanding.

Suppressing anger and converting it into more constructive behavior can be effective. Still, it can also lead to negative inward expressions, resulting in stress, high blood pressure (hypertension), anxiety, or depression. Unexpressed anger can also lead to pathological expressions of anger, such as passive-aggressive behavior or a perpetually cynical and hostile personality. Calming down inside involves controlling outward behavior and internal responses and taking steps to lower the heart rate and relax. When none of these techniques work, it can lead to hurtful actions or behaviors.

How does anger management work?

Anger management aims to decrease the emotional and physical responses that anger can trigger. While it may not be possible to eliminate the things or people that cause anger or alter them in any way, it is possible to learn how to control your reactions to such stimuli.

During an anger management course, psychological assessments can be undertaken to determine the intensity of angry feelings, your likelihood of being prone to anger, and how effectively your anger is managed. However, if you have a problem with anger, likely, you are already aware of it. If your actions seem uncontrolled and frightening, seeking help in finding more effective ways to cope with this emotion may be necessary – which is why anger management might be right for you.

Are some people naturally angrier than others?

Have you ever noticed that some people are more prone to anger than others? It seems to be the case that some people get angry more easily and intensely in comparison to their peers. However, some individuals may not express their anger in apparent ways and may instead be chronically irritable and grumpy.

In some cases, people will feel like they might have a low tolerance for frustration and should not endure inconvenience or annoyance. Some people might also become particularly angry in unjust or unfair situations.

The causes of these heightened anger responses can be genetic or physiological, sociocultural, or related to family background. In some cases, anger may be seen as a negative emotion, and individuals may not learn how to handle it constructively. People who are easily angered may come from chaotic families or lack practical, emotional communication skills.

Is it reasonable to let your anger out or bottle things up?

In the past, some psychologists considered it a good thing for patients to have an outlet for their anger. Former Beatle John Lennon once underwent a “primal scream” treatment, in which patients are considered to let their anger loose via screaming and other methods.

However, recent research has found that “letting rip” could escalate further aggression and anger and does little to help the patient (or the person they are aggrieved with) to resolve the situation. While bottling things up is not healthy either, it is good practice to learn what triggers your bouts of anger and then develop coping strategies to prevent you from tipping over the edge.

Anger management strategies

Several helpful anger management strategies can be employed at home, in the office, or just about anywhere else you can think of. If you are becoming stressed, why not try some techniques to help you unwind and make you less likely to deliver an angry outburst?


Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and looking at relaxing imagery, can help calm angry feelings. These techniques can be learned through books and courses and used in any situation. If you have a partner and both of you have what could be considered “hot tempers”, it may be helpful for both of you to learn these techniques. Some popular ways to relax include:

  • Breathing deeply from the diaphragm.
  • Repeating a calming word or phrase, such as “relax” or “take it easy,” while breathing deeply.
  • Visualizing a relaxing experience from memory or imagination.
  • Doing slow, nonstrenuous yoga-like exercises to relax muscles.
  • Practicing these techniques regularly and using them automatically in tense situations can help manage anger.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a proper psychological method for helping people adapt their thinking and behavior. It is often necessary to change how you think to manage anger. Remember your last outburst – isn’t it true that angry individuals often think in exaggerated and overly dramatic terms and use strong language?

Instead of thinking in these terms, try replacing dramatic thoughts with more rational ones. For example, instead of telling yourself, “everything is ruined,” try telling yourself, “it’s frustrating, but getting angry won’t fix it.” Avoid using words like “never” and “always” when talking about yourself or others, as these can make you feel justified in your anger and make it seem like there is no way to solve the problem. Remind yourself that getting angry won’t fix anything and could make you feel worse.

CBT helps you use logic to counter anger instead of allowing emotion to cause irrational actions. It also helps remind you that the world is not out to get you and that you are just experiencing some of the difficulties of modern daily life.

Instead of demanding things, CBT will help you express your desires and needs more calmly and rationally instead of demanding things. When you can’t get what you want, it is normal to feel frustrated, disappointed, or hurt – but these emotions should not lead to anger. Some people use anger to avoid feeling hurt, but that does not make the hurt go away. If this sounds familiar, you may find CBT helpful.

Anger management problem solving

Sometimes, anger and frustration can be caused by natural and inescapable problems in our lives, to which anger can be a healthy and natural response. It’s worth remembering that there is often a societal belief that every problem has a solution, but this is not always the case.

Instead of finding a solution, try to focus on how you handle and face the problem at hand – you may find it helpful to learn about stoic exercises, for example. Make a plan and check your progress. Resolve to give it your best effort, but don’t punish yourself if a solution doesn’t come immediately. By approaching the problem with your best intentions and efforts and trying to face it head-on, you can prevent yourself from becoming impatient and thinking in all-or-nothing terms – even if your issues are not immediately solved.

Become a better communicator

Angry individuals often make the wrong conclusions and act on inaccurate conclusions too quickly. If you are in a heated discussion, take the time to think through your responses and listen carefully to what the other person is saying before responding. Try to understand what is causing the anger and listen to the underlying message.

It may be necessary to ask questions and give each other space to cool down and prevent the situation from escalating. Defensiveness is only natural when facing criticism, but try not to fight back. Instead, listen to the message that the other person may feel neglected or unloved and try to keep the discussion from spinning out of control. Maintaining a calm demeanor can help to prevent a disastrous outcome.

The Harvard School of Public Health has found that people who openly and honestly express their feelings tend to be healthier than those who suppress their emotions. If you’re angry or frustrated, it’s essential to find a healthy way to express dissatisfaction.

Instead of lashing out or escalating the situation, try calmly explaining your feelings. This can help you better understand the situation and prevent negative emotions like conflict, hate, and sadness from taking hold. Remember, it’s okay to feel angry, but it’s important to find constructive ways to deal with those emotions.

Utilise humor

Humor can be an effective way to reduce feelings of anger. One way to do this is to imagine the literal meaning of the words or phrases you might use to express your anger. For example, if you’re angry with a coworker and think of them as a “clown” for example, try picturing them sitting at their desk in ridiculous circus attire!

This can help you gain a more balanced perspective on the situation and diffuse tension. However, it’s important to remember not to use harsh or sarcastic humor, as this can be unhealthy and could only serve to escalate the situation further. Using humor more constructively can help you face your problems and not take yourself too seriously – and your colleagues may also appreciate you trying to face problems in a humorous yet stoic fashion.

Another effective way to improve your mood is to internally think about something that makes you laugh, such as a scene from yours. Laughter has been shown to positively affect your emotional well-being, including making forgiveness easier. You can also try repeating a mantra or talking to yourself in a calming, reassuring way. Phrases like “I am okay,” “I shouldn’t let this get to me,” and “I can do better” can all help you feel more centered and in control of your emotions.

Make changes to your environment

It can be helpful to take a break and create some personal time for yourself in times of stress or irritation. Sometimes, this involves removing yourself from the environment where conflict is at its height. For example, if you are arguing with a partner, why not take a brief walk to clear your head and change your surroundings? If you’re at work, try going out somewhere new for lunch and take in the sights and sounds of your latest experience.

This can help you reset and feel more prepared to handle challenges without becoming angry. One example might be setting aside a few minutes of quiet time for yourself after a busy day at work to recharge before interacting with others. This can help you feel more in control of your emotions and less overwhelmed.

It can also be helpful to try to break free from your surroundings mentally. When angry, try using your imagination to picture calming, beautiful things. This could be the aroma of your favorite dish, the cuteness of your favorite pet, or anything else that brings you joy and peace, such as picturing yourself on a secluded beach.

Control your breathing

When you become angry, you might notice that your breathing becomes faster and shallower. This is a natural response to stress and anger. However, you can reverse this reaction by making a conscious effort to slow your breathing. This can help you relax and maintain control of your emotions. Here’s a simple technique to try:

  • Find a quiet, comfortable place where you can sit or lie down.
  • Close your eyes and focus on your breath.
  • Take a deep breath through your nose, counting to four as you do so.
  • Hold your breath for a count of four.
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth, counting to four as you do so.

Repeat this process for a few minutes, focusing on the sensation of your breath as it moves in and out of your body.
As you practice this technique, you may find that your breathing naturally slows down and becomes more controlled. This can help you feel more relaxed and in control of your emotions.

Keep a mindfulness journal

Sometimes it can be helpful to write down your emotions as you feel them. With a mindfulness journal, you can also keep track of what triggers your anger. It’s strange, but feeling better sometimes involves having a conversation with our inner self; a journal is a fantastic way to do that.

Turn your anger into creativity

When angry, it’s a good idea to try channeling that energy into a creative outlet like photography, drawing, painting, music, or dancing. Research shows that being angry can increase creativity. Focusing on something creative can transform your negative emotions into something positive and productive. Additionally, channeling anger into creativity can be beneficial for team productivity. You can improve your mental and emotional well-being by finding healthy ways to express and deal with anger.

Think about timing

If you find yourself getting into specific arguments during certain times of the day (for example, discussing utility bills with a partner in the evening), try switching up the time when you have these conversations. By simply tackling them with a clearer mind (for example, when you are both comfortable doing so and haven’t been distracted by working all day), you may find it easier to reach a logical conclusion without resorting to anger. Sometimes, our anger manifests itself simply because we are tired or distracted.

Don’t be afraid to avoid specific triggers

If something makes you furious each time you confront it, and you can avoid it for the time being, don’t be afraid to take some time out. For example, walk past your child’s messy bedroom after repeatedly asking them to tidy it. You don’t have to get angry: shut the door and find something more relaxing or productive until you are ready to return to the issue. There will always be another time to constructively confront minor problems.

However, it is essential to note that some significant issues may benefit from being confronted (in a healthy way) as soon as possible. Relying on avoidance can become an issue in itself, so try to weigh up the importance of an issue before deciding whether it is not worth getting stressed about right away or whether it needs action.

Find an alternative path away from anger

If something is routinely making you angry or unhappy, try to find alternative and constructive ways to improve the situation. For example, if your daily commute leaves you in a state of road rage, why not consider taking public transport or finding a more scenic route? There are always alternative ways to deal with anger, which can be as simple as changing your daily routine.

Anger management counseling: could you benefit from it?

If you feel your anger is becoming unmanageable and negatively affecting your relationships and daily life, you may consider professional counseling. This is because a licensed mental health professional could help you develop strategies for managing your anger.

When searching for a therapist, be sure to express your concerns and ask about their approach to anger management. Keep in mind that simply expressing your emotions may not be the best course of action if you struggle with anger. Many professionals believe learning to manage your anger in approximately 8 to 10 weeks is possible with the proper techniques and support.

Anger management and assertiveness training

If you feel like you have a problem with anger, you will undoubtedly have already noticed that it affects your relationships and various aspects of your life. However, did you know there are training techniques other than counseling and CBT therapy to help you learn how to manage your anger better?

A licensed mental health professional, such as a psychologist, can work with you to develop techniques for changing your thoughts and behaviors. It’s important to note that while assertiveness training can help you move toward a more moderate level of anger, eliminating it is impossible. Frustrations, pain, loss, and the unpredictable actions of others will always be a part of life and can sometimes lead to justified anger.

However, by learning to control your angry responses and dealing with them more assertively, you can prevent them from causing further unhappiness in the long run. When seeking anger management training, ask the therapist about their approach and make sure it’s not solely focused on “expressing your feelings.” Some books on assertiveness may also contain helpful tactics for managing frustrating situations, although they are typically geared toward people who struggle with passivity rather than excessive anger.