Feeling angry is part of being human. It is a natural response to being attacked, insulted, deceived or frustrated. Sometimes, excessive anger can also be a symptom of some mental health problems.
Anger can be useful, but it can also be frightening. When something makes you angry, adrenalin causes your body to prepare for ‘fight or flight’, giving you energy and making you feel tense. Releasing this energy and tension is good for you, but it can be difficult to do so in ways that are constructive. In most situations, fighting back or running away (‘fight or flight’) isn’t helpful and anger can often lead to responses that make things worse rather than better.
Being angry isn’t a problem in itself. It’s how you deal with it.
When is anger a problem?
Anger becomes a problem when it harms you or people around you. This can depend on whether you express your anger, and how you express it.
Often if you feel angry, it’s about something that is happening to you at the time. This is usually something that is over quickly, for example, sounding your horn if another driver causes you to brake suddenly. Something happens that makes you angry, you express your anger and then move on.
When you don’t express your anger, or express it at inappropriate times or in unsafe ways, this is when it can damage your health and your relationships.
This is especially so, if something has made you angry in the past and you didn’t express your anger at the time – because you felt you couldn’t or didn’t want to – then that anger can get ‘bottled up’ or ‘suppressed’.
This can have negative consequences in the longer term – you may find that when something happens to annoy or upset you in the future, you feel extremely angry and respond more aggressively than is appropriate to the new situation.
Trying to suppress your anger may also lead to other types of behaviour, such as responding in a ’passive aggressive’ way e.g. being sarcastic or unhelpful, or refusing to speak to someone. Or you may find that you are getting angry too quickly or too often, sometimes over quite small things. You may feel you are unable to let go of your anger.
If you can’t express your anger in a safe or constructive way, this can be bad for your emotional, mental and physical health.
It might lead to:
It might also affect your:
- digestion – contributing to the development of heartburn, ulcers, colitis, gastritis or irritable bowel syndrome
- heart and circulatory system
- blood pressure – driving it too high.
Violence and aggression
Angry feelings can sometimes turn to rage and lead to destructive and violent behaviour. If you express your anger through aggression or violence it can be very frightening and damaging for the people around you – especially children. This could damage your relationships and mean that people stop listening to you. It could lose you your job or get you into trouble with the law.
My anger is so out of control, I’m ashamed to say that I've hit a few people, but my anger is mainly directed at objects [which] I’ve broken in a fit of rage. I hate it, because when I’m in an angry moment it feels like I’m not in control, and that’s a scary thing, because I never know what I'll do next...