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Explains anger, some possible causes and how it can make you feel and act. There's practical suggestions for what you can do and where you can go for support. This includes advice for friends and family.

This page is for friends and family of someone who is experiencing problems with anger.

How can I support someone who is experiencing anger?

It can be very difficult when someone you care about is experiencing problems with anger. Especially if they sometimes direct their anger towards you, others close to them, or themselves.

We're all responsible for our own actions. Ultimately it will be up to them to learn how to manage and express their anger appropriately. But there are still lots of things you can do to help support them:

  • Stay calm. Although you probably have a lot of difficult feelings of your own, if you can stay calm it can help to stop anger escalating.
  • Try to listen to them. If you can, allow them time to communicate their feelings without judging them. Often when someone feels that they're being listened to, they are more able to hear other people's points of view as well. And sometimes just being given permission to communicate angry feelings can be enough to help someone calm down.
  • Give them space. If you notice that continuing the conversation is making it worse, give them space to calm down and think. This could be something like going into another room for a while, or spending a few days apart. It's important to give yourself space as well, so you don't find yourself getting too angry.
  • Set boundaries. While there are lots of reasons why this can be difficult, it's important to set limits and boundaries. Be clear in advance about what sort of behaviour is and isn't acceptable to you. And think about what action you can take if someone crosses the line. You don't have to put up with any behaviour that makes you feel unsafe or seriously affects your own wellbeing.
  • Help them identify their triggers. This is something you can try when you're both feeling calm, away from any heated situation. Identifying someone's triggers for anger can help you both think about ways you can avoid triggering situations. And you can plan how to handle them and how to communicate when they do arise. But try not to be judgemental, or accusatory. It can be useful to give specific examples of when you remember them getting angry. But be aware that this is probably upsetting for them to think about.
  • Support them to seek professional help. For example, you could help them arrange to see their GP, or help research anger management courses. See our pages on treatments for anger and supporting someone to seek help for their mental health for more information.
  • Look after your own wellbeing. It can be difficult at times to support someone else, so make sure you're looking after your own wellbeing too. See our information on how to cope when supporting someone else for more on this.

The worst thing is for people to tell me to calm down or say that whatever caused my anger doesn't matter. People listening and accepting my feelings (even if my anger seems unprecedented) helps the most.

What if their behaviour is abusive or violent?

Just because someone seems very angry, it doesn't necessarily mean that they will become violent or abusive. The NHS pages on abuse have some information on how to recognise the signs of abuse and seek support.

But if someone does become violent or abusive, the most important thing is to make sure that you're safe.

  • Don't confront someone who is behaving aggressively. If you want to talk to them, wait until the situation has calmed down.
  • You may want to make a safety plan. This might include:
    • Making a list of phone numbers of people, organisations and services that you can call if you're unsafe or need urgent support.
    • Arranging to stay at a friend's or neighbour's house until things are calm.
    • Thinking about the safest and quickest ways you can access money, a phone and transport.
    • Having a bag prepared to leave in an emergency.
    • Women’s Aid has more information about safety plans and how to leave an abusive relationship safely.
  • Refuge runs safe houses for women and children escaping domestic abuse. You can contact them to find a place in a refuge.
  • The National Domestic Abuse Helpline is run by Refuge. It's available 24 hours day on 0808 2000 247. It's for women experiencing domestic violence who need advice and support. There's also a webchat service available Monday to Friday, 3pm to 10pm. And a BSL Helpline available Monday to Friday, 10am to 6pm.
  • Women's Aid offers information, an online forum, support and information for children and young people. It has a directory of local services for women and children experiencing domestic abuse. It also offers a webchat service available on weekdays, 8am to 6pm and weekends, 10am to 6pm. 
  • Men's Advice Line offers support to male victims of domestic abuse. You can call for free on 0808 801 0327 Monday to Thursday, 10am to 8.30pm and Friday, 10am to 4.30pm. A webchat service is available on Wednesdays, 10am to 11.30am and 2.30pm to 4pm or you can email [email protected]. It also provides information and links to local services and refuges.
  • Galop offers support to LGBT+ people who've experienced domestic abuse. You can call for free on 0800 999 5428. The helpline is open Monday to Thursday, 10am to 8.30pm and Friday, 10am to 4.30pm. You can also email [email protected] or contact Galop through webchat. 
  • You can call the police. If your safety is in danger – or the safety of others in your home, such as children – dial 999. You might feel worried about getting your loved one in trouble, but it's important to always put your own safety first.

Our guide to support options for abuse has more information and links to different services.

I need my family to speak to me honestly but remain understanding. We have code words that we all can use when I'm either being unreasonable or when I feel like I might lash out.

What if they don't recognise they have a problem?

You might find that the person you are supporting doesn't recognise they have a problem or refuses to seek help.

It's understandable to feel frustrated, distressed and powerless as a result of this. But it's important to accept that they are an individual, and that there are always limits to what you can do to support another person.

Our pages on helping someone seek help have more information on what you can and can't do in this situation.

This information was published in June 2023. 

References and bibliography available on request.

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