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Anger Management

Anger is one of the basic human emotions, as elemental as happiness, sadness or anxiety. These emotions are tied to basic survival and were honed over the course of human history. We all feel angry at times and its normal. You might feel angry if you 

  • do not feel validated 
  • feel attacked  
  • deceived

Anger is related to the “fight or flight” response of the sympathetic nervous system, it prepares humans to fight. But fighting doesn't necessarily mean throwing punches or a ‘bad emotion’. Anger that is manageable and does not impact our lives or those of others has its own advantages such as providing  

  • Motivation - it might motivate communities to combat injustice by creating change and achieve our goals 
  • Protection - it helps us stay safe and protect ourselves by producing a burst of energy as part of the fight or flight system 
  • Alert system - anger can act as a warning light which might help us identify problems or issues we are struggling with

When Anger becomes a problem


What causes Anger? 

There are many causes/triggers of anger ranging from  

  • past experiences 
  • Childhood and upbringing 
  • Current experiences 

These experiences can include stress, any form of abuse, financial difficulties, bereavement etc. Some disorders such as alcoholism or depression can also cause anger problems 

Anger becomes a problem when you have difficulties controlling it or if it causes you to act or say things you will regret. Uncontrolled anger can easily escalate to physical or verbal violence hurting you and others. Research shows uncontrolled anger is bad for mental and physical health. 

It’s important to deal with anger in a healthy way that doesn’t harm you or anyone else. Try to:

  • Recognise when you are getting angry noting any physical changes e.g., heart rate rising, tension in the shoulders and think about how you are feeling. If it’s appropriate you might try making a log of the situations which provoke your anger and how frequently they occur
  • Reduce some of the general stress levels in your life, which you know might be causing the problem by making small lifestyle changes. 
  • Be constructive and discuss with others why you are feeling angry, taking ownership of your feelings. Speak slowly and clearly rather than make demands and others will respect you and listen to what you have to say 
  • It’s important to try and understand what makes you get angry and perhaps try to resolve some of these issues, as they may be from the past and are unresolved. 
  • Try a visualisation: imagine a set of traffic lights in front of you - whenever you feel yourself starting to get angry, see the lights on red, reminding you to stop what you're doing, breathe, pause, think, analyse the situation, consider your options, breathe (again), then see the amber flashing as you mindfully choose your course of action (select your metaphoric 'gear'), then see the traffic light change to green so you can go forward with care and calmness. 

Ways of helping you to manage anger in the longer term include: 

  • Exercise, as this increases positive hormones (such as endorphins) which help to reduce stress. Running, swimming, walking, yoga and meditation are just a few.
  • Breathing exercises help to calm and fous the body and mind
  • Relaxation exercises help to reduce stress levels.
  • Massage is useful in reducing the stress in the muscles
  • Listening to calming music can help to lower the heart rate, blood pressure and reduce stress hormones.
  • Talking and discussing your feelings with a friend or professional can help you get a different perspective on the situation
  • Learning to practise assertive communication can help to prevent anger from building up in some situations.


Other Resources  
British Association of Anger Management  
Support Line help booklets  

The Dance of Anger: A Woman's Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships

Lerner, H. (1997), London:Harper Collins 
Human Relationship SkillsNelson-Jones, R. (2006), London: Taylor & Francis 
Available from the University Library:  
Taking Charge of Anger : How to Resolve Conflict, Sustain Relationships, and Express Yourself Without Losing ControlLink opens in a new windowEbook which ncludes a self-assessment questionnaire, sections on understanding anger, triggers and changing thoughtsRobert W Nay
How to deal with angerLink opens in a new windowShort booklet from MIND providing an introduction to anger managementCloutte
The anger control workbookPractical workbook including exercises and worksheetsMcKay, Rogers
Overcoming anger and irritabilityEasy to follow practical guide, using CBT techniquesWilliam Davies
Overcoming AngerGood for identifying healthy and unhealthy anger, and unhelpful beliefs that contribute to angerWindy Dryden
Managing anger: simple steps to dealing with frustration and threatIncludes info on physical and mental effects of anger and strategies for preventing build-up of frustrationGael Lindenfield
Anger ReleasingLouise HayMeditation CD to help you visualise and release anger

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