8 MIN READ

Why Do I Feel So Angry?

Understanding Your Anger and What to Do About It

One in three people say they have a close friend or family member who has anger problems.

The finding, from a Mental Health Foundation survey, suggests that many of us will encounter work situations where emotions run high, and may spill over into anger. [1]

Not all feelings of anger are negative, though. For example, if you get animated on behalf of a colleague who's having an unnecessarily hard time, your response may help to bring a positive resolution. In a 2018 NPR-IBM Watson Health poll, 31 percent of respondents said that anger isn’t wholly negative. [2]

But angry outbursts that intimidate or undermine co-workers are always unacceptable.

Click here to view a transcript of this video.

In this article, we look at what anger is, explore the different ways it can manifest, and offer tips to better manage your emotions.

What Is Anger?

Psychologist T.W. Smith defines anger as "an unpleasant emotion ranging in intensity from irritation or annoyance to fury or rage." [3]

But what makes people angry is different for everyone. Things that infuriate some of us don't bother others at all. Yet we all regularly experience events that could make us angry, such as:

  • Frustration and powerlessness.
  • Hurt.
  • Harassment and bullying.
  • Injustice, real or perceived.
  • Exhaustion and burnout from stress.
  • Demands or criticisms that we think are unfair.
  • Threats to the people, things, or ideas that we hold dear.

Warning:

The information in this article can be useful in managing anger, but it is for guidance only. Seek the advice of qualified health professionals if you have concerns over persistent anger.

Recognizing Anger

Anger and aggression are not the same thing. Anger is an emotion, while aggression is a behavior. Not everyone who feels angry is aggressive, and vice versa. Sometimes we may be aggressive because we feel afraid or threatened.

You might not yell or confront others but still feel angry. In fact, passive-aggressive people can be as difficult to deal with as those who scream and shout. When someone is being passive-aggressive, they vent their anger in an indirect manner.

Sometimes it’s tricky to spot the signs of passive-aggressiveness – for help, listen to our Book Insight of 8 Keys to Eliminating Passive-Aggressiveness by psychotherapist and anger management expert Andrea Brandt.

Also, some of us might show no angry outward signs whatsoever – however furious we are. But suppressing emotions can actually do more damage than showing your anger. [4]

The Dangers of Being Angry

An appropriate level of anger can spur us to take proper action, solve problems, and handle situations constructively.

However, uncontrolled anger in the workplace can have many negative consequences. It can cloud our ability to make good decisions, affect relationships with co-workers, and destroy trust between team members.

Effective team working is based on sharing ideas in a supportive environment. If people think their team leader will fly into a rage if they suggest something, they'll stop contributing and the team won’t function at its best.

Unexpressed anger can be as harmful as outward rage. You may not express your anger but instead bear grudges or feel like you’re a victim, with damaging consequences for team cohesion.

Frequent anger, whether expressed or not, poses health risks, too. One study found that people who get angry regularly are more likely to suffer from heart disease. [5] Research also highlights a link between anger and premature death. [6] Further studies show it correlates to anxiety and depression. [7]

Tip:

As well as anger, it also important to be aware of the other HALT Risk States – which are hunger, anger, loneliness, tiredness – that can signal you’re close to burnout.

Change What Makes You Angry

It's important to deal with anger in a healthy manner, so that it doesn't harm you or anyone else.

First, recognize the problem exists. Sometimes, people don't understand that their anger is an issue. They may blame other things: people, processes, institutions, even inanimate objects like computers. You probably know people like this, or maybe recognize the trait in yourself.

You can tackle this by developing self-awareness to better understand how others see you. Do that and you’ll be more effective at managing your emotions.

Also, it's important to be resilient. The ability to bounce back from disappointment and frustration is much healthier than becoming angry about it.

How you interpret and react to situations depends on many factors in your life, such as childhood and upbringing. Thinking about the reasons why you interpret and react to situations in a certain way, can help you to learn how to cope with emotions better.

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Controlling Anger

Once you recognize what's causing anger, you can start to manage the triggers. That way, you'll accomplish more, stress less, and avoid feeling overwhelmed or powerless.

Here are some more practical steps that you can take to prevent or manage anger:

  • Learn to recognize the onset of anger. When you become angry, your heart rate rises, and you breathe faster. It's the classic "fight-or-flight" response. Be vigilant, so you can start dealing with your anger early, before it gets out of control.
  • Give yourself a time-out. Stop yourself from "leaping in" with an angry response to a situation. Pause, and count to 10 before you act or speak.
  • Breathe slowly. Regulating your breathing and other simple relaxation techniques can combat the onset of anger – they calm you down and allow you to think clearly.

Dealing With Long-Term Anger

If you feel angry often, you may need to take a more strategic approach to dealing with it. Here are six habits that over the long term will keep your anger in check:

  1. Exercise regularly. Exercise releases chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin into your body which can improve your state of mind and make you less prone to anger.
  2. Find some quiet time. Regularly practicing calming techniques such as Mindfulness or Centering is a great way to cope better with stress and frustration.
  3. Avoid alcohol. Alcohol lowers your inhibitions and can make angry outbursts more likely.
  4. Express emotion. Talk about your feelings with a close friend or loved one, and consider keeping a journal.
  5. Let go of angry thoughts. Try not to think that the world's unfair, or that everyone and everything is against you. They're not.
  6. Assert yourself. Assertiveness is not aggression. Learn to get what you want while taking account of others and respecting their feelings. But speak up for yourself and tell people when you think they're wrong.

Tip 1:

To understand how well you manage your own anger, take our self-test, How Good Is Your Anger Management?

Tip 1:

Also, see our article, Williams' 12 Strategies for Controlling Aggression for ways to defuse anger before it becomes destructive.

Key Points

Anger is an emotion we all feel, and one that many people find hard to deal with. It can manifest itself in aggressive, confrontational behavior, or in more passive but no less damaging ways.

Start to manage your anger by recognizing it. Then, take steps to address it by tackling the source of your anger. Use relaxation techniques to deal with outbursts. In the longer term, try to develop self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and resilience to cope better with angry feelings.

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Subscribe to our free newsletter, or join the Mind Tools Club and really supercharge your career!

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Comments (2)
  • Over a month ago Midgie wrote
    Hi GoldenBoy,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts in the Career Cafe related to your experiences with anger and PTSD. It helps us all to be more understanding when we see or are on the receiving end of angry or harsh words / actions.

    Midgie
    Mind Tools Team
  • Over a month ago GoldenBoy wrote
    This is a great article on Anger. However, as a person with a mental health condition, I feel it has missed out on one aspect of anger, where it is not generated by an external cause. I'm going to write my thoughts in the Career Cafe forum.