Anger management is a process of learning to recognize signs that you’re becoming angry, and taking action to calm down and deal with the situation in a positive way. Anger management doesn’t try to keep you from feeling anger or holding it in. Anger is a healthy, normal emotion when you know how to express it appropriately. Anger management is about learning how to do this. Although you can learn how to control your frustrations by practicing anger management techniques on your own, the most effective approach is to take an anger management class or to see a mental health counselor.
Why it’s done
Anger management helps you recognize frustrations early and resolve them in a way that helps you express your needs — and keeps you calm and in control. Coping well with anger is a learned behavior, just as behaving badly when you get frustrated is a behavior you have to unlearn. Anger management is a way of systematically recognizing what pushes your buttons and how to respond in ways that work for you instead of against you.
Everyone feels angry and says and does things he or she regrets from time to time. This is normal, and not necessarily a sign you need to seek out anger management help. However, when your anger is damaging your relationships, is making you miserable or is resulting in dangerous or violent behavior, you probably need help.
Some good indicators you need help controlling your anger include:
- Often feeling like you have to hold in your anger
- Frequent arguments with your partner, children or co-workers that escalate frustrations
- Trouble with the law
- Physical violence, such as hitting your partner or children or starting fights
- Threats of violence against people or property
- Out-of-control behavior, such as breaking things or driving recklessly
How you prepare
Preparing to look for anger management help can be challenging, but there are many resources available to help you in your search. Here are some steps you can take to find a counselor specializing in anger management, an anger management program or other resources:
- Ask your primary care doctor for a referral
- Ask family and friends to give you recommendations based on their experiences
- Check with your health insurance company, employee assistance program (EAP) or church
- Ask state or local agencies for recommendations
- Search the Internet
- Check with your district court
- Search your library for traditional and online resources, such as blogs, support groups or books
When you start working on anger management, identify your particular triggers and the physical and emotional signs that occur as you begin to get angry. Pay attention to these, and write them down:
- Identify any stressors that commonly trigger or worsen your anger. Examples include frustration with a child or partner, financial stress, or issues with a co-worker.
- Pay attention to physical signs that your feelings of anger are rising, for example, clenching your fists or your jaw or driving too fast.
- Take note of emotional signs your anger’s on the rise, such as the feeling you want to yell at someone or that you’re holding in what you really want to say.
What you can expect
Anger management classes or therapy for anger management (also called psychotherapy) can be done one-on-one, with your partner, child or other family members, or in a group setting. You may need to attend a number of classes or counseling sessions over a period of weeks up to a few months.
- Generally, counseling for anger management focuses on learning specific skills and ways of thinking to cope with anger.
- If you have any other mental health conditions, such as depression or addiction, you may need to work on these other issues for anger management techniques to be effective.
The aim of counseling and anger management classes is to teach you to:
- Identify situations that are likely to set you off and respond in nonaggressive ways before you get mad
- Use specific skills to use in situations likely to trigger your anger,
- Recognize when you aren’t thinking logically about a situation, and correct your thinking
- Calm yourself down when you begin to feel upset
- Express your feelings and needs assertively (but not aggressively) in situations that make you feel angry
- Focus on problem solving in frustrating situations — instead of using energy to be angry, focus on resolving the situation
Improving your ability to manage anger has a number of benefits. You’ll feel like you have more control when life’s challenges turn up the heat, and more relaxed in challenging situations. Knowing how to express your feelings assertively means you won’t feel frustrated because you feel like you need to “hold in” your anger to avoid offending someone.
Anger management can help you:
- Argue less. Enjoy better overall communication that results when you talk about your anger rather than letting it build. This will help you avoid saying impulsive and hurtful things that damage relationships with family members, friends and your partner.
- Maintain better health. The stress caused by ongoing angry feelings can increase your risk for health problems, including headaches, sleep problems, digestive problems, heart problems and high blood pressure.
- Prevent psychological problems linked to anger, which can include depression, problems at work and troubled relationships.
- Use your frustration to get things done. Anger expressed inappropriately can make it difficult for you to think clearly, and may result in poor judgment. Learn to use feelings of frustration and anger as motivators to work harder and take positive action.
- Help avoid addictive escapes. It’s common for people who feel chronically angry to turn to alcohol, drugs or food. Rather than using alcohol, drugs or food to dull anger, you can use anger management techniques to keep your cool and your control.