Uncontrollable anger can sabotage relationships and jobs and leave you feeling regretful, embarrassed, or worse after an outburst. Talking with a psychologist can help you get anger issues under control through the process of anger management therapy.
Anger is natural – we all feel angry from time to time. When expressed in a healthy way and resolved quickly after being triggered, there is nothing inherently wrong with feeling angry or annoyed.
However, intense, ongoing and destructive fits of rage are not healthy and can have a catastrophic effect on your life and the life of those around you. When anger leads to violence, domestic abuse, and criminal charges it is especially devastating.
Unlike depression or anxiety, anger issues aren’t diagnosed as a specific condition.
- Frequent feeling of anger
- Anger results in violent behaviour, or verbal or emotional abuse
- Work and personal relationships are impacted
- Using aggression and force to get what you want
- Feelings of anger aren’t comparative to the trigger (ie – losing control over something inconsequential)
- Using drugs or alcohol to manage anger problems
- Anger continues long after the triggering event
Often anger has other side effects, like depression, PTSD disorder, or substance abuse issues.
If you are dealing with anger issues, speaking with a psychologist can help. They will take you through therapy sessions focused on techniques to control the anger associated known as anger management therapy.
Anger management therapy can be conducted by a psychologist, therapist, social worker, or counsellor. During the process you’ll work through understanding your anger, what triggers angry outbursts and learn healthy coping strategies to control them.
Anger treatment can take place in group therapy or one-on-one sessions. Depending on your situation, the sessions may take place over a few weeks or months.
During anger management therapy, your psychologist will use different techniques to help you explore the thoughts and beliefs around your outbursts and introduce new behaviours to cope with them. We explore these techniques further along in this article.
Frequent and uncontrolled anger and rage can have a profound effect on your physical and emotional health. It can also cost you intimate, family, social, and professional relationships.
The benefits of working with a psychologist to help get your anger under control include:
Improved mental health and mood
Unhealthy anger diminishes feelings of wellbeing. This, in turn, can lead to depression; the two issues often go hand in hand. Learning how to express anger in a rational way can have a dramatic impact on overall feelings of life satisfaction, mood and happiness.
Better physical health
Anger triggers a range of physical symptoms; energy pumps through your body and adrenaline enters your bloodstream. Your heart rate and blood flow increase, and your muscles tense up. Over time, unchecked rage can affect your cardiac health, lead to high blood pressure and compromise your immune system.
Healthier, happier relationships
Relationships with loved ones can be destroyed through episodes of rage and angry outbursts. Processing emotions and learning new coping skills with your psychologist will improve communication with friends and family members. It may even encourage reconciliation for estranged relationships.
A more fulfilling career and workplace environment
Is your anger sabotaging your career? Explosive outbursts and seething passive aggression towards your co-workers can have a disastrous impact on your career. Strained professional relationships also increase the stress and tension in the office each day.
Through anger management, you’ll find ways to to help improve your work environment and forge productive relationships with your coworkers.
There isn’t really a definitive ‘best’ therapy for treating anger but the most widely used type of therapy in this area is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
Depending on your situation, there are various techniques and types of therapy a psychologist may employ in your sessions together.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
CBT is based on the idea that if we change our thoughts, we can change how we feel and behave. In anger management, CBT helps identify negative thought patterns and understand why you get angry. Then, you’ll explore new coping skills to deal with triggering situations in a calmer way.
During Psychodynamic therapy, you’ll reflect on the underlying psychological reasons for your anger. When you’ve identified the root of your emotional distress and maladaptive behaviour patterns that follow, new ways to cope can be introduced.
Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT)
Dialectical behaviour therapy blends aspects of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) with concepts like acceptance and mindfulness.
It focuses on changing unhelpful behaviours and ways of thinking while practising acceptance of who you are. This form of therapy is particularly well suited to those who experience overpowering emotions, such as anger.
Throughout the sessions, your psychologist will use a series of techniques to treat anger issues.
These techniques can include (but aren’t limited to) the following:
As we covered above, anger triggers physical response and relaxation-based interventions are techniques that focus on the body. You’ll learn to use relaxation techniques to lower the emotional and physiological arousal response to anger.
This may include breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or rhythmic movement. Exercising these relaxation techniques will blow off steam, and in a more relaxed state, we can think through responses and behaviours with clarity.
Anger issues can result in antagonistic behaviour towards others. Social skills training strengthens listening and conflict management skills and considers the impact of a person’s anger on others.
Social skill development and learning how to communicate calmly can prevent angry emotions and conflict from spiralling into rage or violent behaviour.
At its essence, cognitive restructuring means changing your thoughts. Through therapy, you’ll learn to recognise flawed thinking patterns and beliefs that can spark anger responses.
For example, feeling angry about a comment that was not intended to be taken personally.
Thoughts are not fact, and our beliefs can often skew our sense of reality, which means we’re likely to respond (in this case, in anger) based on a false reality. Through therapy, you’ll learn to develop more supportive, rational thinking processes to diffuse an aggressive response.
This technique involves rehearsing internal dialogue (coping statements) to prepare to handle anger-inducing situations with more self-control, in advance.
Inaccurate thoughts increase the chance of expressing anger in an explosive, confrontational way while a coping statement can calm the situation. For example:
Inaccurate thought – She’s picking on me with this presentation feedback
Internal coping statement – It’s not personal, it’s work and it is fair to receive feedback
You may create various internal coping statements to help reframe a difficult situation.
No matter what technique is used, the practical coping skills you’ll learn in therapy will equip you to manage anger, frustration, and feelings of rage whenever they arise.
Anger is a normal human emotion that will continue to arise throughout life. Rather than ‘cure’ it, the aim of therapy is to learn how to manage anger in a healthy way without negative consequences.
Working with a trained mental health professional can help regulate intense emotions and play a key role in shaping appropriate anger responses.
To find out more about dealing with anger issues with one of our experienced psychologists, reach out to our experienced team at Inspire Health and Medical.