Anger is a feeling or emotion that ranges from mild irritation to intense fury and rage. Anger is a normal reaction. It can be good in a way that allows you to express your negative feelings but it becomes problematic when it turns destructive and expressed in the form of aggressive actions. Aggression is a behavior in response to anger, intended to cause harm or pain to others.
This intense behavior can be verbal or physical. Aggression is usually exhibited in the following purposes:
Anger is not an unexpected response; it always passes through three phases. The identification of three phases helps in the effective management of anger.
In the escalation phase, the arousal systems of the body get prepare for a crisis after perceiving the trigger. The trigger (event) is a ‘Red-flag’ which increases hostile self-talk and that also results in bodily symptoms like headache, rapid heart rate, sweating, clenched fists, wringing hands, pointing, pacing, loss of eye contact or intimidating aggressive posture.
The explosion phase is marked by an uncontrollable discharge of tension in verbal or physical form. This may be less dangerous if there is only shouting, swearing or threat. But the violence and other major destructions in this phase, lead to irretrievable consequences.
The post-explosion phase is the final stage in the aggression cycle. It includes the negative consequences of aggression during the explosion phase. The consequences may be relationship breakup, job termination, shame, guilt, regret or the above-mentioned payoffs.
Intense and too frequently expressed anger can have serious social and medical consequences:
Anger control is important to avoid negative consequences. Before anger escalates, the following specific strategies have been proved to be effective in controlling anger:
By looking at your daily routine, you may observe and recognize that what causes your irritable or angry feelings. It may be any specific activity, time of day, people, place or a certain situation. Following are the few examples that usually serves as the red flags of anger:
There are certain signs and symptoms of anger, you may identify your own personal cues and take a step to manage your anger before it becomes out of control. The cues can be divided into four categories:
Cognitive/Thoughts: hostile self-talk, images of aggression or revenge
Emotional: fear, hurt, jealousy or guilt
Physical: rapid heartbeat, tightness in the chest, feeling hot or flushed, light-headache, sweating, muscle tension or intimidating aggressive posture
Behavioral: pacing, raising the voice, fist or teeth clenching, staring or avoiding eye contact
Anger Rating Meter: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
For controlling anger, monitor and record the highest level of anger on the rating meter with the help of identification of cues. Points 1 to 10 are the feelings of anger where 1 is complete lack of anger or calm, and 10 is extreme angry & explosive loss. Rating anger on the meter will help you to identify the severity level and also to choose a moderate expression of your anger.
The problem of anger is very much influenced by how we interpret an anger-provoking event. This interpretation is affected by the thinking patterns which are often illogical in case of anger.
A few of cognitive errors in anger are
Identifying the errors in your thought patterns enables the individual to alter them into more positive and realistic thoughts. This can be done by the use of various cognitive strategies such as questioning the evidence, cost-benefit analysis, etc. (For more details please see our blog on Cognitive behavior therapy)
Assertiveness strategies are aimed at providing a healthier way to convey your feeling to others. The basic message of assertiveness is that my feelings, thoughts, and beliefs are important and that your feelings, thoughts, and beliefs are equally important. Assertiveness is midway between passive and aggressive behavior.
Broken Record: Be persistent and keep saying what you want over and over again without getting angry, irritated, or loud. Stick to your point. For example:
Maintaining these diaries serves as a way of exploring more about your behavior and will motivate you to take a step each day towards a better life.
The decision to start medicine is dependent on the underlying diagnosis. If the anger is due to an acute episode of psychotic illness, the medicines will be the first choice. As in the acute phase of psychosis, we avoid to directly confront the patient.
The anger issues usually resolve with the treatment of mental illnesses such as agitated depression, OCD, etc. The drugs that can be used are antipsychotics, antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and benzodiazepines.