Anger is a common human emotion. Everyone experiences anger once in a while, but not everyone throws a
temper tantrum, smashes dishes, or displays road rage.
Temper tantrums in children aged 1 to 4 are common and fairly-easily handled. Young children often react
out of frustration because they can't voice their wants clearly. They usually calm down, once they've
exhausted themselves and, hopefully, learn how to "ask" for what they want in the future.
Most people are not so "forgiving" of adults who "blow up" and intimidate everyone around them at work,
at home, or while stuck in traffic.
What can someone with "anger issues" do to learn self-control? Dr. Joyce Brothers, the well-known
syndicated columnist and psychologist, offers a quiz to test your "Anger IQ," and Robert Zackery, a social
worker at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, offers tips on how to deal with the emotion of anger.
What is anger? Zackery says it's a feeling of displeasure or hostility. It's often normal and healthy, if
expressed correctly, but it becomes a problem when one can't manage anger in a healthy way.
If you throw something at the TV, are you a candidate for anger management? Dr. Brothers says, No, and
perhaps a jog will work just as well. The people who do need the classes are the ones who have hurt others
or intimidated them with their anger. Often such people get in trouble with authorities or employers or they
feel they might lose their temper around a child. Their anger is out of control.
Anger involves the emotions - like sadness, disappointment or frustration.
Anger involves the body - blood pressure rises, muscles tense, and the heart rate increases.
Anger involves thoughts - and it's how you direct your thoughts that can make a difference between
worsening the anger or coping with it.
Rather than escalating the feelings by thinking irrational thoughts like "the world is out to get you," stop and
think of solutions by focusing on what's wrong.
Is passive-aggressive behavior, without shouting, a good way to express anger? Dr. Brothers says, No,
because it's a way of trying to hurt others without letting them know of your anger; alternatively, you're
trying to retaliate while acting blameless.
Low levels of constant anger are unhealthy and unproductive; it can also provoke others to become angry
with you, and it won't lessen your feelings of aggressiveness.
Zackery says anger can be good: it acts as a motivator; stops others from "walking all over you"; and may
bring some long-term problems out in the open. Zackery says multiple stressors often cause people to
"explode" with anger once they're triggered into a response. Obviously, some people deal with anger much
better than other do.
If you were taught that anger is "wrong," you might never have learned how to deal with it properly. Things
simmer until they explode.
Are depression and anger related? Dr. Brothers says that anger turned inward is often experienced as
depression. People "swallow" their anger rather than confront their problems or the ones who anger them.
That's a reaction of "powerlessness," and it is not a healthy response.
Zackery says there are two ways to handle anger - through expression or suppression.
Expression is the healthier choice: talking things out in a reasonable, rational, relatively-calm way will go a
lot further towards reaching a resolution than an explosive outburst will.
Suppression is a way of "holding in," which is ultimately pointless and unproductive.
Should you try to quietly reason with an angry person? Dr. Brothers says, No, because such people are not
reasonable at that moment, and you could provoke them into escalating the anger. She suggests leaving them
alone for a while, but offer to talk to them when they feel more under control.
What's the difference between "counseling" for anger management and classes? Zackery says counseling
will help you to identify your triggers, with help from a therapist who is a mental health counselor or
psychologist. You can work one-on-one or include family members. You can explore feelings like sadness,
and triggers that set you off. Many people seem to manage anger better after only 8 to 10 sessions.
Classes teach you how to express anger in "a controlled, healthy way." Once you have some insights about
what causes you to become angry, you can learn new ways of coping and dealing with anger.
If you hurt anyone else or find your anger is hurting personal relationships or makes you regret things you've
done, either counseling or classes could benefit you.
If you are in trouble with the police or you've physically harmed someone or people are afraid of you, you
may benefit from both: insights from counseling and changed behaviors from taking classes.
There are physical problems related to passive, pent up, or violent anger. You may get headaches, have
difficulty sleeping, have high blood pressure and/or digestive problems, Zackery says, and "stress and
hostility related to anger can lead to heart attacks."
Uncontrolled anger benefits no one and can harm many.
If you need help, seek it. If you're confronted by an out-of-control, angry person, walk away or protect
yourself from anyone who is acting unreasonably. As Dr. Brothers says, "Your safety should take
precedence over an effort to change the person's mood all by yourself."
Dr. Joyce Brothers, psychologist and syndicated columnist, October 29, 2008. ArcaMax newsletter. "Quiz
topic: Temper, Temper! How High Is Your Anger Iq?"
Robert T. Zackery, LICSW. "Anger management: Expert answers to common questions," by Mayo Clinic
staff, June 24, 2009. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Rochester, MN.
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/anger-management. Retrieved 9-11-09.