“When I get angry, I become a different person.” “My kids are constantly walking on eggshells around me because they’re afraid to make me angry.” “I feel afraid of getting angry because I never know how I’ll react.” “Why did I do it? I don’t know, I lose control when I get angry.” If any of these statements sound like you, anger issues may be at the root. Even if you don’t fully relate to these statements but feel concerned about your anger problems, keep reading.
Normal Anger Versus Anger Problems
Feeling angry is a normal human emotion. It’s also one that we’re often not taught to manage well. As a result, some folks repress their anger and it explodes out in unhealthy and sometimes even dangerous ways. Others don’t have any idea how to deal with their anger so it can easily get out of control.
Normal anger expressions and coping are not harmful to others. We all have said something harmful in a heated moment of anger. As long as this is not a regular occurrence it is of lesser concern. We begin to get concerned about anger management when anger is always expressed in damaging ways.
Those who are dealing with a typical response to anger can usually calm themselves down. They may be able to walk out of the room, do deep breathing, or engage in another practice to calm down. Folks dealing with anger issues may explore and escalate without being able to calm down.
Anger is also a normal stage of grief. This stage of grief can sometimes get out of control and need more support to manage. Shock, numbness, and fear often go with anger at this stage.
It is helpful to think about righteous anger vs unrighteous anger. Jesus got angry. We know that while anger is not always sin it usually is one. Asking, “Is this something Jesus would be angry about?” may be helpful. We live in a broken and fallen world with many things that are cause for righteous and holy anger. Those things call for a righteous and holy response. Gauging our responses to our anger can help us determine if they’re in alignment with God or out of control.
Anyone can struggle with anger management issues. However, they seem to occur with higher frequency among those who have abuse or neglect in their past. It is not known why this happens but is most often thought to be a manifestation of the anger felt over the abuse.
Those who struggle with addiction often have anger issues. They may become angry when needing a “fix” of their addiction or be angered because of their addiction. The guilt and shame felt over an addiction can also manifest as anger. Some folks become angry when drinking so alcoholics may often have anger problems.
Those with anxiety or depression also seem to be more likely to deal with anger issues. Some counselors and therapists believe depression is anger turned inward instead of outward. Those who struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may also be more prone to anger issues. Times of high stress or periods of prolonged stress may also lead to difficulties with anger management.
Intermittent Explosive Disorder is a clinical condition in which these symptoms manifest intensely. These individuals have episodes that last half an hour or longer. They may also become violent, throw fits of anger, or rage for extended amounts of time.
Warning signs of unhealthy anger management include-
- A “short fuse”
- Picking fights- either verbal or physical
- Becoming angry over things that seem to not bother others
- Acting without thinking/ impulsive actions when angry
- Easily getting angry
- Lack of patience
- Anger appearing as an initial emotion
- Inability to calm down
- Blaming others
- Interference with relationships because of anger outburst
- Withdrawn social interaction out of fear of uncontrollable anger
- Shutting down when angry
- Frequent name-calling, criticizing, belittling, and/or demeaning others
- Family and friends don’t come around as often or seem to be “walking on eggshells”
- Children and teens/ young adults may display difficulties in school or may fight often
- Guilt after an anger episode
Physical symptoms may include:
Mild chest pain
Rapid heart rate
Increased blood pressure
A burst of energy and then fatigue
Please note: always do what you need to do to ensure your own safety that of those you live with/those around you. Folks struggling with anger issues are usually harmless but may become dangerous, especially in Intermittent Explosive Disorder. Call 911 or a domestic violence hotline if needed. Securing safety is the first step, relationships can be repaired but only after safety is established.
Faith-based Anger Management Techniques
Counseling is a great place to start. Your counselor can help you identify the source of your anger. Together you’ll work through unresolved issues that may be leading to your inability to control anger.
A Christian counselor can also help you understand the difference between righteous and unrighteous anger. If you’ve done damage as a result of your anger, they can also help with reconciling and repairing relationships.
You may also get connected to a Support Group or Treatment Program through a counseling office. Counselors can also help teach anger management techniques like those below and help you figure out which are best for you. Techniques you may be encouraged to try include:
Prayer: Prayer can be calming and soothing in and of itself. Seeking God’s help with managing our emotions can be a powerful and humbling experience.
Meditation: Christian meditation techniques have been shown helpful in regulating and managing emotions. They’re also good for calming the nervous system. Practices to consider include centering prayer, lectio divina, loving-kindness meditation, etc.
Breathing Techniques: Calming our breathing can relax us and our nervous systems. Your counselor can help teach you different breathing techniques such as circular breathing, alternate nostril breathing, and box breathing, among many others.
Relaxation Techniques: There are dozens of different relaxation techniques that we would all enjoy learning! Some incorporate what we’ve discussed already.
Avoiding Triggers: Many people recognize certain things trigger their anger more than others. A counselor will work with you to identify these triggers and help with strategies to avoid them. This avoidance will not need to be permanent but may be necessary while working on managing emotions.
Think Before You Speak or Act: Speaking and acting in the heat of the moment is often destructive. Counting backward from ten while breathing may be enough to calm the mind before responding. Or walk away and take some space as soon as you feel angry, so you don’t act out of a bad mindset.
Screen Time Management: Excessive screen use and exposure is an anger trigger for lots of people. Decreasing screen time can be helpful. More regular breaks during screen use may also be advised.
Addiction Management: As mentioned above, many addicts struggle with anger. The addiction needs to be addressed as the primary concern. Anger management will come along as well.
Exercise: Having an alternative outlet for anger can be helpful. Exercise also helps to calm the nervous system and get the body out of the fight/flight mode. This can have profoundly calming effects. Options to consider include running, brisk walking, swimming, yoga, Cross Fit, and much more. Large gross motor activities can also be helpful for some folks like moving large objects
Lifestyle Changes and Alternative Medicine: There are lifestyle changes and alternative medicine folks sometimes incorporate. These include:
- Dry skin brushing
- Flower Essences
- Craniosacral Therapy
- Dietary changes
Fortunately, there are lots of tools to help us manage our anger. Many have found themselves in a situation where they struggled to manage their anger. It’s nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. God has given us many great tools to help manage our anger.
“Burn Bright”, Courtesy of Jordan Wozniak, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Grief”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Clenched Fist”, Courtesy of Amel Majanovic, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Watching the Sunset”, Courtesy of Sage Friedman, Unsplash.com, CC0 License