Everyone gets angry at times. However, the Bible states that we should not allow our anger to control us, but to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry” (James 1:19, NLT).
But what if anger is chronic, escalates quickly, or is not really the cause of the problem? How do you control an emotion that you may not realize has taken root until there is an outburst or physical altercation? Identifying anger and seeking anger management therapy can help you avoid the consequences of your temper.
The Physical Signs of Anger Issues
Anger can take its toll on the body, both emotionally and physically. Many times you will experience a physiological consequence before the psychological. Like an anxiety attack, those with anger issues may experience severe headaches or migraines, rapid heartbeat, and a chest-tightening sensation. You may feel out of breath and/or tingling throughout your body. Some people also complain of sinus pressure or fatigue.
The reason why so many of these physical symptoms mimic those of anxiety is due to the long-term effects of anger. As this anger continues unresolved, anxiety subtly develops. People who are not sure how to deal with anger issues efficiently may also develop dizziness, digestion issues, nausea, muscle tension and pain, and sleep problems.
Your inability to focus on a task or assignment could be due to anger issues, especially if the anger is unrealized and the anxiety is gradually building. Ongoing anxiety can lead to high blood pressure, extreme stress, heart attacks, or stroke.
Not only can the person with anger issues develop physical and emotional symptoms from anxiety, but the target of the person’s anger can experience symptoms from the constant fear and abuse.
If left unresolved, this abuse from an angry person can manifest itself into mental health disorders in the victim. If the victim is a child, they may not recall the angry childhood as an adult but demonstrate their own angry behaviors. This vicious cycle can end with the appropriate professional help.
Passive and Aggressive Anger
Anger is an emotion; however, out-of-control or unrealized anger can result in passive or aggressive behaviors. These behaviors if left unchecked can destroy relationships and careers.
A person with passive anger may not realize they are truly angry about something and try to address the situation in what they deem a “nice” way, however it comes across to others as sarcastic or mean-spirited. The individual often does not like confrontation but will leave notes or make cutting remarks with a smile on their face.
A passively angry person, also known as passive aggressive, may procrastinate tasks or go out of their way to avoid people if angry. Instead of openly confronting a person, they may sulk or act bored as if they don’t care about a situation.
Passive-aggressive people will quietly find ways to get back at an individual. For example, a husband who is aggravated by his wife’s lavish spending may ask her to cut back on excessive monthly subscriptions. The passive-angry wife may, in turn, cancel all monthly subscriptions including needed items like internet, Wi-Fi, and cell phone service to “punish” her husband.
Passive anger is not as easy to identify as aggressive anger. The passive-aggressive uses these tactics to control a situation or another person.
Another example includes a passive-aggressive who feels overwhelmed about an event or appointment. They may show up chronically late for these meetings or appointments which may, in turn, cause other people to have to wait for them; thus, the passive-aggressive person is controlling other people’s time.
Someone with aggressive anger tendencies make known their anger with outbursts or seek to control the other person by bullying or through physical means. This person may retaliate against a spouse or loved one as a form of control, even if the loved one is not the source of their anger. This volatile behavior makes living with an aggressively angry person difficult.
An aggressive angry individual may pick fights with family members, coworkers, or complete strangers. Although the other person is seldom the real reason for their anger, the aggressive person will take out their anger on the individual.
This can result in shouting matches, physical assaults, or the use of weapons. For example, an aggressive angry person may have a small fender bender that leads to physical threats and harm to the other driver.
This type of anger behavior may not only lead to physical abuse but emotional abuse as well. The person may use slandering, name-calling, or other forms of verbal abuse to break another person down.
The Effect of Anger (Behaviors) on Relationships
A healthy relationship should be a safe space for you to share when you are angry. You and the other person should be given time to calm down, think things through, and work on making amends. Healthy relationships thrive on open communication and trust. However, if you or your partner’s angry behavior is creating resentment, bitterness, or fear.
The problem is when those behaviors take control of the anger. The other person can only take so much before they will need to let you go in order for them to stay safe, mentally and physically. Passive and aggressive anger can lead to domestic violence. Often, the abuser will cast blame on the victim for “making” them angry. This is often referred to as reactive behavior.
If you are in a situation with an angry person who is making demands, threatening you, or physically hurting you, seek emergency help right away. Their behavior is not your responsibility and can cause irreversible damage to the relationship. Learn how to be responsive vs. reactive.
The Types of Anger Therapy Available
If you find yourself falling into the common anger behaviors, it’s important to realize that help is available. Approach your primary doctor about an assessment and be sure to divulge the reasons why you feel you (or your partner) are demonstrating anger issues.
Your physician may recommend inpatient or outpatient counseling, residential therapy facilities, and/or support groups. Many people in anger therapy opt for one-on-one sessions with a professional psychologist or psychiatrist.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy
This therapy also referred to as CBT can include a variety of forms such as problem-solving and positive thought processes.
For example, if a passive-aggressive person is feeling overwhelmed, they can turn to the strategies taught in problem-solving CBT to find solutions and break down the task into easy-to-manage steps.
Patients with negative thoughts will learn how to identify those dysfunctional and unwanted thoughts and change their perspective. CBT can help them uncover those beliefs about themselves and change the narrative.
They will also learn how to avoid triggers such as certain situations, and how to communicate effectively with others.
Anger Management Counseling
A mental health care professional can help you uncover the root cause of your anger. Depending on your situation, this may be scary for you but is a necessary task to start the healing process.
The psychologist can assist you in learning new coping techniques as well as work as a mediator with your close family members. They may suggest marriage counseling and family counseling sessions.
If you work with a mental health care team to devise a plan, you will learn how to overcome the behaviors associated with anger and gain control over your emotions. Your physician may also refer you to a specialist to learn relaxation techniques, meditation, or faith-based counseling.
Although the prescription medications cannot keep you from experiencing anger, they can possibly lend you a hand in remaining calm in an otherwise explosive scenario. Common prescription medications used in controlling the angry person’s behavior include antidepressants such as Prozac (fluoxetine) and Zoloft (sertraline).
The common antihistamine Benadryl is available as an over-the-counter medication and is sometimes prescribed to help with anxiety symptoms, although it can make you severely sleepy. The doctor may recommend a nighttime only dosage.
Exhibiting anger as out-of-control behavior, either passive or aggressive, can cause job loss, divorce, incarceration, or illness. If you think that you or a loved one have anger issues, seek help from a mental health care professional and gain control over your emotions again.
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