Healthy and Unhealthy Ways to Manage Anger

Posted by | Treatment Programs, Wellness | December 17, 2014

Anger is one of the varieties of human emotions. However, for many it’s an emotion that does not get properly expressed, if at all, causing psychological concern, such as depression, substance use, self-harm, and suicide. Anger is also a prominent characteristic of some personality disorders, PTSD, and Bipolar Disorder.

Below are ways, both healthy and unhealthy, that individuals tend to manage their anger. The way that a person manages their anger might vary depending on the situation, or he or she might have a typical, unconscious way of responding to intense emotions, such as anger.  The way one manages anger can depend on personality, gender, intensity of the anger, the circumstances, and the cultural messages on how to deal with anger.

Repression: Some are so out of touch with their anger that it remains bottled up inside. Many therapists and psychologists believe that anger that anger turned inward will eventually lead to depression.

Sublimation: Others who are in touch with their anger enough can make it work for them. For instance, you might channel your aggression towards pedophiles by creating a community project that fights against child abuse.

Displacement: You might be in touch with your anger, but feel incapable to communicate it to the individual who triggered that anger in the first place. Instead, you end up displacing it towards easier targets, such as a younger sibling or even a pet.

Projection: For those who are out of touch with their anger but who might feel it from time to time, a common way to experience it is to project it onto another, claiming that it is the other person who is hostile.

Explosion: You might continue to hold your anger inward until finally you lose your temper and explode. Often, those who do this, tend to rationalize their angry outbursts, claiming, for example that you were drunk and not yourself.

Anger and irritability can sometimes go hand in hand, particularly when it is the result of stress. For instance, if you are having financial difficulty, you might find yourself becoming tearful, later snapping at your children, and then having trouble sleeping.

A more intense form of stress can be a traumatic experience, causing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Those who were traumatized in early life often disconnect from their emotions and the physical feelings they evoke. But when you try to avoid pain and discomfort, your emotions become distorted, displaced, and stifled. You lose touch with your emotions when you attempt to control or avoid them, rather than experience them. By avoiding emotions we dislike, we distance ourselves from pleasant emotions as well.

Anger is a common characteristic of personality disorders, particularly anti-social personality disorder, paranoid personality disorder, and borderline personality disorder. When you are consistently paranoid, you tend to view others as potentially threatening. With an anti-social personality disorder, you often violate the rights of others and social rules, easily losing your temper and expressing anger towards others. It is similar for someone with borderline personality disorder whose anger gets easily triggered when they suspect someone has attacked, betrayed, or abandoned them.

In these cases, anger is typically expressed outward. However, for some, when they feel ashamed or worthless, they will direct their anger towards themselves and experience suicidal thoughts and self-mutilation.

Anger management is a psychotherapeutic method that facilitates healthy expression of anger, how to assert yourself appropriately, and how to relax using relaxation techniques. Anger management is also useful in learning healthier coping mechanisms, such as channeling anger into exercise or creative projects.

Anger is not an emotion to fear; rather it is a powerful emotion that can be used to achieve great things. Instead of fearing or repressing anger, learn how to get in touch with it and manage it so that it is working for you and not against you.

Reference:

Hicks, J.W. (2005). 50 signs of mental illness: A user-friendly guide to psychiatric symptoms and what you should know about them. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press

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