By: Terry A Rifkin L.C.S.W.

We have all experienced anger umpteen times in our lives so it would be pointless to define this emotion. Anger is a signal that tells us that we don’t like what is going on. It doesn’t go away if we ignore it, deny it exists or fail to resolve it. It goes “underground”, where it makes sneak attacks on our health and interpersonal relationships. Buried anger can also surface when the next emotional crisis comes along, intensifying its impact upon us and those around us.

What makes us angry and how we express it varies according to culture, age, sex, marital status, politics and relative power in a situation, but emotion is universal.

Some of the situations causing an angry response are:

  • Loss of a valued role -Loss of a valued relationship -Threat of physical harm -Loss of self-esteem -Loss of face -Loss of valued possessions, skills, or abilities.

In the normal course of events it is healthy to express our discontentment at a situation in the form of anger. The problem starts when we start experiencing this emotion with increasing intensity at the least provocation. Every situation merits a respectful response, but people who have anger control issues can’t manage their reaction and often don’t realize or even care when they have crossed the line. Unfortunately, everybody around them including their loved ones has to bear the brunt of their runaway emotion and this can have a deep impact on a person’s relationships, career and life in general. Anger management is learning to control the intensity of your anger and your response to this often overwhelming emotion.

Contrary to what people believe, anger is not always bad and it is normal for a person to feel this emotion between 2 to 15 times a day. It is simply your reaction to something that is not right in the environment around you and so its gets your attention. Anger cannot always be deemed detrimental to your well being as long as you know to rein it.

Anger also has physiological manifestations in our body. Anger begins in a part of our brain called amygdala which is also responsible for the other emotions we feel. Unfortunately, our brain is wired in such a way that amygdala alone can provoke a reaction from us before the message is sent to the cortex (the center of the brain responsible for reasoning and logic). To put it simply, when we are angry we react even before we have had the chance to think about the situation or consequences. This is certainly not an excuse for bad behavior; it simply means that it will take a controlled effort on your part to learn to manage your anger.

When we are angry neurotransmitter chemicals called catecholamines are released in the brain that gives us the burst of energy. This burst of energy is supposed to help us to take immediate protective action. Add to this the adrenalin and other hormones which trigger hyper activity in your body and you are ready for a show down. Fortunately for us the prefrontal cortex which handles judgment can over ride the amygdala so in essence you can control your anger all you need to do is learn the techniques to do so.

Relaxation techniques are not only very easy but also very powerful anger management tools. All of us may have heard the popular ‘drink a glass of water or ‘count to 10’ solutions to deal with anger and as ineffective as they sound these simple techniques can actually help. Here is how; when we are angry in response to all the hormonal activity in our body the heart and breathing rate rises, drinking a glass of water, or counting to ten can help to stabilize and lower the heart and breathing rate thus controlling the amount of hormones secreted in the body and release muscle tension.

Unfortunately, failed attempts over a lifetime to manage angry feelings may lead to chronic abuse of substances to self-soothe. Some of these faulty coping mechanisms include alcohol or substance abuse, food mismanagement; binging, purging, self-starvation, or compulsive overeating.

However if simple techniques cannot help you to control yourself you may want to consider Psychotherapy. Therapy can help by providing an opportunity to safely ventilate angry feelings. It may assist you in identifying the real sources of your anger. Old angers may be excavated and managed in a more appropriate ways with a trained professional and in a safe environment where individuals may practice expressing anger in a more constructive and less destructive way. Anger management programs can also be extremely helpful. These programs are usually available in group or individual settings, you can also avail the benefits of self study resources available online and offline.

Terry is an author and highly sought out expert on eating disorders, depression and anxiety. She frequently speaks to special groups and businesses in the Southern California area and can be followed on her blog at this link.