Insight

How do I know I need anger management?

2nd Apr, 05:11

Reviewed by: Dr. Matt Vickers

We all get angry from time to time. It’s a very normal emotional response that has been crucial to our survival. It can be a helpful emotion, and lets us know when something isn’t sitting right and there may be a threat.

However, for some people, feelings of anger can be overwhelming and uncontrollable. Unhealthy anger can manifest in a range of ways, sometimes rearing its ugly head when we least expect it.

For some, anger can be an issue that affects their daily lives, damages their relationships, and becomes a part of how they view their identity. This is where it becomes time to draw the line and reach out to a professional for anger management help. If you’re sensing that your anger might be slipping out of control, here’s how to assess whether you need anger management.

What is unhealthy anger?

It’s pretty obvious that anger can sometimes be helpful and even healthy, so how do you know the difference between unhealthy and helpful anger?

Well, one clear way to distinguish between the two is how anger spills over into aggression towards other people.

Often, unhealthy anger is characterised by an out of control expression that doesn’t respond to rational thought. For those watching from an outside perspective it can look like the angry person has no control of their emotions. On the other hand, healthy anger will be expressed calmly and rationally, and is usually dealt with by the individual in private rather than lashing out at other people.

What are the telltale signs of anger issues?

Anger issues can manifest in so many different ways, however the most common and obvious signs of anger issues are:

Outward aggression towards other people

This is one of the most obvious signs of an anger problem, and might include shouting, swearing, or being physically confrontational. Often the aggression will come on rapidly and could be in response to something small, and will be followed by feelings of remorse and guilt.

Becoming more angry when consuming alcohol

For many people with anger issues, they find that alcohol makes their anger worse. Studies have shown that underlying anger management problems flare up when people drink. This could be because alcohol lowers inhibition and impulse control, meaning that people with anger issues find it harder to hide their feelings.

Being unable to calm down

For many people with anger issues, they find that the feelings are so strong that they don’t respond to rational thought. This makes it very difficult for them to hold a rational discussion, hear another person’s point of view, or calm down once they have been angered. This is sometimes referred to as being in a “rage”.

Immediate, practical action

Anger issues are characterised by a need to act immediately. The fire of anger in someone with anger issues comes on very quickly and impacts decision making. Studies show that angry decision makers process information in the moment, not stopping to ponder alternative options before acting.

This makes their actions almost knee-jerk in character and is perhaps why people with anger issues are so frequently different in their day to day lives. People with anger issues can act in ways that are in complete opposition with their day to day character, because anger prompts them to react impulsively.

Getting irrationally angry at small things

If you find yourself feeling intense anger at the smallest of things, you might need to assess whether you have control of your emotions. This trait isn’t only emotionally damaging, but can make having a normal conversation with someone of a different opinion very difficult.

This is something that may happen quite frequently for those with anger management issues, as day to day life can prove a trigger for their anger.

Feeling frustrated and disappointed

Feeling disappointed in yourself once the anger has subsided can be a classic response after an outbreak of unhealthy anger. This is often due to the way that anger bubbles up quickly and creates an instinctive response that may not be aligned with how the person actually feels or wants to behave.

What can you do if you need anger management?

If you think these sound a little too familiar, it could be time to reach out to a professional for help.

The good news is that often the hardest part of dealing with anger issues is confronting them head on and identifying them before they get out of control.

If you or someone you love is struggling with anger, there are many places you can turn for support. The Government Helpline has a variety of numbers you can call, and MensLine Australia is also available 24/7 for tools and information on 1300 78 99 78.