Do you ever think to yourself “Why am I so angry all the time?” As we get older and take on more responsibility, we also encounter more stressful situations either at work, with our family and even financially. Work hours can be taxing, kids aren’t doing well in school, a spouse isn’t carrying enough of the workload and we feel totally overwhelmed. It’s normal to respond with anger every now and then, as it’s a behavioral response to an immediate need. It can be a healthy emotion when it sparks motivation to effectively and respectfully address an issue. For example, when a student gets a bad grade on an exam and is furious because he studied hard, the angry feelings might motivate him to move forward and make an appointment to go over the material with the teacher so it doesn’t happen again. Or in a marriage, the anger might spark a conversation about a more fair division of chores. However, the emotions can become destructive and counterproductive when the response is unsafe to others, unnecessary, chronic and/or over the top.
There are generally a few key factors that can contribute to developing difficulties in coping with anger. They include:
1. Low emotional intelligence
3. Low self-esteem
4. A history of rejection or abandonment
5. A history of living with abusive role models
6. A history of anxiety and/or depression
Some unhealthy and harmful ways of dealing with anger include:
1. Verbal abuse. This includes bullying, yelling, or having an intimidating temper tantrum directed at those around you, co-workers, employers, friends or family.
I recently heard a coach berating his team of 10-year-old boys, telling them they looked like morons out there.
2. Aggressive behavior. This includes road rage, domestic violence, physical assaults, pushing and shoving or destruction of property.
3. Passive-aggressive behavior. This is when someone is simmering on low-boil but doesn’t like to make a direct confrontation. Instead, they purposefully neglectful, unfriendly, or make ongoing negative comments about others behind their back.
4. Obsessive behavior. This is when someone ruminates about their anger and can’t let it go. It comes out in feelings of jealousy, hostility, paranoia, or betrayal. The anger becomes all consuming and might result in stalking or trying to mentally control another person.
5. Payback cycle. Someone feels insulted, demeaned or hurt so they feel the need to retaliate or get even in some way. This is a dangerous, revengeful behavior that we see a lot in the movies. For example, a neighbor backs onto your lawn everyday, killing the grass so the response to their uncaring behavior is to blast loud music late at night and disrupt their sleep.
Everyone might experience one or more of these behaviors at some point in their life. It’s when it begins to happen often and negative consequences result like a run-in with the law, workplace issues, and/or a breakup of close friendships that there is likely an anger disorder that should be addressed. The first thing to do to re-gain control of your life is to seek help through one-to-one therapy, group anger management classes or taking a class online. Through one of these avenues the individual can learn to understand what is triggering the anger and how to make life changes to improve the quality of his or her life.