- Common Causes
- 3 Types of Anger
- Angry Expressions
- When to Seek Help
- Calming an Angry Child
- Reducing a Temper Tantrum
Anger is a natural response to negative situations, and sometimes a healthy outlet for expressing your feelings about something that has hurt you. To some degree, anger is also helpful in that it can motivate you to find solutions to certain problems.
However, anger can become a problem if you find yourself frequently feeling hostile for no reason, or when your anger becomes overwhelming, uncontrollable, or violent.
While there are many reasons a person can get angry, due to either physical or mental factors, sometimes there is no obvious cause. You may be left wondering why you feel this way and why you are on edge all the time.
Some potential causes of unexplained bursts of anger may include:
- Weak boundaries: If you say yes to things when you want to say no, or feel forced to do things for others that you don’t feel happy doing, you may feel that people are taking advantage of you. Being a people-pleaser can cause you to feel exhausted and frustrated.
- Lack of sleep: You may not be getting enough sleep, drowning in things to do, and staying up too late. This can make it more difficult to manage emotional problems.
- Anxiety: People with anxiety issues usually feel overwhelmed because they need to work hard to manage their emotional state. If you have anxiety and a challenging situation arises, you may blow up without really understanding why.
- Feeling invisible: Feeling unappreciated or unacknowledged can cause anger. You may get angry with your spouse, kids, parents, friends, or coworkers because you feel invisible or undervalued in a relationship.
- Depression: Anger is a lesser-known symptom of depression. About 10% of people with depression experience irritability and 40% have outbursts of anger.
- Control issues: For some people, anger stems from wanting to control everything and getting upset when they are unable to do so.
- Bottling up emotions: Because anger is not a socially accepted emotion, many people try to suppress their true feelings. If you do so often, you may find yourself feeling more and more resentful the more you push away or swallow your rage.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): Anger is a common symptom of OCD and affects about half the people with the condition. A person with OCD has disturbing obsessive thoughts, urges, or images that cause compulsive behavior.
- Alcohol abuse: Alcohol abuse can increase aggression. Alcohol impairs your ability to think clearly and make rational decisions. It also affects impulse control, making it harder for people to control violent behavior.
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): People with ADHD can get angry for no reason. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by inattentiveness, hyperactivity, impulsivity, and a short temper.
- Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD): A behavioral disorder that affects school-age children, ODD can cause a child to become defiant, argumentative, and easily annoyed by others.
- Bipolar disorder: Sometimes, anger, irritability, aggression, and rage can be symptoms of bipolar disorder, which is a brain disorder that causes dramatic shifts in mood. These mood shifts can range from high-energy manic episodes to depressive bouts of deep depression.
- Intermittent explosive disorder: People with this disorder have unexpected angry outbursts accompanied by physical aggression or violent behavior. They may overreact with anger that is out of proportion to the situation at hand.
- Borderline personality disorder (BPD): This disorder is characterized by depersonalization, mood swings, difficulty with relationships, and sometimes self-harm or suicide attempts. Many people with BPD experience anger due to abandonment issues.
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD): Anger can be a symptom of hormone fluctuations that can occur with PMDD, which is characterized by an extreme premenstrual strain that may come with intense mood swings and feelings of anger.
- Schizophrenia: Symptoms of schizophrenia include hallucinations and delusions. The disorder is sometimes associated with anger caused by the perception that others want to harm the person. Paranoid schizophrenia can lead to violent behavior.
What are the common causes for anger?
Finding the root cause of anger is one of the most important steps to managing it.
6 Common triggers for anger may include:
- Financial issues
- Family or personal problems
- Traumatic events
- Feeling unheard or undervalued
Sometimes, physiological processes, such as hunger, chronic pain, fear, or panic can also provoke anger for no apparent reason.
Anger can also be a symptom of a mental health issue, such as bipolar disorder, mood disorder, or neurosis. It can also be caused by hormonal imbalances, such as elevated levels of cortisol due to drugs or tumors, lowering levels of estrogen just before menses, thyroid hormone imbalances, etc.
What are the 3 types of anger?
The three general types of anger include the following:
- Passive anger: Characterized by bottling feelings of resentment or frustration as opposed to directly expressing them. These people may appear calm on the outside, but they typically harbor negative feelings inside.
- Aggressive anger: Characterized by physical or verbal expressions of anger. These people typically partake in destructive behavior or lash out at others.
- Assertive anger: Characterized by honest, direct, or sincere expressions of anger. These people can express their angry feelings in ways that are not harmful to themselves or others.
How is anger typically expressed?
People express anger in various ways, including:
- Ignoring people, becoming withdrawn or quiet
- Snapping, shouting, yelling, name-calling
- Swearing, making threats
- Lashing out physically, such as throwing objects or hitting others
- Inflicting self-harm, such as cutting oneself or banging one’s head
When to seek professional help
Controlling anger, whether the reasons are obvious or not, can be challenging at times. Dealing with an anger problem early is crucial, as it can help you to avoid it escalating to the point where you end up hurting yourself or others.
You should seek help if your anger affects your relationships, causes you to constantly feel negative or hostile, you are unable to control your anger, or you become physically violent.
How do you calm an angry child down?
As parents, you should let your children know that getting angry sometimes is okay. But, you also need to teach them how to quickly release anger by using these techniques.
- Validate your child’s feelings
- You want your child to know that having their emotions is fine. You don’t want them to feel like they need to hide their feelings.
- Validation is a powerful parenting technique when it comes to helping children calm down. It communicates to them that you understand and accept their emotions without being judgmental.
- Effective validation requires you to give your child undivided attention so that you can catch their facial expressions and body language as you try to understand their perspective.
- Showing your child that you’re listening can help avoid tantrums when your child builds up to explosive behavior.
- Develop their feelings vocabulary
- Kids who do not know how to communicate their frustrations display aggressive behavior such as hitting, kicking, biting, and screaming. Parents need to teach them emotional vocabulary that enables them to express their emotions.
- Some of the words you can teach kids include angry, frustrated, upset, mad, furious, nervous, agitated, anxious, and tense. Once they learn these words, help and encourage them instead of holding in anger or lashing out.
- Take deep breaths
- Deep breaths are an excellent relaxation technique that positively releases anger, even in adults. It has a similar effect on children.
- You can teach your child to take a few deep breaths when they are feeling angry or overwhelmed. Teach them to stand straight for a moment, close their eyes and take a few good breaths to relax and calm themselves.
- Hug it out
- A hug may not be the first thing you think of when your child is showing extreme levels of anger. However, hugs have a calming effect — and they are a powerful tool for helping your child calm down.
- Ask your child if they need a hug and then pull them close. The tension will ease their bodies.
Further techniques to reduce your child's anger
You can sometimes stop or reduce anger by using these techniques.
- Try a grounding technique
- Shutting children in a room when they’re upset may not give them enough space to express their feelings freely. Instead of giving your child an isolating timeout, you can turn to other grounding techniques, like counting various items in the room out loud. You can also go outside and count rocks or trees. The grounding method helps calm your child and equips them with skills for dealing with anger in the future.
- Create a calm-down corner
- Another effective way to calm your angry child is to have them take some time away. But, make sure that you present it as a helpful calming tool rather than a punishment area.
- You can place blankets and other comforting items in the calm-down area and sit with the child or near them. They should not think they are on timeout. Instead, they should view the area as a place they go to regain control over their emotions.
- Tell them to put their hands in their pockets
- Putting hands in pockets may not seem like much, but it offers a self-imposed restraint that offers a comforting pressure. This can be effective for kids who lash out and throw tantrums when angry.
- You can also encourage them to sit on their hands or hold their hands tightly for the same effect.
- Active ignoring
- Validating feelings is a great parenting tool. But, it doesn’t mean always giving attention or encouraging wrong behavior.
- You can use active ignoring tactics by withdrawing attention and reducing repetitive bad behaviors like arguing and whining. Turn your face or body away from your child who’s engaging in minor behaviors in an attempt to withdraw attention.
- The effectiveness of this method lies in giving your attention back to your child and praising them as soon as they start doing something positive.
Kids Health. Why Am I in Such a Bad Mood? https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/bad-mood.html
RAND. Are You Feeling... Tired, Sad, Angry, Irritable, Hopeless? https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monograph_reports/2005/MR1198.11.pdf
Child Mind Institute: “How to Help Children Calm Down”
The Children’s Society: “Anger.”
Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood: “Validating Young Children’s Feelings and Experiences of Fear.”
The European Journal of Developmental Psychology: “From children’s expressive control to emotion regulation: Looking back, looking ahead.”
Kids Health: “Taming Tempers,” “Train Your Temper.”
National Health Service: “Helping your child with anger issues.”
Orchids the International School: “How to Help Your Angry Child!”
Stanford Children’s Health: “Tips to Keep Your Anger Under Control.”
Yale Medicine: “Anger, Irritability and Aggression in Kids.”
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