Anger is a normal, healthy human emotion. When it is an authentic form of self-expression, anger is assertive and can enrich and repair relationships.
Anyone who has been in a relationship before knows how hard they can be. Every relationship is made up of imperfect people, often with different expectations. If you are expecting things to be great all the time, you are going to find yourself disappointed at some point. It’s perfectly normal for couples to have disagreements in their relationship.
And, while many couples understand that they aren’t always going to agree with each other, many don’t understand the danger of anger in their relationship.
How Do We Define Anger?
It’s important to understand what anger is. The Merriam Webster dictionary definition of anger is, “a strong feeling of displeasure and usually of antagonism.” It also describes it as “rage,” which is defined as “an intense feeling” or “a fit of violent wrath.”
In a simpler form, anger is the emotion people have when they are experiencing negative feelings. Anger in itself isn’t a bad thing. But the way that people often express their anger ends up being a bad thing.
Why Is Anger A Danger In Relationships?
When anger is not handled properly in a relationship, it can cause irreparable damage. For example, if you are constantly reacting in rage that is more than necessary for the situation you may add trouble to a relationship. If your partner tires of the drama, they may decide to end the relationship.
It’s also easy to get angry when someone else is dealing in an angry way with you. That means that the argument continues to escalate until you are shouting at each other or have gone the opposite route and decided just to ignore each other. When neither person can stay calm, it can make disagreements grow into something huge. It also makes the disagreement about more than what it was originally about.
And when anger goes too far and is not controlled, it can result in verbal, emotional, or physical abuse. No form of abuse is acceptable in a relationship. This looks like name calling, belittling, or hitting or causing physical harm to the other person.
E-book: Breaking The Cycle Of Abuse
What Does Healthy Anger Look Like?
Many things in life warrant us to experience feelings of outrage. However, these things are not usually what we focus our rage on. For example, as humans, we should feel anger when we see that other people are being abused or mistreated.
Do you find yourself wondering, “Why am I so angry?” It might be a sign that you need to find some healthy ways to manage this difficult emotion.
Ways to Cope With Anger
If you are experiencing rage, there are things that you can do to manage your emotions. Below is a list of some things that may help.
Take Some Deep Breaths
When anger strikes, it’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment. Your body often enters a state known as the fight or flight response, which helps prime your body to take action. Your heart rate increases and you begin to breathe much more rapidly.
In order to take control and reduce feelings of anger, it can be helpful to focus on your breathing. Focus on taking slow, deep, controlled breaths. Rather than taking shallow breaths that only fill your chest, try taking in deeper breaths that expand your belly as well.
The great thing about deep breathing is that it is something that you can use quickly in the moment whenever anger threatens to overwhelm you.
It can give you time to calm yourself, take some moments to think, and respond in a way that isn’t going to have long-term negative effects.
Recognize Your Response to Anger
Feelings of anger are usually accompanied by both physical and mental symptoms. You might feel your heart rate and breathing increase. You may feel feelings of frustration, stress, irritation, and rage. Your outrage may also trigger anxiety and feel overwhelming at times, and afterwards you might be left with feelings of guilt.
It is important to remember that anger isn’t always expressed in the same way. Outward expressions of anger such as yelling or breaking things may be more apparent, but anger can also be expressed in more inward or passive ways.
Passive anger often involves withholding attention or affection in order to punish others. The silent treatment and sulking are two examples of more passive expressions of irritation.
Change Your Thinking
One way to reduce your anger is to change the way that you think about events, people, or situations. When you find yourself focusing on things in a negative or irrational way, it’s easy to get caught up in emotions that feel dramatic and even overwhelming.
Cognitive reframing is a technique that is often used in some types of therapy to help change the way that people think about the things that happen to them. By changing these thoughts, you may be less likely to experience negative emotions such as anger.
Use Relaxation Strategies
In addition to deep breathing, learning relaxation strategies such as mindfulness, meditation, visualization, and progressive muscle relaxation can help you keep your cool when you find yourself getting angry.
For example, mindfulness is an approach that encourages people to focus on the here and now, including how they are feeling in the present moment.
Learning how to be mindful of how you are feeling can foster a greater sense of self-awareness and often allows you to look at anger-provoking situations in a more detached way.
Understand Why You’re Feeling Angry
In addition to finding new ways to think and respond, it is also important to understand what might be triggering your anger in the first place. Anger can be caused by a number of different things.
Factors such as your personality, your coping style, your relationships, and your stress levels can all play a part in determining how much outrage you experience in response to different situations and triggers.
Some things that can trigger anger include:
- Conflicts in relationships
- Family problems
- Financial problems
- Memories of negative events
- Problems at work
- Situations such as traffic, accidents, canceled plans, or being late
In some cases, however, anger may be a symptom of an underlying mental health condition. Some of the conditions that may cause anger include:
Alcohol use disorder: Consuming alcohol can contribute to feelings of anger, particularly if you drink too much at once or if you consume alcohol regularly.
Alcohol can make it difficult to control your emotions, decrease inhibition, and affect your ability to think clearly, all of which may contribute to feelings of outrage.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that begins in childhood and is marked by symptoms of hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity. A short temper and outbursts of anger are also quite common.
Bipolar disorder: Bipolar disorder is marked by dramatic changes in mood. People often experience periods of depression that can be marked by hopelessness, sadness, and irritability. They may also experience mania characterized by agitation, euphoria, and impulsivity. Both mood states can produce feelings of anger.
Depression: Depression causes symptoms of low mood, irritability, and hopelessness. Such symptoms may also play a part in periods of anger.
Intermittent explosive disorder (IED): People with this condition experience episodes of angry, aggressive behavior. They often have intense bursts of anger that are out of proportion to the situations and are accompanied by arguments, tantrums, and even violence.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): OCD is characterized by the presence of unwanted obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. Research also suggests that many people with the condition also experience feelings of frustration and anger.
Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD): Children with this condition are often irritable, short-tempered, and angry. They frequently display defiance, argue with parents and others, and may have outbursts of anger and aggression.
Where To Find Help
If you’re struggling to manage your anger and stress, consider talking to someone. A licensed mental health professional can help you find healthy ways to deal with your emotions while also addressing any potential underlying causes, such as depression.
Learning new coping skills, finding healthy ways to express yourself, and discovering strategies that reduce the intensity of your emotions can help you feel better.