When anger becomes a problem: How to recognise the symptoms

when anger becomes a problem

Anger can be a healthy emotion when it’s expressed constructively. We often need anger to motivate us to do certain things or make the hard choices. However, if you 

  • have difficulty controlling the intensity or duration of your anger
  • hit out or threaten people when angry
  • are not able to calm down
  • need alcohol or other substance to help you cope with the feeling
  • throw things, swear or say do things that you later regret
  • have been told your anger is problematic for other people or has caused difficulty in personal or work settings


you might have a problem with anger.

Difference between healthy and unhealthy anger.

If you are reading this page, you might want to figure out if your anger is okay or not. I shall give two scenarios as an example to explain the differences.

You get overlooked for a promotion after you have been working consistently to get a promotion.

Example 1. You can feel angry about getting overlooked, but other people would not see this anger.

The feeling you have is internal, not visible to other people. You can sit with the emotion, as you know not to act on it until you feel calm and have had time to think.

The emotion motivates you to speak with your boss at a later agreed-upon date and ask what you could do differently or what you need to work on to get promoted.

Example 2 is the same situation of not getting the promotion. 

Someone who has difficulty controlling their anger, may not be able to hide how they are feeling. Their anger is visible to other people in that they may move quickly, loudly, and state their upset freely. 

This person may be unable to set the emotion aside and carry on with the day’s work. Instead, they may immediately react to the feeling by insisting on speaking to their boss.

A critical difference between someone who can feel angry and someone who has a problem with anger is the ability to sit with the emotion and decide what the best thing to do is.


Types of anger

Inward anger is when a person directs their anger towards themselves. 

Outward anger is when a person expresses their anger or frustration outwardly, for example, through shouting, swearing or lashing out.

Passive-aggressive anger is where the person may not state clearly they are angry or last out.  Instead, they might use cutting remarks, and sarcasm or stop speaking to the person who offended them.

What to do if you think you have a problem with anger.

Explore what’s really behind your anger

When you’re angry, asking yourself why can be helpful. Often, anger is a sign that other feelings are hiding underneath. Maybe you’re anxious or scared or feel like someone has threatened you. It’s essential to explore what’s going on because understanding your emotions can help you manage them better.

It’s also worth noting that anger can sometimes be caused by things we learned as children. For example, if we grew up in a household where people always fought and yelled at each other, we might learn to associate anger with power and control. If this is the case for you, it will take some extra effort to manage your anger effectively.


Get to know your anger warning signs

When you know your body’s warning signs, you can anticipate when anger is starting to take over. This will help you to better manage the situation. Some common signs that indicate that anger is beginning to flare up are feeling anxious, tense, or short of breath. If you start feeling these things, stop and breathe.

There are breathing exercises at the bottom of this page that you are welcome to try.


If you’re worried that your anger might be getting out of control, ask yourself whether it’s hurting your quality of life. Are you struggling to keep your relationships healthy? Do you feel like you’re constantly stressed out? Are there situations in which you just can’t seem to control your temper? If the answer is yes, you might need to work on feeling and expressing anger in a way that is less damaging to you.

Anger management is all about minimizing the negative consequences that often come with uncontrolled anger.  It also means learning how to deal with intense emotions without hurting yourself or other people.

Getting help.

Start by reading this page which explains everything you need to know about the emotion of anger. Sometimes just being able to break the emotion down into its various parts can help.

If you think you need professional help, you will probably be referred to a therapist for cognitive behavioural therapy.

The outlook is good if you learn to both feel and express your anger in a way that you feel heard and that does not damage the other person.

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