Effective tips for dealing with anger

When you’re dealing with anger, you can ‘hate’ yourself for losing your control, despite your best intentions.

Because the more emotional we become as human beings, the more unpredictable we are. You may well have experienced that already and, if so, I suspect that deep down the red mist has really scared you.

Maybe you’re well aware that you’re hurting the people around you, and that your temper’s always on a short fuse. Maybe you know that people feel insecure when they’re with you, never knowing what kind of mood you’ll be in and how you’ll react. Maybe you feel insecure too, and always at the mercy of your anger.

At one end of the scale and when it’s under control, anger is a natural and potentially useful reaction. Somewhere in the middle, it helps you achieve the seemingly impossible. And at the other end of the scale, it kills.

Only you know at which point you’re deliberately out to hurt someone and when you’re beyond your own control. Either way, it’s time for some anger management counselling or to attend a course on learning to deal with that rage.

My aim is to help you to understand what’s happening to you, and learn what you can do about it both immediately and in the long-term. I, therefore, hope that the information in this article will set you off on the right track.

Watch this short video with tips for dealing with anger

Then read this article for a ton of anger management tips and advice…

You may also be interested in…

 … my article on anger management counselling or therapy.

Before you consider anything else – could your medication be the cause of your anger?

If you’re on tablets that play havoc with your mental state, there’s little point in your going for anger management counselling. You won’t stand a chance of gaining control if your meds are sabotaging your attempts to overcome your rage.

Doubtless, you’ll be attaching your anger to something or someone. But it’s possible that your feelings have nothing to do with what happened at that particular moment. Afterwards, you may not even remember what the problem was in the first place!

It may be that your medication is contributing to you feeling – or even causing you to feel – anything from mildly irritable to completely out of control with rage, even over seemingly nothing at all! So, the first thing you’ll need to do is to check the side effects. 

Everything you are presently angry about, blocks you from seeing happiness

Prescribed medication and anger

The following prescribed drugs can cause anything from mild irritability to an absolute rage with homicidal and/or suicidal feelings?

Any of these can (but do carefully check the side-effects of any medication you’re taking):

  • Adderall to treat ADHD and narcolepsy (also used as a recreational drug)
  • Lamotrigine (brand name Lamictal) to treat epilepsy and bipolar disorder
  • Antidepressants from the SSRI family, i.e. they’re prescribed not only for depression but for a whole variety of mood disorders. They’re often prescribed for anger problems, but I really don’t think they’re the best treatment for that
  • Beta-blockers to treat high blood pressure and heart problems
  • Statins to treat high cholesterol
  • Benzodiazepines prescribed for anxiety and sleep problems

Could you just stop taking your medication?

Under no circumstances should you stop taking your prescribed medication.

Why not?

Stopping abruptly can be extremely dangerous and can severely damage your health. So, if you’re concerned about side-effects, you must speak to your doctor before you make any kind of change to your intake.

Are you taking any recreational drugs?

Recreational drugs include: 

  • Stimulants such as cocaine, marihuana (yes, the newer version!) methamphetamine, amphetamine and synthetics nicknamed bath salts and spice”
  • Hallucinogens such as LSD and PCP.

Anger and depression are linked. And if you are using recreational drugs, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you’re, very sadly, suffering from depression too. So I really hope this article is going to be of use to you if only to nudge you in the direction of professional help.

Why you might need a brain scan when you’re dealing with anger

Sounds scary and rather dramatic, doesn’t it?

But you may have, knowingly or unknowingly, suffered a (minor) head injury, and one of the symptoms of that is rapid and seemingly uncontrollable changes of mood.

Could you have:

  • fallen on your head as a child or an adult,
  • had an accident after which a brain injury may or may not have been diagnosed,
  • been hit on the head by someone,
  • or have you played contact sports such as boxing, rugby or football (now known to cause brain problems)?

There may be another underlying factor – a bit of a tricky one. Watch the video below to find out why…

The most important lesson from 83,000 brain scans | Daniel Amen | TEDxOrangeCoast

Let’s now try to discover more about what might be going on for you as an individual.

Interactive anger test

  1. Are you regularly feeling irritable all day long?
  2. Are you feeling stressed much of the time?
  3. Do you explode at the smallest provocation?
  4. Are you able to control your anger at work, but let rip easily at home?
  5. Do you find yourself constantly making negative judgments about people’s intentions and their behaviour?
  6. Has anybody ever commented on the fact that you seem to be losing your temper easily?
  7. Do people around you suddenly break away in the middle of a discussion with you?
  8. Are you aware that you seem to want to pick a fight frequently?
  9. Do you quickly suffer from ‘the red mist’ (you seem to lose all connection with the outside world and are aware only of your rage)?
  10. Do you suffer often from headaches and muscle pains?

Your score is:

Here are some more potential contributing factors...

There may be reasons for your anger, but...

 ... none of those mentioned in this article is an excuse for the damage you may be causing to other people and your relationships!

Why you may be getting so angry

To start with, I want to help you by giving you some clear direction in your self-help journey. Your first step is to explore in a little bit more detail what your anger looks like.  

These are the questions I'd ask you if you came to me for anger management counselling. Feel free to grab a pen and paper, and let's get started...

Anger test: 19 questions to uncover any contributing factors to your anger problem

  1. Have you always had a temper?
  2. Have you always been easily irritated or frustrated?
  3. Do you consider people are generally less worthy than you and therefore you've given yourself permission to let rip?
  4. Have you been deeply wounded by someone and/or by something that's happened? 
  5. Have people you love been deeply hurt? 
  6. Have you been unfairly treated or criticised?
  7. Have you been badly let down by someone?
  8. Do you seem to be getting angry about nothing - none of these reasons exists for you?
  9. Do you have the warrior gene? Is there a family history of aggression and violence? (Learn more from the surprising family history and the brain scan of neuroscientist James Fallon)
  10. Have you been feeling depressed? I have plenty of pages on that subject, but I'd recommend you start by filling out a depression questionnaire (see links below). Alternatively, you can connect with a professional, licensed therapist. It's now very easy, and affordable to set up an online session. See my page on mental health counselling.
  11. Have you been going through a particularly stressful time? See my article Tips to deal with stress.
  12. Are you having relationship problems? If you need to take action right now to save your relationship - even if your partner seems to have given up - get my Loving Communication Kit for Couples. You'll get a bundle of expert tools to help you start turning things around right away. Or connect with a relationship counsellor for support and advice.
  13. Are you suffering from a lack of sleep? See Natural sleep remedies.
  14. Are you having problems at work? (You may be able to get some anger management therapy at work)
  15. Could you be suffering from a post-trauma stress reaction, or even full-blown PTSD, from a work-related incident, accident or from growing up in a violent environment?
  16. Do you suffer from low self-esteem and quickly feel criticised? See my article on how to build your self-esteem.
  17. Could you be suffering from fluctuating blood-sugar levels? Have you been tested for diabetes? A low blood sugar level can make you super irritable!
  18. Could you be dealing with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD**)? Fluctuating hormones can cause severe irritability, anxiety and depression in the week(s) before your period. See also my article about peri-menopausal symptoms and how to support your partner through the menopause.
  19. Are you quickly feeling jealous?
This woman's body language shows that she is overburdened and may be about to explode.
No wonder you're feeling angry all the time! Hypnosis for anger, particularly when you're stressed, can be highly effective.

Anger management worksheet

Whatever the cause of your anger, I'd guess that you're really struggling to find ways to manage it.

Therefore, I've developed this worksheet to help you increase your awareness and start to conquer the problem.

Anger management worksheet front cover: How to control your anger
It's free, so do make use of it!

Fight or flight, or tend and befriend?

Let me explain the psychology of what happens to your mind/body when you lose it.

Why the need?

Because the more you understand the psychology of it all, the better your chance of gaining control and even overcoming the problem completely when you're dealing with anger.

It is vital you understand the following...

When you're seething, your brain goes into survival mode. It adopts a better to be safe than sorry approach - fight or flight.

Shelley Taylor discovered in her research that this flight/fight mechanism is true particularly for men*. Women, she says, have on the whole a very different emergency response - they are more likely to tend and befriend.

In any case, the effects are:

  • black and white, all or nothing thinking,
  • loss of objectivity,
  • loss of context,
  • a narrow focus of attention locked often on something insignificant (though not necessarily so of course),
  • inability to consider other people's points of view.

Think about how dangerous that can be! You may hardly know what you're doing at that moment. You could even have an anger blackout and forget what you've done whilst in the grip of the red mist.

So, you can see that there's no point in discussing any subject when you're in such a trance state.

How to control your anger with hypnosis

The good news is that as human beings we can make use or our innate tendency and ability to go into a trance state. In fact, that's exactly what happens when you lose control - you're in trance!

Therefore, I highly recommend that you have a look at how you can help yourself with a self-hypnosis download. Self-hypnosis is a really effective, user-friendly and affordable aid to making permanent changes.

Photo: face of angry woman. Text: Need help? Chat with a professional counsellor. Click here.
Get the reassurance, support, advice and relationship help from a licensed therapist now. It can be such a relief to get things off your chest and discover a way forward!

Are these anger management tips right for you?

Know that I write the following without any judgement. Remember, my aim is truly to help you...

4 additional causes of anger and how to deal with them

  1. You've been allowed to be angry too much or spoilt as a child
    Therefore you're unlikely to have learnt to deal with anger appropriately.
    My article on how to deal with a narcissist may give you some insight.
  2. Deep down, you enjoy the power it brings
    See my article: Signs of an abusive relationship
  3. Your body is feeling the strain
    Apart from low blood sugar, several other health problems could be underlying your problem, such as inflammation (yes, really!*), liver disease, a stroke or pain.
    Therefore, do make an appointment with your healthcare provider for a checkup.
  4. You've played (or are still playing contact sports
    You may well have suffered repeated (minor) head injuries. Therefore, I would like you to read my article: CTE and your relationship.
5 Reasons your anger may not be (purely) psychological, 1. Liver disease 2. Blood sugar fluctuations 3. Minor brain injury 4. Medication side-effects, 5. Warrior gene.
Remember though - these are reasons, not excuses!
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How to deal with anger when you think you're going to lose it

There are times when you just know in advance that you're going to get into trouble. Here are some anger management tips to help you make those occasions more manageable:

  • Set a time limit on a difficult discussion.
  • Deal with one subject at a time.
  • Agree to stay calm for that time.
  • Plan time to relax and have fun after the discussion (use my fun relationship quizzes).
  • Plan to do some aerobic exercise immediately afterwards.
  • Learn to apologise sincerely.

For more information on how to have a decent conversation about tricky subjects, see my article How to stop constant arguing in a relationship.

Is your child struggling to control their anger?

Inuit parents have been teaching their children to deal with anger in a surprising and wonderfully effective way for thousands of years.

Read here how something as simple as the power of storytelling can dramatically improve a child's ability to deal with their emotions.

How to control your anger when you're feeling provoked

Below is a list of potential provocations. It comes with a cautionary note: depending on how you act out your anger, provocation is not an excuse for you to lose it.

However, the list may help you to identify any patterns in your behaviour relating to your anger getting out of control.

You can also use this list to help yourself become aware of how much you use these kinds of behaviours and ways of communicating. It's possible that you set people off to become defensive (i.e. provocative) by the way you treat or talk to them.

judging

put-downs

attacks

trivialising

blaming

sarcasm

sneering

lying

sulking

shouting

assuming

dismissals

threats

pressure

unwanted advice

lecturing

stonewalling

belittling

defending

justifying

humiliating

Emotional abuse

Unrelenting criticism, name-calling, sarcasm, sneering, belittling, stonewalling and humiliating are all forms of emotional abuse and are unacceptable in any relationship.

Picture quote: Live without pretending, love without depending, listen without defending, speak without offending
Also, listen out for how you talk to yourself about yourself

Anger management tips to help you stay cool, calm and relaxed

How to avoid anger outbursts

  • Avoid making assumptions or jumping to conclusions at all costs.
  • Keep focusing on what's being said.
  • Avoid interruptions with: "Yes, but", or "No, I don't....".
  • Check what was meant before you respond.
  • Remain respectful regardless of someone else's reactions or opinions.
  • Avoid wanting to be right - this is one of my best anger management tips.
  • Avoid holding a monologue - i.e. talking without listening carefully.
  • Avoid provocations (see box above).

8 steps to control anger outbursts

  1. Take time out
    State calmly that you'd like a little time out to reflect.
  2. Agree a time limit
    You need at least a twenty-minute break.
  3. Take deep breaths
    Breathe out very slowly.
  4. Continue counting your breaths
    7 counts in, 11 counts out.
  5. Divert your attention
    Read, plan, talk to someone else.
  6. Avoid rehearsing your reasons for being angry
    or being right.
  7. Allow your mind and body to calm down
    until you can think clearly again.
  8. Look at it the situation from the other person's perspective
    You may be surprised!

These self-help tips are useful in any situation where something becomes too much and you can't take it anymore. All of these tips are the things I'd be teaching you if you were here with me right now for anger management counselling.

Once you get a grip on your anger, you'll find that any relationship problems become far more manageable.

I also encourage you not to bottle things up. Talk to someone, ask for relationship advice, be that from a wise, non-judgemental person in your surroundings or a professional counsellor.

Finally

Whatever the reason for your anger outbursts, take courage from the fact that you can learn to control your anger and process your emotions. The anger management techniques on this page are designed to point you in the right direction.

Allow yourself the time and space you need to get to the root cause of your anger and figure out how to heal old wounds or deal with current stresses.

Also, don't forget to take positive action!

Your partner or spouse may really appreciate your apologies and beautiful (Valentine's day) card messages. That is if you haven't apologised once too often without taking any meaningful actions to prevent those outbursts from happening again!

And ask for help and support if you need it, either from loved ones, friends or a professional. It will take a little time and some consistent, conscious effort - but I know you can sort this, and I'm rooting for you!

Background photo: silhouette of woman's face. Text: Need advice? Get help. Chat with a licensed therapist now.
Your problem is never too big, too small or too embarrassing to get personal advice from a professional counsellor!

References

*Azar, B. A new stress paradigm for women. American Psychological Association, 2000, via APA

**U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office on Women's Health: Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)