How to Know if You Are Angry
Popular media may lead you to believe that anger is easy to spot. A guy blows up at his wife and storms off. A teenager pushes another teen who’s called them a name. In reality, you can harbor angry feelings without such obvious outbursts. Although it’s completely natural, anger can be a sneaky emotion that holds you captive, if you let it. Learn how to spot when you’re angry by examining the physical, mental, and emotional cues. Then, find healthy ways to manage your anger when it occurs.
Looking for Physical Signs
Notice signs of the "fight or flight" response.There are various physical sensations that occur in the body when you feel angry. You may experience a pounding heartbeat, muscle tension, trembling hands or rapid breathing.
- Because anger and stress often trigger the body’s “fight or flight” response, your body might feel similarly to how you would if you were defending yourself against danger.
Pay attention to any pain sensations you feel.Anger is a useful emotion that tells you what’s bothering you and warns you to regain control. However, if it hangs around long enough, your body may alert you by producing aches or pain, too.
- For example, you may experience headaches or stomachaches when feeling angry.
- Muscle tension and an increased heart rate can also be signs of anger.
Notice aggressive behaviors.Even without your permission (or awareness) your body may engage in a variety of behaviors when you feel angry. These may include relatively neutral movements like pacing or clenching your fist to more hostile behaviors like punching a wall or throwing something.
Observe changes on your face.When anger strikes, your heart rate and blood pressure increase. As a result, more blood is pumped throughout the body, notably in the face. You might notice a change in color or temperature in which your face flushes red and becomes really warm.
Noticing Mental and Emotional Signs
Listen for accusatory thoughts.Your thought process when angry often takes on a hostile nature due to the “fight or flight” response. You may have a strong desire to lash out at whoever you believe wronged you. You may have trouble thinking about anything else. Criticism and impatience with others are key signs of anger.
- For instance, a person bumps you hard in the street, causing you to spill your coffee. You might think, “What a jerk! He didn’t even have the decency to say “Excuse me!””
- Self-blame or criticism can be a sign that you are angry with yourself. If you find yourself thinking thoughts like "you're not good enough" or "why do you mess everything up?", you may need to evaluate how you perceive yourself.
Note any crying, yelling, or cursing.All emotions tend to run high when you feel angry. This may cause you to yell, scream, or curse at the offender. In some cases, you might even cry when you become really angry.
Pick up on sadness or depression.Anger is often described as an umbrella, underneath which many other emotions may lurk. Sadness and depression are two common emotions that may accompany anger. The sadness may be recognized by knots in the chest, somber thoughts, and tears. Depression may be harder to spot.
- Depression has been characterized as anger turned inwards, so you may spot depressive behaviors in the way you self-destruct, such as drinking, using drugs, or making bad decisions.
Spot heavy sarcasm.Many people vent their frustrations subtly with insults veiled under the pretense of humor, jokes, and sarcasm. On the surface, this might seem light-hearted, but you may be actually boiling down below. For instance, you might tell your spouse, “Oh, great! You finally showed up with dinner an hour late. I was just about to start nibbling on my thumbs.”
Managing Your Anger
Steer clear of triggers.One of the best ways to manage anger is to prevent it in the first place. If you know something tends to make you upset, steer clear of it whenever possible. For example, if slow clerks at stores make you angry, avoid going shopping when you’re in a rush or let someone else (like a partner or friend) deal with the clerk.
- Think about the things that make you angry—your triggers. Make a list of them and brainstorm workarounds you can use to avoid or minimize exposure to these triggers.
Write it out.If you have a strong desire to lash out at someone, put pen to paper and vent your thoughts and feelings. This is a much better scenario than approaching someone when you’re angry and giving them a piece of your mind. Add in a step where you journal about the situation and even strategize solutions.
- For instance, you might start by writing, "Carl made me angry when he used my headphones without asking." Then, try to figure out a solution for the future. "When I am angry, I will get some space to calm down and listen to relaxing music. I will also be more clear about people not borrowing my things without permission."
Learn to self-soothe.Start comforting yourself when you are upset and you may find that your anger fades more quickly. Put together a self-soothing toolbox of sorts that includes items and activities that calm you down.
- Try wrapping yourself in a warm and soft blanket, watching a funny movie, meditating, or listening to relaxing music.
Do a physical activity.Release your anger in a socially acceptable way by getting physical with a sport or exercise routine. Throwing something, punching the wall (or someone), and breaking things may release some anger, but these behaviors are harmful to you and others.
- Visit a gym to run on the treadmill or run outside on a trail. Sign up for a boxing or kickboxing class or try a more intense form of yoga like Bikram or Power.
- Keep in mind that exercising in the heat-of-the-moment can be dangerous for the heart. Wait until the “fight or flight” response passes and you’ve mostly calmed down before doing a physical activity. Even better, incorporate exercise or sports into your normal routine to keep your mood bright on a daily basis.
Reduce tension and pressure in other areas of your life.Frequent or constant anger may be a sign that you are dissatisfied or overwhelmed with one part of your life. You may feel stressed, overworked, or stuck. Take some time to decompress everyday. Reevaluate your goals to see if you can improve a situation you're unhappy with.
- Writing in a journal can help you figure out your desires and goals. You can start by writing a list of everything that stresses you out. Try to see if you can cut any of them out of your life or create solutions to make them less stressful.
- Set new goals for yourself. Make sure that they are actionable and reasonable. Give yourself a date to accomplish them by. For example, if you are frustrated because you are overworked, start saving for a vacation. Set a date for your vacation and put a little money aside each day.
QuestionWhat types of anger disorders are there?
Licensed Professional CounselorLicensed Professional CounselorExpert AnswerMost anger disorders can be considered emotional regulation problems where a person experiences strong emotions but does not have the coping skills to manage them in a healthy way.Thanks!
QuestionWhat is rage disorder?
Licensed Professional CounselorLicensed Professional CounselorExpert AnswerRage disorder is not an official diagnosis, however, intermittent explosive disorder is one where a person is unable to control anger outbursts and often results in violent or aggressive behavior.Thanks!
QuestionWhat are the symptoms of anger issues?
Licensed Professional CounselorLicensed Professional CounselorExpert AnswerExternalization of anger can include yelling, bursts of violence, and argumentative behaviors. Internalized anger can include blunted emotional expression, isolation, irritability, and mood swings.Thanks!
Video: 13 Signs You Might Have Anger Management Issues
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