In response to being criticized or ignored, or when overwhelmed with daily hassles, people can feel irritated, annoyed, or angry. This is a normal reaction. In fact, when anger is experienced and expressed appropriately, it can lead to healthy coping and constructive change. On the other hand, frequent, intense, and enduring anger can be quite harmful.
Anger is not limited to shouting and yelling. Angry individuals may become intimidating and aggressive. They may hurt themselves, others, or property. Also, some individuals feel bad about their anger, and that can lead to guilty reactions. Uncontrolled and excessive anger causes problems in all areas of life. It can result in relationship problems with friends, family, or coworkers. Extreme anger may lead to problems with the law. But not all angry people show it. Angry individuals may not show their anger outwardly. Rather, it remains inside and they harbor fantasies of “getting even.”
There are many reactions to anger. Some reactions to anger are immediate. For example, people are likely to avoid angry individuals since it is unpleasant to be the recipient of anger. Angry individuals may themselves suffer from headaches, stomach problems, and so on. Other consequences of anger may emerge over the longer term. Angry individuals who keep it bottled up may withdraw, sulk, and brood. They may experience anguish and inner turmoil. They tend to develop lower self-esteem, more anxiety, and more alcohol and drug abuse than people who are less angry. Uncontrolled anger may eventually lead to heart disease, elevated blood pressure, and cancer, as well as to relationship and work problems.
Counseling or psychotherapy can help you (or others in your life) deal with an anger problem. In seeking therapy, you may wish to consider several general issues. First, realize that anger is a common and sometimes normal human emotion. It is sometimes appropriate to be angry. But, when anger is exaggerated, uncontrolled, or linked with dysfunctional behavior, it becomes a problem that can affect all areas of life.
Second, note that angry behavior patterns are habits that are developed, repeated, and reinforced over a lifetime. Fortunately, these habits can be changed. Much anger is an automatic emotional response and, with practice, it can be reduced. Thus, it is important to ask prospective therapists how techniques for anger management will be learned and practiced. Third, if you have concerns regarding the confidentiality of treatment, discuss these issues with your therapist. Since laws vary from state to state, your therapist would be in the best position to explain the doctor-patient privilege. You should be aware that therapists, to prevent harm, may warn a potential victim of aggression if a client intends to hurt someone. This is a normal professional procedure.
Approaches to Anger Therapy
There are many different approaches a therapist may use to help an individual control anger. Some people may benefit from exploring their family backgrounds while others may be helped with medication. You should know that cognitive behavior therapy techniques have been shown to be very effective for anger reduction and often represent the treatment of choice. Not everyone, of course, will find every technique to be useful.