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Anger

What is anger?

Anger is a normal human emotion. It is nature’s way of telling us that something in our lives has gone wrong. Anger occurs as a defensive response to a perceived attack or threat to our wellbeing, where a person’s goals or roles are thwarted or they perceive a situation to be unfair or unjust. In addition to psychological changes, like any emotion, anger is accompanied by physiological changes. When you get angry your adrenaline flows, the fight or flight response kicks in, your heart rate increases, and your blood pressure escalates. In primitive society, this emotion served to protect us.
 

The emotion of anger itself is not a problem, but the expression of anger can be. The way we have been raised and our cultural background directly affects our views on the expression of anger. When we express our anger assertively, it allows us to stand up for ourselves and it can help us express tension and energise us and help us feel in control.

This healthy expression of anger is good as it keeps the body and mind in balance. However, it has negative effects when it anger is expressed aggressively and with lack of control, when it dictates the way we feel all of the time, and when it disrupts relationships, causes us to lose our friends, our jobs or even our freedom. Secondly, if the anger is inhibited, it turns inwards causing problems. The extra energy given by the “fight or flight” response needs to be used up somehow, and if there is no tension release occurs, physical and mental problems can develop.

The effects anger can have on you include:
 

Physical effects

  • Digestive problems that can lead to heartburn, ulcers, colitis, gastritis and irritable bowel syndrome;

  • Heart and circulatory problems including blocked arteries;

  • Increased blood pressure;

  • Inflammations of joints and muscles;

  • A weakened immune system;

  • Lowered pain threshold;


Emotional effects

  • Depressive symptoms if anger is turned inwards


Behavioural effects

  • Addiction to alcohol, tobacco or other drugs;

  • Compulsive behaviour such as excessive eating, overworking, meticulous cleaning and even out of control sexual activities;

  • Bullying other people to make yourself feel better;

  • Ill-planned political activity such as terrorism or going on strike;

How common are anger problems?

Studies show that anger problems are as common as depression and anxiety, but people don’t often see it as a problem, or don’t realise there are ways to tackle it. One person in five has ended a relationship because of the way the other person dealt with anger.

What is the treatment for anger?

There are a number of specific CBT interventions used for the treatment of anger. These include:

  • Relaxation Techniques

  • Identify and challenging unhelpful thoughts

  • Identifying goals and how to attain them

  • Time out strategies

  • Problem solving

  • Social Skills training

  • Assertiveness Training and conflict Resolution