What is Anger? Signs, Symptoms, Management & Prevention

Everyone gets angry sometimes, but when anger becomes overwhelming and debilitating, it is time for professional help. Anger management counseling provides effective relief. First and foremost, anger is a form of normal human behavior.

What is Anger

Anger in Brief

As an emotion, anger has been the subject of high-profile movies, books, and countless articles. It can even be comedic to watch someone get angry at something or someone.

As a reaction to a perceived threat, anger – like stress  – can be beneficial. It may give individuals the energy and focus needed to face the challenge.

It is normal to feel angry when we believe we were mistreated or invalidated when we are deceived, attacked, or even when we are simply frustrated. As a consequence, anger is not always a destructive emotion. Instead, it is part of our normal fight-or-flight response. That means getting angry can help a person identify dangers in front of them and give them additional strength to face that danger. 

Anger can also serve to identify problems or things that are hurting individuals. Most people have taken the first step toward resolving those issues by identifying them. Apart from highlighting problems, anger can be hugely motivating. It can spur us to create change and fix or remove the case we are angry about. In this context, anger becomes the driver behind positive life changes. 

Experiencing anger is not limited to adults. Children become angry as well. Depending on their age, they may express their anger differently from adults. For most people, episodes of anger are temporary and manageable. They do not need to impact their daily lives significantly and may even resolve without additional help. 

However, when anger overwhelms, the positive driver turns into a destructive and sometimes catastrophic emotion. That is when anger management therapy is necessary to manage the condition and prevent long-term damage to relationships and a person’s mental health. 

Symptoms of Anger

If you believe the movie version of anger, symptoms of this condition are prominent and easily recognizable. In some cases, that is true. In other cases, anger is directed inward and, therefore, less easy to spot. Despite being masked, this type of anger is equally detrimental. 

Recognizing problematic anger is the first step toward managing anger effectively. Recognition also helps prevent normal anger from developing into a complex mental health condition. Anger is not always expressed physically. Verbal anger can damage both the angry individual and those on the receiving end of a tirade or other outburst. 

Some of the most common symptoms of anger issues include: 

  • Physically and verbally hurting others, sometimes intentionally
  • Permanently feeling angry, even when there is no apparent cause for it
  • Find it difficult to control feelings of anger to a point where it disrupts daily routines
  • Struggling to express emotions calmly and resolve conflict quietly
  • Noticing that even small things can trigger an anger response easily
  • Frequently regretting your actions or some of the things you may have said to others and having to make apologies

Other symptoms of anger are directed inward at the angry person. Those symptoms include:

  • Talking to yourself negatively, including telling yourself that you hate yourself
  • Refusing to allow yourself things you like or even denying yourself basic needs such as food
  • Isolation by stepping back from social activities you used to enjoy as a form of punishment
  • Substance abuse and addictive behavior

Some anger sufferers show their anger quietly, in a passive-aggressive manner. They may ignore the person they are angry with or refuse to speak to them. People also express anger through their actions. Someone angry may refuse to do a task or do it badly on purpose. 

Anger can also be expressed through sulking or being sarcastic. It does not need to be noticeably aggressive. 

Whether signs and symptoms of anger are overtly aggressive or not, they can quickly amount to abuse. Violent anger can trigger physical abuse of another person, whereas subtle forms of anger may amount to emotional abuse. In either case, the consequences can be devastating for the angry person and those at whom the anger is directed. Both sides may suffer from long-term mental health issues because of their exposure to anger. 

Types of Anger

Mention anger issues, and most people will have an image of a person shouting and swearing or physically threatening others. This scenario is certainly one expression of anger. But other manifestations of this emotion can be equally detrimental to the individuals affected. 

Mental health experts distinguish between different types of anger. While there is no definitive list of formally distinguished anger types, some of the most widely accepted manifestations include:

Chronic anger

This term refers to a form of anger that no longer flares up and subsides. Instead, the increased anger level of the person suffering from it has become routine for them. Chronic anger is not only mentally detrimental for sufferers and those around them but also has physical consequences. Someone with chronic anger issues may suffer from a diminished immune response, making them more susceptible to illnesses. Chronic anger may also trigger other mental and behavioral health conditions such as depression. 


Passive anger

Passive anger. Passive anger can be difficult to identify. Instead of outright aggression directed at others, passive anger can be expressed through meanness, apathy, or sarcasm.

Naturally, not every sarcastic remark is a sign of anger. But if such a remark is paired with self-destructive behavior, such as being intentionally late for work or school, it can signify passive anger. 

In some cases, passive anger is easier for outsiders to notice. They may think that the person dealing with the disease is sabotaging themselves.

Overwhelmed anger 

This type of anger is caused by personal and professional life demands beyond what an individual can cope with. In some adults and children, those demands may cause stress; in others, they trigger an anger response.

Self-inflicted anger 

Self-inflicted anger is directed inward. It is hard for outsiders to recognize unless they notice self-sabotaging behaviors. Left untreated, this kind of anger may lead to severe mental health conditions, including self-harming.

Judgmental anger

Acting judgmentally toward others may be caused by different reasons. But if this type of anger becomes a regular occurrence, it can damage personal and professional relationships. While it is acceptable to voice constructive criticism, judgmental anger can damage the mental health of the angry person and the receiving party. 

Volatile anger

Volatile or aggressive anger is the type of anger most commonly featured in movies. This type of anger can involve loud, threatening outbursts and almost always be perceived as excessive. 

Some of these forms can overlap, and it is not uncommon for individuals with anger problems to experience more than one form of the issue at a time. 

Causes of Anger

Causes of anger can vary widely from person to person. In some cases, anger develops quickly and can be related to a significant life event. However, for many people suffering from anger that is hard to control, several causes collide. Mental health professionals have identified three common causes of problematic anger: environmental factors, genetics, and brain chemistry. 

Environmental factors

Environmental factors that may trigger problematic anger responses include financial issues or overwhelming demands on a person’s time or energy. Those problems may cause stress, which can then trigger anger. 

A problematic family environment or social situation may also lead to inappropriate anger responses. The angry person may feel that their response is justified at the moment. But they may regret their actions later. 

Victims of any abuse have been shown to develop anger issues following their trauma. Their anger may be directed at themselves, their perpetrators, or society. 


A family history of anger management issues can predispose an individual to these problems. In this respect, anger is similar to anxiety and depression

If your parents, grandparents, or other close family members suffer from anger management problems, you may be predisposed to those. Prevention and recognition of signs and symptoms become even more critical.

Brain chemistry

Struggling to control anger can also be related to how your brain regulates certain chemicals. The hormone serotonin is critical to maintaining mood and moderating anger. If your brain does not react to this hormone efficiently, it can be harder to control anger and deal with challenges appropriately. 

Prevention of Anger

Being predisposed to anger management problems does not mean you will inevitably develop these issues. However, understanding that you may be at a higher level of risk allows you to take precautions to prevent anger issues from spiraling out of control. 

Prevention of Anger

It is important to remember that from time to time, you get angry and lose your temper. For example, everyone reacts angrily when they feel they are being mistreated. The normal, healthy reaction to anger becomes problematic only when the person cannot stop being angry, gets angry for no reason, or the anger leads to violence.

Preventing anger from turning into a mental health condition starts with understanding a person’s response to anger triggers and developing better ways to deal with those emotions.

Treatment of Anger

Successful anger management can prevent long-term mental illness in those who suffer, as well as their families and loved ones. If left untreated, internal anger can lead to mental health disorders such as anxiety or self-harm. External, aggressive anger destroys relationships and can cause psychological and physical harm to others.

Anger management treatment can take different forms. Counseling is one of the most effective ways to address anger issues. Professional counselors start by working with their clients to identify the causes of their anger issues. 

Once causes are clear, counselors use treatment sessions to clarify how reasons are connected to an individual’s anger response. With causes and responses identified and correlated, counselors and clients work together to develop better coping strategies. Anger management counseling can even help those genetically or biologically predisposed to anger. 

Coping mechanisms vary from one individual to the other. Often, anger is an emotion that arises quickly, leading to an excessive reaction. If that is the case, counselors work with their patients to develop better ways of dealing with their anger. The goal is to avoid saying the first (angry) thing that comes to mind. Instead, clients learn to take a step back, breathe, and think about why they feel angry before expressing their feelings. 

Treatment of Anger

Some anger disorder sufferers tend to focus on their problem rather than looking for a solution. In those instances, counselors work to re-focus their clients’ attention. Rather than homing in on the situation, clients are encouraged to take a more productive approach and look for a solution for the issue at hand. 

Blaming others is a typical behavior shown by individuals who struggle with anger issues. Redirecting their attention to themselves rather than others can help address the underlying problem. Being able to forgive others and using humor are two other ways to relieve anger and move on to a more productive solution to a given situation. 

Responses to anger triggers vary widely. For that reason, it is essential to find a counselor who will take a personalized approach to treatment. Platforms like TrueCare™ have built extensive networks of highly qualified and experienced anger management counselors, making it easy to find support. 

Anger management counseling may be delivered through online, remote counseling sessions for those who like the convenience of this type of treatment. Many counselors also offer in-person sessions at their offices or within the client’s home. 

There is no preferred form of anger management counseling. What is most important is to assess the client’s specific issues and decide on the best course of treatment to resolve those issues. The client, their families, friends, and other loved ones all stand to benefit. 

About TrueCare™

TrueCare™ is a nationwide Health & Wellness platform for families and businesses providing end-to-end solutions for COVID-19 testing, screening, vaccination, home care, and corporate well-being services.

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