Understanding and managing unhealthy behaviour patterns
Anger is a normal human emotion experienced by everyone. When felt at a level that is manageable, and expressed in a healthy way, anger can be adaptive.
This emotion functions to motivate people to make right something that is wrong, to stand up for themselves or others when they have been unfairly treated, and to make an injustice just. However, when anger is not managed in a healthy way, felt at an overwhelming intensity and/or felt chronically, it can be highly destructive.
The consequences of mismanaged anger are profound, impacting a person’s relationships, work and mental and physical health. Health problems include migraines, backaches, and cardiovascular problems. Mental health problems associated with mismanaged anger include anxiety and depression, substance abuse, eating disorders and sleep disorders.
The feeling of anger is accompanied by a number of biological changes in the body such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, feeling shaky, hot and sweaty and out of control due to the release of stress hormones. These sensations, accompanied by angry thoughts can lead a person to behave in an aggressive way such as yelling, criticising, throwing things, or sometimes withdrawing and ruminating.
At the extreme end of the spectrum anger can lead to violence and/or abuse of another person by using fear and intimidation. Not everyone who has trouble managing their anger directs it at other people, some people may turn their anger inwards towards themselves which can be just as destructive. When angry, a person may feel out of control of their actions, and then after the event, feel shame, guilt and remorse. The good news is that anyone can learn how to cope with their feelings and manage and express their anger in a healthy way.
So how does a person know when their anger is a problem? Some signs include: when it involves verbal, emotional, physical or psychological abuse, when a person feels angry most of the time and or/the feeling lasts well after the triggering event has passed or been resolved, when anger is causing problems in personal and work relationships, when a person uses anger to get what they want, when the anger is out of proportion to the triggering event, and/or when a person is worried about their anger or using alcohol or drugs to manage their anger.
Anger management aims to help a person understand their anger and why it happens, then provide techniques to reduce the emotion, thoughts, physiological sensations associated as well as change any unhealthy behaviour patterns.
Although it may not be possible to change the environment of people that lead to feelings of anger, a person may learn how to build resilience to such situations so they feel more in control of their emotions, thoughts and reactions. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is an example of a therapy that can be used to learn relaxation, thought challenging, communication and problem solving to help a person better manage their anger.
Some useful links:
24-hour counselling, suicide prevention and mental health support
Telephone: 13 11 14
Provides information on anxiety, depression, and related disorders
Telephone: 1300 22 4636
Services, Anger Management