Content reviewed by Karen Rubenstein, LMFT, Chief Clinical Officer at ARC
Anger is a normal human emotion that everyone feels from time to time. Anger can help you identify when something or someone is hurting you or threatening your well-being in some way. It can push you to take action and address whatever problem is at hand. This sensation is tied to your fight-or-flight response, increasing your heart rate and sharpening your focus in the event you need to defend yourself.
Although valuable to your safety and well-being, anger can be an unhealthy emotion if it frequently gets the best of your thoughts and behaviors and causes harm to others. There are four main reasons you could be angry and a number of ways you can manage it.
#1 Childhood and upbringing.
The environment you were raised in and the influences you were exposed to have a significant impact on who you are today. You may have witnessed your parents or other family members express themselves in angry or violent ways and grew up thinking this behavior is normal.
On the other hand, maybe you were scared by their angry outbursts and learned to keep your feelings to yourself to avoid conflict. Similarly, you may have been taught not to complain or rock the boat, leading you to suppress your invalidated emotions.
All three of these scenarios result in improper expression of emotion.
#2 Traumatic life experiences.
If you encountered traumatic life experiences either in childhood or in your later years, it is possible that you still have unresolved issues that are fueling your aggression. Some adults that experienced bullying, child abuse or neglect growing up lack confidence, self-control and self-esteem later in life.
During this critical period, perhaps you were unable to safely share your trauma story, or you had no one to turn to. Certain people, places or things might trigger these past experiences and negative emotions associated with them today.
#3 Current life circumstances.
Your anger could be due to things happening in your life right now. For example, you may still be mad at yourself for relapsing recently or falling through on your recovery plan in some way. Maybe you are upset about a friend you lost to their own addiction and are moving through the five stages of grief.
Stressful life circumstances can cause you to feel on edge and irritated. This is because your mind is still cycling through issues that are still pending, so unrelated annoyances can send you over the edge. You might inadvertently direct your anger elsewhere.
#4 Addiction and mental health conditions.
Your emotions could be due to an addiction or a mental health disorder.
Excessive alcohol use, in particular, is known to increase the risk of a person committing violent acts such as homicide, suicide and sexual assault. Anger can also stem from feelings regarding your inability to control your substance use. You might want to stop but simply can’t. It is normal to feel this way when you are struggling with addiction, but effective treatment can help you heal and rid yourself of anger.
Anger is also a common symptom shared by the following mental health disorders in adults:
- Bipolar disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Intermittent Explosive Disorder
- Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD)
There are consequences to ignoring your anger.
Learning to manage your anger and dealing with underlying issues is vital to protect the health and well-being of yourself and those around you. When you express anger inwardly, you may develop hateful self-narratives that can lead to self-harm and self-deprivation of your basic needs.
Expressing your anger outwardly by exploding on others is also harmful. You risk hurting and pushing away people that you love. Uncontrolled anger can escalate quickly and turn violent, ending in a tragedy and serious legal consequences.
You can manage & overcome angry emotions.
Some basic self-help tips may be enough to help you manage your anger in the short term. The next time you feel a burning desire to lash out, count to ten before you say or do anything. Excuse yourself for a moment if needed. Challenge these negative emotions and think about whether they are truly warranted. Try the 4-7-8 breathing technique used to calm anxiety, as this can help clear the mind and lower blood pressure.
In the long-term, therapy may be critical to uproot learned behaviors from childhood and heal from traumatic experiences that allow your anger to persist. Therapy can help you develop healthy ways of expressing negative emotions. Anger due to a mental health disorder or an addiction may require treatment to effectively manage in the long term. +
Authentic Recovery Center is a treatment center in West Los Angeles, California, specializing in helping patients with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health conditions. If you are struggling with anger and unsure why, the time to seek help is now. Addiction, mental health and trauma may play a role in what you are experiencing. Call us at (866) 786-1376 today.