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Anger Management

About Anger Management

If you’ve ever had difficulty managing your anger, then you can attest to the overwhelming flood of emotion that feels totally out of your control. If this difficulty resonates with you or a loved one, then it is important to understand how the anger cycle works. 

The Anger Cycle:

Elevated Vulnerable Emotion –>

Anger Expression –> 

Physical and Emotional Tension Release –>

Shame and Guilt

Anger is a secondary emotion.  We express anger because it allows us to feign power and dominance which provides us with a sense of safety.  However, often underlying anger, are vulnerable primary emotions.  For example, you may raise your voice and utilize sarcastic word choices and tone, but underlying this anger you may be feeling hurt, judged, powerless, afraid or hopeless.  Expressing deeper emotions is difficult because it leaves us feeling even more exposed in a tough situation.


When we experience elevated emotion, our bodies physically react.  Our stress hormones elevate, we may experience chest tension, racing heart, sweating, shortness of breath and/or shakiness.  Once anger is expressed, we gain release of emotional and physical tension.


People with anger management difficulties often feel it’s like a “switch goes off” and there is no opportunity to act differently but to be angry.  This feeling is understandable because their bodies and brains become reactive to emotional elevation.  The reaction to elevated emotion is to seek release; the brain and body quickly learn they can gain this relief by expressing anger.  So, just like your leg jumps when your doctor tests your reflexes, your expression of anger can become an unconscious reflex to elevated emotion.


The last part of the cycle are the feelings of guilt and shame that always accompany a loss of anger control.  We hurt those around us, our true message is not communicated effectively, and we feel embarrassed by how we have behaved.  Basically, it stinks for all involved. The important thing to recognize is that while gaining control of anger is challenging work, it is achievable!  The rewards of learning how to emotionally regulate,  communicating more effectively and not experiencing guilt and shame, will make it a worthwhile effort.  


Take inventory of your symptoms. The following are common symptoms of anger management difficulties: 


  • Co-occurring mental health difficulties (i.e. anxiety or depression). 
  • Struggling to communicate about difficulties without getting angry.
  • Difficulty expressing emotions calmly.
  • Ignoring or refusing to speak to others.
  • Inward aggression (i.e. self-critical thinking or self-harm). 
  • Outward aggression (i.e. yelling, swearing, throwing things, physical violence). 
  • Physical symptoms (i.e. muscle tension, increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, tingling sensations).