Anger management - do you have a problem?

Caroline Cassidy

Modern lives are largely stressful and it's completely natural to feel frustrated and angry on occasion. When it begins to affect relationships, work or social behaviour, however, anger can quickly become a destructive force.

anger management
anger management

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A survey by the Mental Health Foundation found that 28 per cent of adults are concerned about their level of anger on occasion and 32 per cent said a friend or relative was struggling to curb their temper.

We take a look at how anger can negatively affect your life and what you can do to keep it in check.

The effects
Regular bouts of uncontrollable anger can seriously affect your relationships with loved ones, result in physical fights and anti-social behaviour and even cause problems at work.

But it's not just emotionally that anger affects your life - when under stress (often a cause of anger problems) the human body releases hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which increase the heart rate, blood pressure, temperature and breathing.

Because of these physical changes, intense anger can eventually cause health problems such as headaches, insomnia, depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, heart attack or stroke.

Without management it can also lead to domestic violence and, where anger is suppressed, lead to pent-up frustration that can cause the sufferer to self harm.

The first step towards controlling your anger is to recognise the signs - an increased heart rate or breathing, or physical tension.

If these point to a likely confrontation, try to slow your breathing by exhaling for longer than you inhale (thereby lowering the heart rate and reducing the body's hormonal reaction), or count to 10, giving you time to think more clearly.

At times when you are on the verge of losing your temper, try to take a moment to consider the situation - an outburst is often the result, not of the immediate situation, but of past issues that have remained unresolved. Write it down if it helps to clear your head.

Trying to understand exactly why you are angry (which takes practice) will enable you to think more rationally and avoid lashing out at the wrong person. Once you are in control of your temper, try to discuss the issue in a calm environment.

While such techniques may provide a quick-fix solution, however, it is important to learn how to manage your anger issues in the long term.

Regular exercise is a great way to release some of that pent-up frustration and tension. Jogging, swimming and even a long walk will help to reduce stress and cause your body to release feel-good hormones such as endorphins.

Taking time to properly relax can also help - from massage to meditation, learning diaphragmatic breathing techniques or just listening to calming music, regular time out will help to ease the frustration and stress that can so often lead to anger problems.

Expert help
If you are still unable to control your anger, don't be afraid to visit your GP. There are a number of therapies to which your doctor can refer you.

Counselling may provide a better understanding of what causes your outbursts and help you to find a solution. Similarly cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) aims to identify the thinking patterns and emotional reactions that lead to intense anger, and help you to replace those unwanted feelings with a more balanced outlook.

There are, of course, programmes devoted specifically to anger management and these will usually include both one-to-one counselling and group therapy.

You can take control of your anger issues - get help before your anger controls you.

Have you struggled with anger issues? How did you learn to cope? Let us know below...