Counseling for Anger in Delray Beach, FL
Anger is a normal, human emotion. In fact, everyone feels anger sometimes. Anger can give us the strength, energy and assertiveness we need to get through hard times and can motivate us to change things we don’t like. However, anger can become detrimental when not under control.
According to a recent poll conducted in 2018 in the US, 84% of respondents felt that Americans are angrier than they were a generation ago, with 42% stating that they were angrier that year more often than they had been in the past.
Anger can become a problem when it impacts a person’s life in a negative way, often becoming overwhelming or interfering in relationships. Some people have a difficult time expressing anger in a healthy way, and it often comes out sideways in aggression or passive-aggressiveness. For others it can feel all-consuming and with significant distress.
Signs of Problematic Anger
People with anger issues sometimes report “seeing red” or getting so enraged to the point of blacking out. It can lead to feelings of bitterness and resentment, uncontrollable outbursts, acts of aggression, interpersonal conflict, and a profound difficulty relaxing and being at ease. Here are some other signs that anger might be a problem:
- Feeling angry too often and/or at an overwhelming level
- Behaving aggressively (verbally or physically)
- Difficulty expressing anger
- Feeling sad and distressed as a result of getting angry
- Using substances like drugs or alcohol to deal with anger
- Withdrawing from people or situations
- Bottling things up
- Feeling regret or shame after behaving aggressively
Negative Consequence of Anger
Uncontrolled anger can have major, negative impacts on an individual’s health. For example, suppressed anger can be an underlying cause of depression or anxiety. Sigmund Freud believed that depression was “anger turned inward” and the goal of therapy was to find ways to release this anger in a healthy way. And regarding anxiety, one study showed a correlation between anger and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
In addition, chronic anger has been linked to some physical health issues including increased risk for stroke or heart conditions, weakened immune system, decreased lung function, and an overall shorter life span. Other health problems such as high blood pressure, digestive issues, and headaches can also result from unmanaged anger.
Anger can also lead to major problems in relationships, the anger often wearing down a partner or family members and creating conflict and instability. And it’s easy to see how physical or verbal aggression, stemming from uncontrolled anger, would cause problems in relationships.
Trauma and Anger
Anger is often a common response to trauma. The National Center for PTSD highlights a variety of reasons for this including anger as a natural survival instinct, anger as a normal response to being treated unfairly, and never learning how to manage one’s emotions due to growing up with childhood abuse. Let’s take a look at these in more detail.
The feeling of strength and power that comes from anger serves a noteworthy protective role in survival situations. For example, in a chaotic and abusive environment growing up, a child may use anger to deal with feelings of powerlessness and vulnerability, thus helping them to cope. These feelings of anger often stick around in unhelpful ways as this child grows up causing problems in their life as an adult.
Anger can also originate from legitimate experiences of victimization and betrayal, a signifier of injustices that were perpetrated against a person. These strong notions of unfairness can leave someone trying to manage their anger which has gotten out of control.
Growing up in traumatic conditions, with poor role modeling and in perpetual “fight or flight”, prevents a person from develop the necessary emotional regulation skills needed to manage strong waves of feelings including anger. Therapy for anger will involve learning and practicing these important skills.
Psychotherapy for Anger
Individuals experiencing anger in inappropriate or excessive ways come to therapy to gain awareness and learn better ways to cope. This process often involves exploring the origins of their anger, learning and practicing new strategies and techniques to manage their strong emotions, and sometimes even working through unresolved trauma. A good counselor seeks to provide a safe place to express their anger in a healthy way.
Usually, there are very valid reasons for why someone may have felt anger growing up, and a sense of unfairness or injustice in having to endure abusive or neglectful conditions. Sometimes anger accumulates to a deep well especially when a person lacked a safe and healthy home environment to talk about and process their feelings. A person may come to therapy after having bottled up their anger throughout a lifetime, like a pressure cooker ready to explode.
Anger is often a secondary emotion that people utilize to cover other, more-tender feelings of sadness, fear, and shame. In therapy, individuals can learn to identify and not push away the underlying feelings that drive their anger while learning to express their emotions in more appropriate ways. They also learn to reframe triggering situations that may get automatically and unhelpfully interpreted within the themes of persecution or victimization.