8 Signs You May Have Anger Issues

By Jenni Jacobsen, LSW on July 27, 2021

Feeling occasionally angry is a normal human emotion. Everyone experiences it from time to time. In fact, anger is a necessity for survival. However, anger can become problematic when it gets out of control. Someone who says or does things they regret out of anger may have a deeper issue. Uncontrolled anger leads to negative effects on mental and physical health. There’s also the risk of out-of-control anger leading to physical or verbal abuse and violence.

What Are Anger Issues?

Anger issues refer to difficulties with managing anger in a healthy manner. If someone experiences anger outside of the normal emotional range and scope they could have a disorder. For instance, a person can be said to have anger issues if they become out of control or frighten others when they are angry. 

Types of Anger Issues

Anger manifests in different ways and isn’t always expressed the same. There are three primary types of anger issues:

  • Outward anger: When someone has outward anger, it’s obvious they’re expressing aggression. They might yell, curse, break things, or they can be physically or verbally abusive to other people. It’s obvious to the people around them when someone struggles with outward anger.
  • Inward anger: This anger issue is directed at oneself and can include not allowing yourself to have the things you need, like food, or denying yourself things that make you happy. You might engage in negative self-talk and self-harm, and you can isolate yourself from others.
  • Passive anger: Someone with a passive anger issue will use subtle and sometimes manipulative tactics to show their anger. The silent treatment is an example of a passive anger symptom. Being sarcastic, insulting, or making snide remarks can also occur.

Symptoms of Anger Issues

When someone struggles with an anger issue, there are both emotional and physical symptoms that can occur. Most of the symptoms are normal to experience occasionally. Someone with an anger issue will have them more often and severely. 

Emotional signs of anger issues include:

  • Frustration
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Irritability
  • Rage
  • Guilt

Physical symptoms that can accompany feelings of extreme anger include:

  • Increases in blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sensations of tingling
  • Muscle tension

8 Signs You May Have Anger Issues

While every situation is unique, there are several potential signs of anger issues in teenagers and adults.

1. Verbal Outbursts

One of the more apparent signs of an anger issue is verbal outbursts. Anger can appear as an episode of sudden aggression or disruptive behavior. Aggressive episodes include racing thoughts, shaking, tingling and fast breathing. Unfortunately, these verbal outbursts may be directed at another person and can lead to physical displays of anger. 

2. Easy Irritation

Someone with problematic anger might be easily irritated and have difficulty controlling that emotion. After becoming irritated, someone with an anger problem could become very judgmental. They may be condescending or belittle the person they feel is causing their irritation.

3. Self-Hatred

Some anger issues are turned inward, rather than directed outward. Anger often comes along with other mental health disorders like depression. This can lead to a spiral of feeling alienated or unlovable. Someone with an anger issue might never feel that way toward others. Instead, their anger is turned inward, and they get mad at themselves for feeling the way they do.

4. Frequent Feelings of Anger

With an anger issue, a person might constantly feel like they want to blame others, start arguments, or have persistent negative feelings. If you believe you’re struggling with your anger, you might try to justify or rationalize your behavior. You might have a hard time expressing any other emotions except anger, and you’ll use this emotion to gain a sense of control. You might also notice that your friends and family seem nervous around you or like they’re always walking on eggshells.

5. Turning to Substances

Turning to drugs or alcohol is an all-too-common effect of anger issues. You might start craving a drink regularly, which becomes your coping mechanism when dealing with anger. You might also use marijuana, cigarettes, or other drugs. When you’re self-medicating with substances to numb your feelings, it raises your risk of developing a co-occurring disorder.

6. Physical Aggression

Becoming physically aggressive is one of the most significant signs of having an anger issue. Being physically aggressive with other people, animals, or property can cause legal problems on top of any other issues. You could seriously hurt someone else, which could destroy relationships as well. 

You might feel the emotional aggression building. It can initially lead to physical signs. Your fists might clench, or your breathing could speed up. Then, that might lead to violence. If you envision being violent toward someone else, you need emergency help. The same is true if you’re dealing with anger issues in teenagers. If your teen shows signs of violence, it can quickly escalate to a crisis.

7. Obsessing Over Getting Revenge

If you’re constantly thinking about a person you believe has wronged you somehow, it could be a sign of anger issues. Maybe you’re constantly thinking about what they did to reject or disrespect you. If you’re experiencing this endless loop of obsession, it can be helpful to start journaling to explore your other feelings when you start thinking about revenge. You might be able to identify ways to break the loop and be more productive moving forward.

8. Physical Symptoms and Pain

When you’re experiencing feelings of anger, your hormones and brain chemicals flood your body. This includes cortisol, the so-called stress hormone. The chemicals can stay high in your body, especially if you’re experiencing chronic anger. 

These elevated stress hormones can lead to physical symptoms, including head and stomach pain, heart palpitations and a racing heartbeat. Anger issues also lead to muscle clenching, including the jaw muscles. You could realize you’re grinding your teeth. You might wake up with a sore jaw if you’re doing it at night.

What Causes Anger Issues?

Anger can come from financial problems, family issues or stress. It can also be a symptom of an underlying mental health disorder. Some of the more common reasons that an anger issue might occur include:

  • Depression: anger is often a symptom of this mood disorder. Depression includes sadness and loss of interest, as well as irritability, feelings of hopelessness, and thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): a type of anxiety disorder, OCD can include unwanted thoughts or urges. Someone with OCD also repeats rituals to alleviate their distress. Anger can stem from frustration about not being able to prevent obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.
  • Alcohol abuse: the use of alcohol can increase aggression. Drinking excessively affects your decision-making, impulse and emotional control.
  • Attention/deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): this neurodevelopmental disorder is a frequent reason for anger issues in teenagers and children. ADHD symptoms include having a short temper as well as restlessness and problems focusing.
  • Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD): a behavioral disorder affecting children. Symptoms include irritability and anger. A child who has ODD might be argumentative and easily annoyed.
  • Bipolar disorder: this disorder creates dramatic mood shifts. They may range from depression to mania. During a manic episode, symptoms may include irritability and even rage.
  • Grief: anger is a stage of grief. The anger could be directed at anyone, including the person who died or anyone involved in the event.

Are Anger Issues Genetic?

Are anger issues genetic? In some cases, they can be, but there are several factors that can contribute to anger. While anger issues aren’t necessarily a diagnosable mental health condition on their own, some elements can be genetic. For example, we know that many mental health disorders associated with anger do have a genetic component. There’s also an environmental aspect. You might be more likely to have anger issues if you grew up in a home where unhealthy responses to anger were  also present.

One condition that can lead to out-of-control anger is intermittent explosive disorder (IED). Individuals with this condition have outbursts of anger that lead them to be verbally aggressive, or in some cases, aggressive toward people or property. There isn’t much research on the genetic contribution to IED, but there is quite a bit of research showing that aggression is genetic. 

Tips for Controlling Your Anger

There are certain things that anyone can do on their own to help control their anger. These include:

  • Give yourself time to think before you respond or say anything.
  • Take deep breaths and count to 10 before you speak or act. 
  • Find ways to release pent-up physical energy. For example, maybe you take up running, and you can put your energy into that when otherwise you might have become aggressive.
  • If you feel like you’re in a situation that’s frustrating to you, distract yourself. You can take a shower, listen to music or go for a walk.
  • Walk away from a situation if you need to. Timeouts are an effective way to prepare to handle a situation without immediately getting angry.
  • Start journaling. Journaling gives you an outlet for your emotions and can help you learn more about your triggers.
  • Use more “I” statements. When you focus on another person, you’re going to increase your aggression and theirs.
  • Learn and practice relaxation skills. It might take you some time to figure out what works for you. Consider deep-breathing exercises or repeating a word or phrase that’s calming to you.
  • Know when to get help. You can do some things on your own, but if your anger feels out of control, a professional counselor or therapist might be your best option.

Are There Medications To Control Anger?

There aren’t medications specifically for anger, but that doesn’t mean medicine might not be one potential solution. If you’re experiencing anger and it’s a symptom of something else, like depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety, you might be able to try an antidepressant. Antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can help some people.

It’s important to note medications can help reduce anger and deal with other mental health symptoms, but they’re not going to entirely stop anger. If someone doesn’t respond to SSRIs and has a mental health disorder like bipolar, their treatment provider might also try mood stabilizers, such as lithium or anticonvulsants.

Seeking Therapy for Managing Anger

Regarding how to treat anger issues, therapy is often a more effective option than medication. A mental health professional can help you determine if you have an underlying mental health condition that could be causing your out-of-control anger. You might participate in different therapeutic approaches for anger management, such as behavioral therapy or anger management classes. You can learn anger management exercises you can do at home, and a mental health provider might also recommend participation in a support group.

If you’re looking for solutions for managing anger, Nobu is here to help.The Nobu app is free, and it’s a way to set goals, learn about mental health and track your progress. Along with the free tools of the platform, if you need additional support, Nobu can connect you to a mental health professional. You can communicate, schedule appointments, and attend telehealth sessions within the app. Anyone can download Nobu, so try it today.

melissa carmona

Edited by – Melissa Carmona

As the content manager at Advanced Recovery Systems, Melissa Carmona puts years of writing and editing experience to work helping people understand substance abuse, addiction and mental health disorders. Melissa is a Florida State University graduate… Read more.

jenni jacobsen

Written by – Jenni Jacobsen, LSW

Jenni Jacobsen is a licensed social worker through the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist Board. She has seven years of experience working in the social work field, working with clients with addiction-related and mental health… Read more.

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Medically Reviewed by – Dr. Angela Phillips

Angela is a licensed therapist and clinical researcher, and has worked in public, private, government, and not-for-profit organizations, across clinical and research-oriented roles. Angela’s clinical and research experience has included suicide prevention, cognitive behavioral… Read more.