How To Control Anger

By Amalia Sirica, LCSW on December 1st, 2021

According to the American Psychological Association, anger is “an emotion characterized by antagonism toward someone or something you feel has deliberately done you wrong.” People feel anger for various reasons, and anger is an emotion that most people experience to some degree. Anger is generally considered a negative emotion, but this is not always the case. It is possible to manage your anger with several tools and strategies. 

At a Glance:

  • Anger is usually a symptom of a deeper issue, like resentment, feelings of betrayal or feeling let down.
  • Anger itself is not a bad thing, but if it is not handled correctly, it can be expressed in ways that cause harm.
  • Anger presents differently in each person, and the way it is presented might change over time.
  • The first step in controlling anger is learning how to recognize the early signs of it.
  • Meditation is an excellent technique that can be used to foster resilience and decrease anger levels.

Anger Issues

Anger is typically divided into two categories: passive and aggressive. Passive anger might appear in subtle ways, such as passive-aggressive comments or an angry stare. Aggressive anger, on the other hand, might look more like the outward anger that is typically described: yelling, posturing, even becoming physically aggressive. 

Passive anger can be harder to identify, but can be just as damaging to relationships and might be the result of built-up resentment and feeling unable to set a boundary. Anger can be directed either outward toward others, or inward toward ourselves. Directing anger outwards might be more damaging for our relationships, but directing anger inwards can cause harm to our self-esteem and warp the way we view ourselves. 


What causes anger issues?

There are many things that can elicit feelings of anger. As with most behavioral patterns, anger is usually a symptom of a deeper issue. Anger can have roots in resentment, feelings of betrayal, feeling let down, and more. Anger might also increase if someone is dealing with a co-occurring mental health issue such as depression, as feelings of irritability and overwhelm tend to increase when depressed.  

Is anger a mental illness?

By clinical standards, anger on its own is not a mental health condition, but anger could certainly be considered a symptom. It may be a part of someone’s experience of depression because feelings of sadness can lead to irritability and a low tolerance for frustration. Anger can also present as a symptom in Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Conduct Disorder.

Anger itself is not a bad thing, but if it is not handled properly, it can appear in ways that might cause harm to ourselves and others. 

Can anger be a positive emotion?

Anger can absolutely be a positive emotion. Anger can be a powerful signal, letting the person experiencing it know when their boundaries have been crossed. It can then be used as fuel or motivation to set a boundary and let the other party know that they have crossed a line. Anger is only negative when it is used to act in a way that causes harm. 

Symptoms of Anger Issues

Emotional symptoms of anger can include feelings of irritability, outbursts of aggression and harsh language. Physical symptoms of anger can include:

  • Tension in the body
  • Difficulty taking deep breaths
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Feeling out of control

How Do I Know if I Have Anger Issues? 

We usually begin to recognize that something is a problem when it affects our lives or relationships. We might notice that anger is becoming an issue if we find that it affects work or personal life. Anger might show up in the following ways: 

  • Irritability
  • Harsh language
  • Behaving in an abusive way towards someone that we care about 
  • Physical aggression

Anger presents differently in each person, and the way it expresses might change over time. If you or a loved one is struggling with anger issues, there is help, and it is important to remember that anger is usually a symptom of underlying pain and difficulty. 

How To Control Your Anger 

The first step in learning to control your anger is learning how to recognize the signs of it. The best kind of treatment is always prevention, meaning that, with increased self-awareness, it becomes easier to recognize initial signs of anger and take steps to prevent it from escalating. 

Meditation is an excellent technique that can be used to foster resilience and increase self-awareness. One example of a meditation tactic is to allow thoughts to float through the mind as they pass by, instead of attaching meaning to those thoughts. This practice allows the feelings of anger to move through us, instead of acting on them. 

Getting Help For Anger

If you or a loved one are struggling with anger issues, there is help. Speaking to your doctor is a good place to start, as well as checking out means of mental health support, such as the Nobu app, which was created to help you achieve your mental health goals. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can be helpful for anger issues. Exercise, meditation and creative outlets for emotional expression have also been shown to be helpful in addressing and easing feelings of anger.

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Edited by – Erica Weiman

Erica Weiman graduated from Pace University in 2014 with a master’s in Publishing and has been writing and editing ever since. Read more.

Amalia Sirica

Written by – Amalia Sirica, LCSW

Amalia Sirica is New York State Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a writer. She received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Duke University and her master’s degree in Social Work from New York University… 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.