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Definition

Anger is a basic emotion. Like other emotions it can be helpful in focusing our attention on an issue that needs to be resolved, either through problem-solving or acceptance.

Although this could change in the future, at current time, there is no diagnostic label available for anger problems. In other words, anger is not listed in the DSM-IV which mental health professionals use to diagnose mental illnesses. Regardless, anger can significantly interfere with an individual’s ability to function. It can harm relationships, in both the personal and professional areas. It also negatively impacts health.

Related emotions are frustration and irritability.

Common triggers:

Perceiving that one’ needs are not being met.

A threat to self-esteem: someone focuses in or calls attention to a weakness that you have: challenges you on it or criticizes you for it. Or does the same with something that is painful for you.

Perceived injustice.

Having one’s “buttons” pushed, whatever these may be, usually linked to painful past experiences or beliefs.

Strategies to use when angry

First take a time out.

Anger can interfere with what we call “higher cognitive functions” like judgment, reasoning, etc. So before reacting, relax and even remove yourself from the situation if you have to.

Second, keep some helpful thoughts at hand, like:

“People are motivated by their own values and beliefs. They will do what they want and not necessarily what I want.”

“I wish the world was always fair, but unfortunately it is not. There is no reason why I must always be treated fairly.”

Third, ask yourself: “Can I change the situation?”

If not, accept.

If yes, determine the best way of doing so and do it. This is “making anger work for you”.

If anger is an issue for you, you want to always keep in mind the question: What is my goal? Your communication with others should reflect that, and not a desire to attack or defend.

Therapy can help you better identify your “buttons” and develop strategies to respond in the most adaptive manner rather than reacting emotionally.

Selected Book References

Overcoming anger: How to identify it, stop it, and live a healthier life.
Carol Jones, Ph.D., M.F.T. (2004).
Adams Media. ISBN-13 978-1-58062-929-4.

Love Without Hurt.
Steven Stosny, Ph.D. (2006).
Da Capo Press, ISBN 10-60094-073-6


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