Understanding Anger Management

Anger management therapy is a mental health intervention that teaches people to regulate their emotions. Counselors give anger management clients healthy coping mechanisms that allow them to feel and express their feelings without causing harm.

It’s important to know that anger is not unhealthy in its own right. In fact, this emotion is a healthy, if uncomfortable, part of life. In some cases, anger can even help people process difficult events in their lives. However, uncontrolled rage can sometimes be a sign that someone requires therapeutic intervention.

Disordered and Unhealthy Anger

People tend to experience anger differently. This strong emotion can make people want to yell, leave the situation, or cry. This feeling can also cause physical symptoms, such as an increased heart rate.

In some cases, anger becomes disordered and a person has no way to release those feelings. This combination can be a recipe for a dangerous situation. This rage can become destructive, and the person who feels it may start threatening others and property. When people feel anger in this way, mental health professionals can help.

How Common are Anger Disorders?

Intermittent Explosive Anger (IEA), one of the disorders that relates to unhealthy anger, affects as much at seven percent of adults in the United States. The rate of IEA may be even higher in teens, though the disorder is more difficult to recognize in this population.

What is Anger Management Therapy?

People with anger disorders sometimes feel like they can never recover or experience anger in a better way. Because of how destructive their anger can be, they may also feel hopeless in their relationships. However, help is available. Anger management therapy can turn these lives around.

It’s helpful to think of unhealthy anger as a symptom of a disorder–one that counselors know how to treat. This type of anger is not a personality flaw that people will always live with.

Counseling helps people with anger disorders establish new patterns of behaviors. Patients also learn coping skills and how to avoid triggers. In some cases, mental health professionals may also recommend medication.

What are the Symptoms of Anger Disorder? 

Every person with an anger disorder experiences it in a unique way. However, the most common symptoms of dysfunctional anger are aggressive behaviors like yelling at others inappropriately and even becoming violent. This type of angry outburst is relatively easy to identify.

However, unhealthy anger can also manifest in more passive-aggressive ways. For example, people can become apathetic, sarcastic, or self-destructive with their anger.

Additional symptoms of anger disorders include:

  • Threats of violence
  • Destroying property
  • Loved ones “walking on eggshells” to prevent a meltdown
  • Being extremely irritable
  • Aggressive and reckless driving
  • Hurting family members or friends
  • Starting verbal or physical altercations
  • Refusing to see positive things and fixating on negative things instead

While anger disorders are illnesses that require compassionate treatment, people with these disorders sometimes put others in dangerous situations. People who are victims of a person’s anger disorder should not maintain relationships out of compassion or guilt. Such people should seek therapy to help them cope with the trauma they have faced.

Depression Can Cause Anger

While explosive rage is often a sign of IEA, it is also a lesser-known symptom of depression. This mood disorder causes some people to have an internal monologue that makes a person feel worthless. After a while, such a person may act out in frustration or anger at the situation. Depression can also compound symptoms of an existing anger disorder.

Both counseling and medication may be necessary to help patients with depression that manifests as anger. Medication can help treat the depression while the patient learns better coping mechanisms in therapy.

Managing Anger

Due to the very nature of anger disorders, many patients feel as though they will never get control over their strong emotions. They may feel like they either bottle their feelings up until they explode, or let them out and cause destruction. However, anger management teaches patients to find a healthy balance.

The key to anger management is working through feelings in constructive ways. If you have disordered anger, you can try some of these common coping techniques:

  • Get plenty of exercise regularly doing something you enjoy. Doing so helps release pent-up energy and achieve better balance in your life.
  • Take a moment to think before you speak in anger. Just a quick pause when you’re feeling angry can keep you from saying harmful things.
  • Learn to forgive others. Holding on to negative feelings that come up in arguments only hurt you. Release those feelings.
  • Calmly acknowledge your feelings. Without yelling or being rude, you can say things like, “This situation makes me feel angry.”

While these basic anger management methods can help in some situations, they cannot provide long-term recovery on their own. It’s important to work with a counselor who can give you personalized tools for success.

Anger Management Therapy Options

Several types of therapy can help people with disordered anger. These interventions may include any combination of therapy, medication, and inpatient recovery programs.


During individual therapy, counselors help patients identify their unique anger triggers and find better ways to deal with these feelings. Group therapy can also help people find community, support, and new behavioral patterns.

Inpatient Treatment

When people have depression with their anger disorders, inpatient treatment may be necessary. Especially if the person has thoughts of harming themselves or others. During inpatient treatment, people stay in a residential treatment center where they receive therapy and medication as needed.


Certain medications can provide immediate or long-term relief for people with anger disorders.