Anger is often misunderstood as only a negative emotion. Anger is a natural response to something that is threatening or potentially harmful. As such, anger can be a healthy reaction in some situations. Other times, however, expressions of anger can be excessive and unwarranted. Angry expressions can damage relationships and can be bad for your health. In its most extreme and unhealthy form, anger can lead to violent and destructive behavior.

What causes anger?

People experience feelings of anger for many different reasons. Simple frustrations are normally tolerated and dealt with; however, if they seem to occur in rapid succession with little chance for recovery or resolution, they can lead to building feelings of anger. Other times, a situation is judged to be so completely unacceptable to someone that they feel they have no other choice but to respond in anger.

Anger is also sometimes referred to as a secondary emotion. That is because anger can cover up other feelings such as fear, embarrassment, shame, disgust or sadness. Anger is also multi-layered because it exists not only as a feeling but also as thoughts we have and actions we take to express what we are feeling.

Almost always, we see causes of our anger as being outside of ourselves. However, thorough analyses of anger have shown that it is much more about what we think as opposed to the things that happen outside of us. Proof of this is the fact that similar events can happen to two people, and one will get angry as a result while the other person will not. Therefore, changing how and when we become angry has a lot to do with changing how we think about things.

During a pandemic, people have lots of thoughts about what is happening around them. They have thoughts about how the pandemic was started and who or what they think might be to blame for it. In addition, they pass judgment on how they think other people are responding or should be responding to the pandemic. Job loss, financial strain, isolation, lost opportunities, and health conditions all contribute to feelings of frustration and anger.

How do people cope with anger?

Most people don’t like to feel angry; throughout their lives, they develop ways of dealing with their anger. Many people discover they are able to talk to themselves and calm themselves down. Others find that by breathing deeply, closing their eyes and changing their thoughts, they are able to lessen their feelings of anger.

There are times, however, when someone may find themselves unable to stop feeling angry. Even with their best efforts, they may find that feelings of anger seem to sneak up on them. They find themselves getting angry more often than they would like and being angry with people or situations that don’t deserve the anger. People closest to them are often those who suffer the most as a result. The angry person may have tremendous feelings of regret following a display of their anger, and they may recognize they need to get help learning to control their anger.

Fortunately, there are many avenues of help available to learn to better manage anger. Books and online resources that provide guidance about how to thoughtfully make changes to expressions of anger are easily accessible.

Professional Strategies

Professional help is available to identify causes of anger and to develop strategies to better manage it. A trusting relationship with a nonjudgmental professional counselor provides the foundation to begin making initial positive strides to manage anger. Success in treatment tends to provide a feedback loop—the more successful one is at controlling anger, the more hopeful they become and the more effort they make for continued improvements.

The Center for Mental Health is a resource for community members to get help when they need it. Please contact The Center for Mental Health at 970-252-3200 if you would like to work with a professional counselor regarding anger issues.

May 2020