Everyone feels angry from time to time, it has evolved as part of our normal 'Fight or Flight' reflex. It isn't bad in itself, but if it gets out of control it can become a problem.
When we become angry a cocktail of hormones, such as adrenaline and noradrenaline surge through the body, releasing energy and preparing us to fight. These chemicals, if in too large a quantity, tend to swamp the rational, thinking parts of our brain and allow the instinctive part to take over. We are in danger of losing control, and the actions we take while in the grip of strong anger may seem extreme once we have calmed down.
Some people bottle up their anger, not dealing with it until it emerges explosively, and they 'go up like a bottle of pop'. Others might simmer with anger all the time, making life unpleasant for partners and family.
How can anger affect me?
Anger can affect your physical health and lead to increased risk of high blood pressure, digestive problems, colds and flu.
Anger can also contribute to or be a symptom of mental health problems. For example, some individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder experience feelings of anger and might struggle to cope.
If you struggle to manage anger, it can become stressful. It could impact your self-esteem which in turn could lead to depression, anxiety and eating problems amongst other things.
Anger can also lead to sleeping problems, along with substance and alcohol misuse.
How to manage anger?
A very old piece of advice is to 'count to ten', but it is based on sound principles. Avoiding immediate reaction to an event which could trigger anger allows time for the Fight hormones to subside slightly and the thinking brain to catch up. It gives us a chance to act in a more rational way instead of lashing out. This can definitely help with anger management in the long-term.
So when is anger out of control?
Anger is a problem if it is hurting you or those around you. We all experience anger differently, but if your behaviour is causing problems in your life or relationships, it could be worth speaking to someone.
For some people past events have created a storehouse of angry feelings that are bottled up, just waiting to explode. In this situation psychological therapies - such as CBT for anger - can help you to discover the past causes of anger and, through understanding where they came from, help you to avoid being triggered by current events.