Overcoming Your Unhealthy Anger
Everyone experiences strong emotions sometimes, but how those emotions are expressed differs based on a person’s biology, past experiences, physical health, family background, and the intensity of the situation. These factors are particularly prominent when dealing with anger.
Anger is a powerful emotion that can be beneficial when expressed in a healthy way, such as giving you the drive to fight back when in danger or working to right a wrong. However, unhealthy anger can be destructive to a person’s body, emotional state, mental health, career, and relationships.
At SMPsychotherapy and Counseling Services, we know that life’s challenges can bring strong emotions, including anger. We want to help you avoid the risk and consequences of unhealthy anger. Therefore, this blog will explore the following:
- The Definition of Unhealthy Anger
- Symptoms of Unhealthy Anger
- The Effects on Physical and Mental Health
- The Effects on Relationships and Social Interactions
- The Benefits of Healthy Anger
- How to Handle Anger in a Healthy Way
- Where to Find Help
What is Unhealthy Anger
Unhealthy anger is a negative emotion referring to a pattern where feelings of anger become excessive, uncontrolled, and harmful to yourself or others. Expressing anger in an unhealthy way typically involves intense emotional reactions, aggressive behavior, and an inability to regulate emotions effectively.
Symptoms of Unhealthy Anger
The first step to anger management is to recognize the symptoms of your anger problem. The symptoms can vary from person to person, but some common signs include:
- Frequent or intense feelings of anger
- Difficulty controlling anger
- Defensiveness and deflecting criticism
- Aggressive behavior
- Impulsivity: Acting quickly without thinking about the consequences or considering alternative options.
- Negative thoughts: Includes negative thoughts about yourself and others and may cause frequent thoughts about specific people who have done you wrong, fantasies about getting revenge, or obsessing over your anger/rage.
- Sense of hopelessness: This makes it difficult to get things done, find meaning in life, or even enjoy simple pleasures like food or music.
- Persistent focus on specific people. Your anger is typically directed at the same person or group. The people on your mind are the ones who’ve caused you harm in the past.
- Physical symptoms and relationship issues: These are explored in detail below.
The Effects on Physical and Mental Health
When anger becomes unhealthy, it can damage your health, both physically and mentally. Suppressed anger can be an underlying cause of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.
Anger that is not appropriately expressed can disrupt relationships, affect thinking, and negatively alter behavior patterns. These symptoms can make it difficult to focus, sleep, and perform daily activities, leading to feelings of frustration and intensifying negative emotions.
Some people may turn to alcohol and substance abuse in an unwise and harmful attempt to cope with these conditions, situations, and frustrations.
Chronic (long-term) anger has been linked to a long list of physical health issues, such as:
- Increased heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Muscle tension or stiffness
- Headaches or migraines
- Digestive issues, such as stomach pain or indigestion
- Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
- Fatigue or exhaustion
- Sweating or hot flashes
- Trembling or shaking
- Changes in appetite, such as overeating or loss of appetite
- Weakened immune system, making you more susceptible to illness
- Skin disorders, such as acne or psoriasis
- Chest pain or tightness
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Increased risk of heart disease or stroke
Effects on Personal Relationships and Social Interactions
Unhealthy expressions of anger can have significant negative impacts on relationships. Here are some potential effects:
Breakdown of communication: People may feel intimidated, defensive, or shut down, making it difficult to resolve conflicts or address issues.
Loss of trust: If anger is expressed in aggressive or violent ways, it can lead to a loss of trust in the relationship.
Damage to intimacy: People may feel less connected or less willing to open up emotionally to their partners.
Increased conflict: This can lead to a cycle of escalating anger and conflict that is difficult to break.
Withdrawal: Some people may withdraw or distance themselves from a relationship if they feel overwhelmed or threatened by someone’s anger. This can lead to feelings of isolation and further damage the relationship.
Negative impact on children: This environment creates poor examples for children and can lead to generational dysfunction.
This type of toxic environment will all too often lead to violent behavior and abuse, be it physical, emotional, mental, or sexual abuse, as well as infidelity, separation, or divorce.
These same effects can impact interactions with neighbors and co-workers. The following may be typical:
- Disruptive behavior in the neighborhood and workplace
- Decreased productivity
- Increased tension at work and in the community
- Fear or discomfort
- Increased risk of conflict
Chronic unhealthy expressions of anger in your social environment can lead to dire consequences, such as losing a job or law enforcement getting involved in neighborhood conflicts.
The Benefits of Healthy Anger
Anger is not always a negative emotion. When expressed in a healthy and constructive way, anger can have several benefits. It is important to avoid any attempt to stifle or suppress anger for fear of its potential adverse effects. Instead, learn to express anger in a healthy way and experience the positive impact on your life and relationships.
Here are some potential benefits of healthy anger:
- Increased self-awareness: Anger can lead you to identify when your boundaries have been crossed, or something is not right in your life.
- Improved communication: When anger is expressed in a healthy way, it can facilitate communication and help you express needs and desires more effectively.
- Increased motivation: Healthy anger can inspire you to take action and make positive changes.
- Increased self-confidence: It can help you feel more confident, including in your ability to handle difficult situations.
- Reduced stress: Expressing anger in a healthy way can also prevent the internalizing of anger, preventing physical or mental health problems.
How to Handle Anger Issues
When you are angry, there are some things you do to handle and express that anger in a healthy way. These methods can help maintain your health and preserve your relationships. Here are some healthy ways to handle anger:
- Identify and acknowledge the anger: Recognize the physical sensations of anger, such as tense muscles or an increased heart rate.
- Take a time-out: If you feel overwhelmed with anger, take a break to calm down.
- Express the anger in a healthy way: This could involve talking to a trusted friend or therapist, writing in a journal, or engaging in a physical activity like running or boxing.
- Practice relaxation techniques: Relaxation techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or visualization can help.
- Practice empathy: When we practice empathy, we can better understand the perspectives and experiences of others.
- Learn healthy conflict resolution skills: This could involve learning effective communication techniques, active listening, and problem-solving strategies.
- Seek professional help: In-person or online therapy can provide support and guidance on managing anger in a healthy way.
Where to Find Help
With such risk to your relationships, livelihood, mental health, and physical well-being, it is crucial to recognize and treat unhealthy anger.
At SMPsychotherapy and Counseling Services, we are a team of licensed clinical therapists skilled in a variety of therapeutic treatment methods. We offer individual and family therapy to give you the help you need.
Our anger management group therapy will cover all the topics of traditional anger management therapy with the bonus of fellowship and community. You’ll meet others who want to learn practical strategies for managing anger.
To ask questions or schedule an appointment for individual, family, or anger management group therapy, click here.
For more on overcoming struggles to live the life of your dreams, check out the new book, Unbreakable, by Soribel Martinez, LCSW, CEO of SMPsychotherapy and Counseling Services. It’s a story of one woman’s journey through adversity and how you can use her principles to build a healthy life. Get your copy here.