Anger and red flags to watch out for
Have you ever been in trouble with the police because of your anger? Were you ever asked by your job or your partner to attend anger management? Have you lost a relationship, job or friend because of your anger? Perhaps you know someone close that loses control of their temper i.e. significant other or troubled teen? If this is you, or someone you know, and you need help, let’s take a look at anger and the red flags to watch out for.
Knowing the signs of imminent anger, in you or someone else, may help you diffuse or avoid the situation and inform your choice of further action.
I’ve only ever let my anger get out of control twice, and I’ll tell you now, it wasn’t pretty, and I’m certainly not proud of it. Moreover, I was lucky the first time when the police turned up; they were really understanding and thankfully they didn’t pursue the incident. The second time was in my home when my last ex, Andrew taunted me for hours on end, yet again, and I just flew off the handle — I flipped. I was acting like a ‘crazy’ person, I’d lost it, and I don’t ever want to be that angry again — never, ever.
What is anger?
“anger is strong feeling that makes you want to hurt someone or be unpleasant because of something unfair or unkind that has happened”Cambridge Dictionary
I admit that in both instances above, I wanted to hurt someone. Not a good look and not something I’d recommend.
We all experience the feeling of anger, right? It’s a normal emotion, and there’s nothing wrong with feeling mad. What counts is how we handle it (and ourselves) when we’re angry. Anger is often expressed differently by different people and can vary in intensity. It might be suppressed by some or overtly expressed by others, or appear very subtly in some cases.
Sometimes, we hold on to anger, which can in turn lead to resentment. I know when I held onto my anger, and
didn’t couldn’t address the trigger, I became resentful. Like when my older sister in the States decided not to invite me to my niece’s wedding because allegedly, I asked my 21 year old niece to buy me drugs while I was holidaying with them? Wtf? Does my sister not know me?
And, my sister never told me this herself; I had to find out from my poor mum, who felt caught in the middle. I tried many times to contact Sis, but she ignored all my attempts. She was obviously angry but should have confronted me so that I could at least refute her allegation and defend myself. I was left feeling both hurt and angry because she effectively shut me up. She didn’t allow me to speak. Yes, I felt resentful!
And no, I won’t forgive her for denying me the pleasure of seeing one of my nieces getting married at Gretna Green. That unforgiveness doesn’t bother me but that same situation might affect someone else differently.
Is anger a mental illness?
Oooh, if I had a £ for every time a patient told me that their anger, rage, or violent behaviour was part of their mental illness? For some, it was just that — anger. However, according to Healthline.com, many things can trigger anger, including stress, family problems, and financial issues.
For some people, anger’s caused by an underlying disorder, such as alcoholism or depression. Anger itself isn’t considered a disorder, but it’s a known symptom of several mental health conditions. If your emotional state’s up and down like a roller coaster, there could be biochemical reasons, which may need to be checked out by a GP. The anger could be a symptom of bipolar or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), where anger might occur due to frustration with inability to prevent obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors.
Why get angry?
Mind.org suggests that feelings of anger arise due to how we interpret and react to certain situations. Everyone has their own triggers for what makes them angry, but some common ones include situations in which we feel:
- threatened or attacked, like me being constantly attacked for ‘cheating’, even with a gay workmate, or ‘having a little tickle with a colleague behind the office filing cabinets’ (Urgh! That’s exactly how he put it).
- frustrated or powerless, for instance, being locked in my own home and having to listen the constant ugly diatribe being trotted out every day.
- like we’re being invalidated or treated unfairly, for example when my ex’s floozy called me all night, every night for months then hung up, before she landed on. my. doorstep, and I could take no more — hence the incident with the police.
- like people are not respecting our feelings or possessions, someone’s trying to take something from us, for instance, if someone tried to steal my bag, I think I’d be so angry that I’d fight them and could end up badly hurt. But it just infuriates me that some ‘people’ think they can just take what other decent people have worked hard for.
Anger and me
We all tend to perceive things differently, so something that makes you angry might not make me feel the same way. I
could would laugh at someone ‘frightening the life out of my friends or my sister’, whereas it’s made them want to lash out. They don’t find it funny but that doesn’t mean that they’ve perceived it ‘wrongly’, or that they were wrong to feel angry — we just see things differently.
How we learn to cope with angry feelings is often influenced by our childhood and upbringing. We’re quite often given messages about anger as little ones, that may make it harder to manage it as an adult. We might have been raised in an angry or violent household and we’ve seen how our parents deal and cope with anger.
My dad was a gambler and regularly got angry, mainly taking his anger out physically on my mum. She remained silent or whimpered during any beating, trying not to upset us. I realised, in hindsight and through counselling, that I copied mum’s behaviours, and also remained silent during my ex’s violent outbursts.
Recognising signs of anger
Mentalhelp.net write “The first step in effective anger management is learning how to recognize when you are angry. Some angry people see their emotions as a black or white state—they are either raging mad or they are calm. In reality, anger is not black and white, but rather quite gray. Anger occurs on a continuum between rage and calm where most of the time people experience some gradation of anger between these two extremes.”
Fortunately, most of us experience emotional, physical and behavioural signs letting us know when we’re starting to get angry.
Symptoms of anger and red flags to look out for
The symptoms of anger fall mainly into into two types; emotional and physical. Emotional symptoms for you or someone else might include:
- feeling tetchy, irritable
- stressed or feeling overwhelmed
- like you want to run away from the situation
- sad or hurt
- guilt or shame
- feel like striking out verbally or physically
Physical symptoms might include:
- increased heart rate, heart thumping
- increased blood pressure
- shaking or trembling
- headache or stomach ache
- clenched jaws
- muscles tensing (getting ready for fight or flight)
You might also notice that you’re / they’re:
- pacing the floor
- craving a cigarette, drugs or alcohol
- rubbing your head
- being offhand, flippant or sarcastic
- losing sense of humour
- clenching fists and maybe cupping one fist with other hand
- being abusive
- starting to scream, shout, or cry
Take control of your anger
If any of the above red flags sounds like you or someone you know, there is hope. In the first instance, speak to your GP and ask about counselling to get to the root of the problem, or anger management courses that you/they could attend.
In the meantime, you might want to think about:
- improving your communication skills so that you can express your anger more effectively and and learn to think before you speak
- improve your communication skills so you can have a better conversation with your troubled teen.
- learning some relaxation, visualisation or mindfulness and coping skills
- how to improve your self-awareness; important in order to identify the true reason for your anger
- strategies to help relieve your stress, and make better choices responding to stress at work or home
- how to respond more effectively when someone’s becoming angry i.e. you could use humour or you might want to hone your listening skills.
Over to you
How do you deal with your anger? Has it ever been a problem? Is your significant other or teenager angry all the time? Have you any tips or thoughts on anger management? As always, I’m looking forward to your comments and any questions.
Related: Managing your anger issues (1). Anger management tips (2)