Anger and red flags

Anger and red flags to watch out for

Females with anger issues.
Anger and the 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 handleI 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
Colour image of female warrior, angry face
Being angry is not a good look —Image from

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?

Body language: man with his fists in front of him, depicting anger
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, 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?

Raising ones voice and shouting due to anger can be considered a red flag
Red flag to watch out for when someone gets angry 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 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

Red flag: red is the color of rage and anger

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
  • depressed
  • sad or hurt
  • guilt or shame
  • resentful
  • frustration
  • rage
  • feel like striking out verbally or physically

Physical symptoms might include:

Colour image of brown girl in orange jumper appearing to be shouting
Starting to scream or cry —Image by
  • increased heart rate, heart thumping
  • increased blood pressure
  • shaking or trembling
  • headache or stomach ache
  • dizziness
  • sweating
  • clenched jaws
  • muscles tensing (getting ready for fight or flight)
Colour image of a blond female crying
Image from Youtube Elle Darby

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:

Over to you

What do you think about anger and red flags?
What do you think?

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)

Therapists and 42 red flags to look out for

Red flags and therapists?

Therapists and 42 Red flags to look out for - man waving red flag
Therapists and red flags

Have you ever attended therapy, either with the NHS or privately and was it a positive experience? Are you considering therapy? If you’ve never been to see a therapist/counsellor, perhaps you don’t know what to expect, or what to look out for in a therapist? Let me say, if you are thinking of therapy, you might want to read and consider some of the therapists and red flags listed below.

But first — this post came about after a friend (an Occupational Therapist) told me she’d had six sessions of counselling, which she accessed through her work’s Wellbeing programme. While she said there had been an improvement in her mood, she would never go to counselling again! She hated the therapist who allegedly looked bored, was too blunt, always late and talked about herself a lot of the time. “She looked like she should be in counselling,” moaned Hayley.

Getting personal

NHS provide staff with therapy - drawn image of female
NHS provide staff with therapy

We talked about how many other people we knew that had had bad experiences with therapists, and all for various different reasons. I’ve seen 5 different therapists over the years, and although one was excellent and a few were good (ish), the final one was so awful, I didn’t go back after the second session. My first time was arranged via my GP, it lasted over three years and my therapist was fantastic. The other four times were accessed through my NHS Trust’s Wellbeing programme and the difference between these therapists and the first one was like night and day.

In the UK, most NHS Trusts provide workplace counselling as an employee support. The service is usually short term and provides an independent, specialist resource for staff – a free, confidential, workplace counselling service. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

However, during my chat with Hayley, we both thought, how do you tell if a counsellor is any good? Why was one better than the rest for me? In hindsight, I think the problem for me was that these independent therapists tend work on a freelance basis, and although they are all registered and approved by their various governing bodies, they are not vetted by the Trusts themselves.

Then Haley and I thought, what about all those people that have to pay to see a therapist? I’ve since looked online and seen that, in London, you can pay anything upwards of £70 and often way over £100. Although I believe that counselling is a great investment in yourself, if the therapist is ‘no good’, it’s a terrible waste of a lot of money. I’d hate for that to happen to you so I’m going to share some of the red flags you might come across. But first,

Before therapy

Before you go into therapy, you may want to ask your therapist about:

Ask questions about your therapist - Colour image of patient and therapist taking notes
You must ask questions about your therapist too
  • their background and qualifications
  • the type of therapy they practice. If they have a specialism, as some therapists specialise in working with particular issues like abuse and violence, addictions, LGBTQ, or survivor groups
  • their experience of working with the problem you’re experiencing
  • how long the therapy will last
  • the benefits and any risks involved
  • their confidentiality policy
  • whether they have a waiting list and how long it will take to get an appointment
  • if you have a disability and need reasonable adjustments to make the sessions easier for you to attend.

Let them know if you have any preferences i.e male or female therapist or someone who speaks your first language.

Therapists red flags

In no particular order, and though counsellors and therapist might offer different therapies, I’ll use the word therapist throughout and for ease I’ll say she or they, so, if she

Black and white image young female with head in her hands
Not all my therapists were good
  1. doesn’t talk you through what will happen during counselling, like which type of therapy i.e. CBT and a short explanation about the concept and how long it will last
  2. doesn’t provide you with information about your rights as a client i.e. fees, her policies, or confidentiality
  3. constantly misses, cancels, or shows up late to appointments
  4. looks down on you or treats you as inferior, subtly or not
  5. blames your partner, family, or your friends, or encourages you to blame them
  6. doesn’t have sufficient or specific training to help with your problem and/or she tries to treat problems outside the scope of her specialism
  7. can’t or doesn’t clearly define how she can help you solve whatever problem that brought you to therapy
  8. isn’t interested in the changes you want to make or your goals for therapy, and works from her own agenda
  9. speaks in the language (psychobabble) that confuses you
  10. discloses that she’s never done personal therapy work (maybe she’s only done group work)
  11. gives no explanation of how you will know when your therapy is complete
  12. focuses on diagnosing without also helping you to change
  13. doesn’t ask your permission to use various psychotherapeutic techniques outside of what you’ve discussed already
  14. makes promises like “you’ll be much more confident after this”, she won’t know this for sure
  15. tells you that only her approach i.e. CBT works and ridicules other approaches
  16. acts as though she has all the answers and spends time telling you how to fix things instead of working with you
  17. tries to make decisions for you, tells you what to do, or gives frequent unsolicited advice
  18. focuses on thoughts and cognition at the exclusion of feelings and somatic experience
  19. focuses on feelings and somatic experience at the exclusion of thoughts, cognition and cognitive processing
  20. hijacks your session to get her own emotional needs met, instead of focusing on you and your therapy
  21. talks too much about her own issues and/or self-discloses in a manner that doesn’t help you. Self-disclosure can be used if it’s to help the client
  22. seems too emotional or overwhelmed with your feelings or problems
  23. empathises too much
  24. focuses too soon on helping you appreciate or resolve the underlying causes of an issue when learning coping skills to manage your behaviours or impulses would benefit you more
  25. avoids exploring your emotional or vulnerable feelings or
  26. pushes you into really vulnerable feelings or memories too soon or against your wishes
  27. tries to befriend you
  28. tries to touch you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable i.e. hugging without your consent or
  29. attempts to have a sexual or romantic relationship with you
  30. tries to enlist your help with something outside of your therapy i.e. you might be a hairdresser and she asks can she come to your salon
  31. is frequently confrontational with you
  32. doesn’t remember your name and doesn’t remember what you discussed or what your issues were from previous sessions
  33. ignores how important your spirituality, religion, faith, or culture is
  34. promotes her own religion, beliefs and tries to push it all onto you
  35. allows/encourages you to become dependent on her
  36. shows no empathy or compassion
  37. is judgmental or critical of your problems, behaviour, or lifestyle choices
  38. discloses your identifying information without authorisation or your consent
  39. talks about and tells you the identities other clients, famous or otherwise
  40. doesn’t accept feedback or admit mistakes
  41. talks too much or doesn’t talk at all, just sits nodding and staring at you — too much eye contact or none at all
  42. tries to keep you in therapy when you think it’s time to stop

What to do if you spot red flags

Re-evaluate your relationship with - your therapist
Re-evaluate your relationship

If any of these red flags come up during your first few sessions, you might need to re-evaluate your therapist and your relationship with her.

If you do see of these red flags, the first step would be to discuss your concerns with your therapist, telling her what’s bothering you. Say time-keeping is an issue for you. If she was only late once and had good reason, you could excuse that; she’s human too and sometimes things happen outside our control. However, if she was late for a second time, explain that it’s not acceptable, your time is valuable too, and you don’t appreciate other people being late. A good therapist will listen, understand your concerns, and make any necessary adjustments to their practice.

Most therapists have your well-being and best interests at heart, and they can make small mistakes too. However, some errors can prove more serious, such as touching you or trying to have a sexual relationship with you. If you’ve been in or are in a situation like this, you must report it to their practice manager and their governing body immediately.

Most people in therapy tend to know quite quickly whether the therapist is a good fit and whether or not they think they can work with them. But generally, I’d give it a maximum of three sessions, all being well before I decided if I needed to go elsewhere. However, too many red flags during the first and second sessions would make me hot tail it out the door.

If you feel like something isn’t right in your first phone call or initial session, this may be a bad sign. Some discomfort is a normal part of therapy, just as seeing a personal trainer isn’t always comfortable, but if you feel uncomfortable to the point of dreading or avoiding sessions, you may want to keep looking.

Ryan Howes

There are lots of good therapists out there. Unfortunately, there are lots of charlatans too. They’ll keep taking your money, even when they should have discharged you weeks, months or even years ago. Yes, years! I’ve known a few patients who’d been in therapy for five years plus, and if you ask me, they were more confused and anxious or depressed than when they first started.

Over to you

Big red question mark with little character man leaning on it

Of course, there may be many more red flags that I don’t know about. Do you know of any that you’d like to share? What’s your experience of therapy/therapists? I’m looking forward to your comments and any questions you might have.

Related: Boundaries in therapy (1) Boundaries and warning signs of a bad therapist (2)

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