How to deal with anger

Author and Medical Reviewer
Dr. Jose Toledo

How to deal with anger

Anger is an emotion that everyone has at some point. It is not necessarily a bad emotion. 

Without people getting angry, for instance, women might not have got the vote, slavery might still exist as it used to, and the Nazis could have gained control of the world.

The word “anger” is from Old Norse angr meaning “grief”, also angra meaning “vex”. Vex derives from Latin vexare meaning “shake, disturb”. 

These etymologies reveal a lot about the true source and consequence of anger. Consider too that the words “angst” and “anxious” are connected with the word anger.

In fact the word “anxious” is from Latin anxius  that’s from angere meaning “to choke”. When taken over by anger or rage it can feel just like we are choking as we can hardly get our breath.

In mythology and ancient cultures there were even gods of anger. They were considered gods because when they took hold they had complete control over whoever they had in their grasp…

Stages and symptoms connected with anger

There are five phases to the cycle of anger. These are the trigger, escalation, crisis, recovery and depression.

There are various mental and physical symptoms too that arise with anger.

These are:

Feeling nervous tension, especially tightened facial muscles.

Teeth grinding.

Shaking or trembling.

Feeling hot, sweating especially on the palms.


Having an eruption of energy followed by a severe energy crash and fatigue.

Experiencing chest tightness.

Rapid heartbeat.

Difficulty breathing.

Feeling dizzy.

Stomach ache and/or a churning feeling in the belly.

Tingling sensation particularly in hands.


Legs can feel weak.


These symptoms most often lead to behavior changes – such as speaking loudly or shouting, starting fights, breaking and/or throwing things, self-harming, sulking or ignoring people.

What are the main causes of anger?

There are many things in life that might cause feelings of anger, such as impatience when in a long queue or if someone calls you something offensive.

But what is mostly looked at in mental health terms are things that are not presently contributing or causing the major part of the anger. So it is to find things from the past that have not been looked at and resolved.

As the saying goes, if it’s hysterical it’s most likely historical.

Many people can realize this if they get honest: that the level of their anger was not really caused by the actual incident that they’re thinking made them angry.

Frequently when it’s looked into with a professional therapist who understands these things it can be seen that something has reawakened an old feeling that is a trigger. It could be that a man waiting to pay his bill who feels he’s purposely being ignored by the busy restaurant staff gets a feeling that reminds him of being frequently ignored by his parents as a child.

The response witnessed then is that of a hurt child – enraged by the fact that his parents are not showing him the love every child needs.

That’s why often the emotional reaction seems more like that of an angry child than an adult. Onlookers or those in the frontline of such anger will often be utterly bewildered.

Unresolved trauma

If someone has suffered trauma, such as childhood abuse, their frequent angry outbursts are often to do with that. It is likely to get worse unless what is really underneath it is resolved with the help of a therapist.

It’s no use just putting a lid on a volcano crater if the volcano is still active: sooner or later it’s going to erupt.

In an attempt to push down such as a childhood trauma, many people will turn to drink or drugs. However, drinking alcohol and taking certain drugs such as cocaine won’t help as they seem to most often be fuel to the fieriness of anger.

Fear and anger

Fear also precedes anger a great many times. Frequently it is that fear derives from not getting something we want or losing something we already have.

It is also said that fear can stand for “false expectations appearing real”. This is connected with a common symptom of fear: anxiety. Anxiety and stress both contribute to anger issues.

Anxiety and stress – so often caused by the way we are choosing to look at life and its uncertainty – can lead to anger. People start to feel powerless and this creates strong feelings that can turn into anger.

All of this is being exaggerated in the present COVID-19 era of uncertainty.

Five stages of grief

Another reason for anger is grief. Clearly this can be due to a bereavement, but it can also come about for other losses, such as after a relationship break-up or losing some business or a job, even giving up an addiction.

It is the second stage of psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s “five stages of grief”. These are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Resentment is another reason for anger. The word “resentment” comes from words meaning to “re-feel deeply”.

So a resentment is anger and indignation repeating itself as a bad feeling inside us. A resentment can go on for years.

Hatred can be connected to this. For instance, someone who was abused in some way may have incredible hatred towards their abuser.

But it may be a family member or family friend and they fear exposure and the calamity it may bring. Perhaps it is they don’t totally hate the person, but they hate what happened.

Suppression of that anger can become depression. But sometimes it can explode outwards as extreme anger or rage.

Many people who are depressed say they don’t feel angry. But what they have done is turn all the anger in on themselves – and that is a large part of why they are depressed.

What comes after anger?

There are nearly always repercussions. One harsh word or sentence said in anger can lead to the total breakdown of a long friendship. 

As well, for anyone who gets angry, there are frequently feelings of shame, remorse and guilt afterwards. The person might find ways to justify their anger and convince themselves it was okay – but in their gut they will feel deeply uncomfortable emotions.

Also, if someone’s temper is consistently bad, they are likely to arouse anger in others. There is then anger facing anger – and that means more anger.

How to control anger

Most people will openly talk about their sadness, but they are not keen to talk about their anger. This is because if you talk about your sadness you can get compassion for it.

But when someone admits to their uncontrolled anger, they know there is a challenge to change that comes with that admission. Admitting to having anger problems sets a major task for that person to change their life.

So instead many people attempt to suppress it. This most often makes life unmanageable for them – as well as those around them.

Thankfully, there are some methods that can help with anger. Firstly, learning to recognize feelings that make anger more likely, such as when there is increased irritability.

It can start small. But if past experience tells you that it can lead to anger, it is prudent to take some time out by such as relaxing to gentle music or meditating.

Exercise is another useful thing to do. Activities such as running, swimming, yoga and walking – especially in nature – all reduce stress and can help people to relax.

However if you have deep-rooted anger from such as childhood issues it is something that needs to be spoken about and treated with the help of a therapist who understands all of this. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has found to be a great help to many people with anger issues.

Our professional team has years of experience in treating all behaviors, including helping with anger problems. We have proven treatments to give you or someone you love the swiftest and most enduring recovery.

Our beautiful mansion by a stunning tranquil lake has Florida sunshine all year round. Contact us today to find out how we can help you or a loved one.

David Hurst - Tikvah Lake Recovery

About David Hurst

David Hurst has four books published on mental health recovery, including 12 Steps To 1 Hero, The Anxiety Conversation and Words To Change Your Life. He has written for national newspapers and magazines around the world for 30 years including The Guardian, Psychologies, GQ, Esquire, Marie Claire and The Times. He has been in successful continual recovery since January 2002.

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