What is Anger Management?
Anger is a normal healthy human emotion. It’s something we have all felt at some point. Deception, frustration or even someone cutting you off in traffic can leave you feeling angry. These moments of anger come and go and usually don’t result in anything. But when is anger a problem? In this article, expert psychologists discuss when to address anger and what to do about it.
Is Anger Management a Mental Illness?
Many things can trigger uncontrolled and frequent outbursts of anger, like family problems, financial issues, and stress. Anger itself isn’t considered a mental health disorder. However, it can be a symptom of underlying mental disorders.
Intermittent explosive disorder (IED), for instance, is a mental health condition that involves frequent and repeated impulsive episodes. Typically, angry outbursts occur and are out of proportion with the triggering event.
Dr. Shelby Solomon, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the state of California, says, “in Anger Management treatment, we typically say anger becomes a problem when it’s felt too often or too intensely. This may be noticed in the following:
- Negative interactions/consequences at work
- Overwhelming stress at home or school
- Self-destructive behaviors
- Outbursts that lead to regret or guilt
Additionally, someone may feel disappointed for not standing up for themselves or being ‘walked on’ by others because they are afraid to express their discontent. Anger problems can look like aggression OR passivity.”
Dr. Tirrell De Gannes, a licensed clinical psychologist, explores the reasons behind most anger problems he sees in patients. “The common reasons that I’ve come across are:
- Poor emotional expression skills
- Expecting a negative reception of emotions
- Difficulty expressing emotions that are not anger due to fear of judgment/others’ perceptions.”
Uncontrollable anger can harm your physical and mental well-being and even result in damaging behavior. If you think you or someone close to you might have anger management issues, watch out for the following patterns of behavior:
- Difficulties compromising or arriving at mutual agreements without the situation turning into a verbal or physical confrontation
- Difficulties expressing emotions in a calm, healthy manner
- Inward aggression that might lead to self-harm or isolation
- Outward aggression that results in swearing, shouting, threatening others, or physical violence
- “All-or-nothing” responses where someone tries to control the behavior of those around them to avoid getting angry
Are Anger Issues Genetic?
Genetics are responsible for many physical attributes, including eye and color, earlobe shape, left or right-handedness, and many others. But can anger issues be genetic? Is temperament genetic?
Dr. Shelby Solomon says, “having led numerous Anger Management groups over the years; I’ve noticed common themes with folks seeking treatment.
For instance, many believe they are just angry by nature – that anger runs in their family, in their genes, and cannot be helped. While that is true to some degree, it’s more that we are social beings who learn from our environment. So if we grew up in a home where anger or aggression was frequently expressed, we too may develop those patterns of behavior. But the good news is that anything learned can be unlearned!”
Many factors influence angry outbursts. Anger is a human response to a situation, like when you feel happy or sad. While anger may run in families and genetics can play a role, it can also be a learned behavior. At its core, anger is a response to a situation, and you can take control of your emotional responses.
Can Anger Management Be Cured?
Anger isn’t an emotion you get rid of; it’s a normal, healthy emotion everyone experiences. But when it becomes destructive and leads to personal problems, you need to address the issue. While you can’t cure anger, you can manage its intensity and effects on your life and those around you.
“Those who seek Anger Management treatment might behave similar to volcanos – they know they have problems with anger, but instead keep it pushed down for weeks, months, or years until they eventually explode. This is often because anger is believed to be a negative emotion, something that can be really scary or harmful. However, anger is a normal thing! And there are ways to express and understand anger that are helpful and healthy,” says Dr. Shelby Solomon.
Knowing how to manage your anger is vital in helping you feel more in control. Anger in itself is not a problem; the problem arises when your anger gets out of hand and you lose control of your behavior. Most people with anger issues try to suppress their feelings because they don’t believe it’s appropriate. Often, that only makes things worse and leads to emotional outbursts.
Does Anger Management Work?
“For those that actually want to change and are not just engaging in therapy because others want them to, progress is definitely possible,” says Dr. Tirrell De Gannes.
Many people question what anger management classes teach. Most think of anger management as learning to suppress anger. The thing is, never getting angry isn’t a healthy way to live. At some point, anger will come out regardless of how much effort you make to bury it. The goal of anger management is to help you understand the message behind the anger so you can express it healthily without losing control.
Dr. Shelby Solomnon adds, “I have seen many folks improve throughout Anger Management treatment, and I think much of that can be attributed to the understanding that anger is normal.
Everyone experiences anger, whether as rage, discontent, disappointment, grief, etc. Anger in itself is not bad, we are normal for feeling angry at times, and anger (or any of the underlying emotions) can be uniting. Anger and our expression of it can be managed and used to create better connections and communications.”
So, what happens during a session, and how long does treatment take?
“Anger Management treatment usually involves about 10-12 sessions specifically focusing on our understanding of anger and how it impacts our lives. This usually starts by dispelling the myths of anger (i.e., that it should be avoided at all costs), then examines our own experiences with anger, our triggers, and our cues (i.e., how we know when we’re increasing in anger).
Treatment also involves relaxation techniques and assertiveness training to help manage our emotions and responses, and may also look at how our family experiences have made anger a more common emotion for us.
Overall, the goal of Anger Management treatment is not to shy away from or suppress the feelings of anger, but to look at what it is telling us – about ourselves, our expectations, and our fears.”
Dr. Tirrell De Gannes breaks down what anger management sessions typically include:
- Identification of anger triggers
- Emotional expansion techniques
- Building a response for different levels of anger
- Learning and implementing alternate coping strategies
- Developing healthy communication.
When and Where to Get Anger Management Help
So, how much does anger management cost? There’s a large variation in the cost of anger management treatment. With private therapy, support groups, and even online anger management programs, there’s a big range to consider. But, is anger management covered by insurance? In most cases, anger management classes are not covered by insurance. However, it’s worth speaking with your provider.
Dr. Tirrell De Gannes says, “you need treatment if you’re getting into physical fights, destroying property, injuring yourself in your frustration, frequently getting into arguments, and/or are being told by multiple sources in your life that you need to seek help.”
If you or a loved one is struggling with anger and feel like you’re unable to express emotions in a healthy way, contact Thriving Center of Psychology. We have a team of specialists who will help you to work through your anger in a sustainable way so that you can take back control of your emotions and life. Book an appointment or call our offices today.