Life wouldn’t be life without those little irritants that push our buttons. Moreover, when our buttons get pushed, it’s completely natural to feel angry. Anger is a normal emotion that can facilitate better communication and positive change when expressed appropriately.
However, for some people, managing their anger is challenging. Usually, these people are the last to know they even have what others may describe as “toxic” or “out-of-control” anger. That’s because their loved ones have often got used to regulating their anger for them by hiding their feelings, choosing their words carefully, and walking on eggshells, all to “keep the peace.”
Common Reasons for Intense Anger
If you are uncertain whether or not you may have anger issues, read the following common reasons for intense anger and see if any of them ring true for you.
Anger as a Way to Self-Soothe
Self-medication, as a way to deal with life’s pain, is very common. For those with anger issues, there is a biochemical explanation as to why you may fly off the handle and often.
One of the hormones secreted by the brain during a fit of anger is called norepinephrine, which acts as an analgesic, or pain reliever. When we are triggered, often that trigger digs up deep wounds and past hurts, whether we are aware of it or not.
Becoming angry in the moment releases a potent brain chemical that numbs our emotional pain, so we don’t feel vulnerable, ignored, unimportant, rejected, or worthless. However, as with any drug, a person can become addicted to their anger because they become addicted to the chemical reaction of it.
Another chemical released by the brain during a fit of anger is called adrenaline. While norepinephrine acts as a pain reliever, adrenalin acts like an amphetamine, allowing us to feel a sudden surge of energy throughout our entire body.
This adrenaline rush counteracts our feeling of powerlessness in the moment, or maybe in our life in general. How seductive is that? Many medical experts will tell you that adrenaline is every bit as addictive as alcohol and cocaine, so it’s no wonder so many people are addicted to their anger.
Some of us don’t feel safe in a relationship without a bit of distance. This is typically a response to a parent or caretaker being unavailable, unresponsive, or untrustworthy in our past. The adult children of these types of parents feel the need to cultivate a certain emotional detachment in their relationships, and anger is a very effective way of doing that.
Tips for Managing Anger
1. Recognise the problem – As with substance addiction, it’s important to recognise and admit you may have a problem.
2. Monitor your behaviour – Keep an anger journal and log behaviour you noticed, or you were accused of by others. Note the incident, trigger, and the intensity of your anger from 0-10. Often just seeing your anger on paper will offer some insights into where it’s coming from.
3. Feel your anger but don’t act on it – Bottling up emotions is never the answer. It’s essential for us to feel our feelings, ALL of them. However, it’s equally important to regulate our actions. Walk away from potential fights and don’t send that angry email.
4. Get some help – Speaking with someone about your anger can often help. By uncovering the emotions underneath the anger, you can diffuse it and begin to heal from past traumas.
If you feel you may have an issue with anger and would like to explore therapy, please get in touch. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.