Anger Management

Two angry women having an argument, one pointing her finger at the other - Anger Management

What is anger management?

Anger is a primary emotion which we all feel from birth. Used positively, it can be a force for good, for example, to fight injustice. Poorly managed, it can be destructive, turning to aggression and violence.

We all feel angry, but if you cannot find healthy ways to express how you feel, anger can be very damaging. It can lead to issues with your physical, mental and emotional health and damaging your relationships with others.

Tiredness, stress, pain and hormonal imbalances can all make it harder for us to manage our anger. Alcohol or drug use can mask an anger problem. Those who find it challenging to manage their anger are often following a family or cultural pattern that they have never questioned.

Counselling for anger management comprises 2 phases:

  1. Helping you develop and use tools and techniques to help you control your anger, avoiding blowouts.
  2. Helping you discover and resolving some underlying issues that caused your anger, leading to long-term benefits.

The signs and symptoms of anger

While some people become outwardly aggressive when they are angry, others hide their anger, bottling it up inside or taking it out on themselves. As a result, it’s hard to recognise when unexpressed anger is causing physical, emotional or behavioural difficulties.

Some common physical symptoms associated with poor anger management include:

  • feeling hot
  • tension in your muscles
  • tightness in your chest
  • clenching your fists
  • your heart beating harder or faster

You might also feel:

  • tense, nervous or impatient
  • easily irritated
  • unable to relax
  • resentful of others

Or find yourself:

  • shouting
  • sulking or ignoring people
  • giving people “the silent treatment”
  • banging, throwing or breaking things
  • drinking more or using drugs
  • harming yourself

How can you help yourself manage your anger?

There are a lot of things you can do to help yourself manage and healthily express anger and other powerful emotions.

Here are some things others have found helpful.

Try to recognise when you begin to feel angry so you can act to reduce your anger before it becomes a problem.

  • Give yourself time to think before reacting. The STOP procedure below can help with this.
  • Take time to breathe. Take five slow, deep breaths, noticing the sensation of the air passing through your nostrils and the rise and fall of your chest.
  • Go for a walk–get away from whatever is making you angry.
  • Talk to someone about how you feel. You could talk with a trusted friend or might prefer to seek professional help—the Samaritans (116 123) and always on hand to offer support in a crisis.

The STOP procedure

One thing our clients have often found useful is the STOP procedure. It’s a simple way to help you remember to take some timeout to reflect before you act.

Stop–as soon as you recognise your anger building, stop what you are doing.
Take five slow, deep breaths.
Observe what you are feeling in your body.
Proceed (with caution).

You can find more information in the Creative Anger Expression handout that accompanies this page.

Other sources of help

Mindfulness

Mindfulness has proven to be very helpful in managing strong emotions, and the NHS is testing several mindfulness apps. You can find full details in their apps library.

Counselling

Counselling might help you manage your anger. It can help you:

  • Recognise and understand the ‘hooks’ that are triggering and maintaining your anger.
  • Understand how your anger is affecting your close relationships.
  • Challenge any unhelpful beliefs attached to your anger.
  • Take responsibility for your arousal to anger and the consequences of your actions.
  • Identify alternative, helpful ways of expressing your anger.

Frequently asked questions

Do you offer anger management classes?

People frequently approach us seeking ‘anger management classes’. Sometimes this is because they feel they have a problem with anger and want help to stop it getting out of hand. Often it’s because someone else has told them they need to attend an anger management course.

Rather than a formal, predetermined, anger management course, we offer one-to-one, personalised, counselling for anger issues. While a structured course will cover a broad and general syllabus, the service we provide will be unique to you and your circumstances. By tuning the counselling to your unique situation, we can offer more focussed therapy than is possible in a generic course.

I have been sent for anger management. Can you help?

There is an old joke, “How many counsellors does it take to change a light bulb? One–but the bulb has to want to change.” It’s a cliché, but there is some truth in it.

Counselling can be very useful in helping you manage powerful emotions, but you have to want to do the work, or it’s unlikely to make much difference. If, however, you recognise that something is not right, and you are willing to honestly and openly look at what is happening for you, counselling can make a massive difference.

How many sessions will I need?

Each person is distinct and has an original story; therefore, it’s not possible to say in advance how many sessions any individual might need. Most times, where there is no history of trauma or domestic abuse, six to eight sessions may be sufficient. If there has been a history of trauma or abuse, it might take significantly longer.

The next steps

if you would like to talk with someone about your anger and how we might be able to help, please call us on 0151 329 3637 or email enquiries@counselling-matters.org.uk. We would be happy to take your call.