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 at times, but if you are unable to 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 as well as damaging your relationships with others.
Tiredness, stress, pain and hormonal imbalances can all make it harder for us to manage our anger. At the same time, alcohol or drug dependency 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:
- Helping you develop and use tools and techniques to help you control your anger, avoiding blowouts..
- Helping you discover and resolving some of the 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 can be hard to recognise when unexpressed anger is the causing physical, emotional or behavioural difficulties.
Some of the common physical symptoms associated with poor anger management include:
- feeling hot
- tension in your muscles
- tightness in your chest
- clenching your fists
- a faster heart rate
You might also feel:
- tense, nervous or impatient
- easily irritated
- unable to relax
- resentful of others
Or find yourself:
- 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 express anger and other strong emotions.
Here are some things other people have found helpful.
Try to recognise when you start 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 to get away from whatever is causing you to get angry.
- Talk to someone about how you feel. You may be able to talk with a trusted friend or may prefer to seek professional help. In a crisis, it might be helpful to speak with the Samaritans on 116 123.
The STOP procedure
One thing we have found useful with our clients 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
Many people have found that mindfulness can help them regulate their moods. The NHS is actively testing several mindfulness apps. You can find full details in their apps library.
Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT)
EFT (also known as tapping) is an established form of therapy which has proven to be effective in mood regulation.
Counselling may help you manage your anger by helping you:
- recognise and understand the ‘hooks’ 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?
We are frequently approached by people 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 formal course will cover a broad and general syllabus, the counselling we offer will be unique to you and your circumstances. By tuning the counselling to your individual situation, we would hope to 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 bit of a cliche, but there is some truth in it.
Counselling can be very effective in helping you manage strong 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 different and has a different story; therefore, it’s not possible to say in advance how many sessions any particular individual might need. In many cases, 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.