Anger is an emotion, so natural that there is no right or wrong in itself. However, like other feelings, anger can elicit behavior, which can be distinguished between right or wrong, rational or irrational. Sustained angry feeling would be detrimental not only to our physical and psychosocial health, but also to familial and societal harmony. Although it is hard to refrain from angry feeling completely, we still have the choice of expressing it in a more appropriate manner. Ultimately, it is our responsibility to manage our mood well.
1. Physiological and Psychological Response to Anger
- Physiological response: muscle tension, palpitation, shortness of breath, rise in blood pressure, sweating etc.
- Psychological response: sense of losing control, bewilderment, loss of judgement, biased views, deepened misunderstanding, feeling hurt and thereof an action tendency to fight.
2. Harm of Sustained Anger
Physical Health: Anger increases one's risk of developing heart disease, hypercholesterolaemia, stroke, and hypertension. Angry people have poorer sleep and stronger sense of pain. Health suffers even more when maladaptive copings such as drinking, smoking and binge eating are used, affecting health and the life span.
Mental Health: Sometimes, a fit of anger does earn temporary submission of others, giving the angry person the wrong perception that anger is the only means to get things done, and hence increasing the chance of future angry fits and their severity, to the point of losing control over anger. In addition, the ensuing negative emotions such as guilt, shame, loneliness, sadness, fear of revenge and boycott may be more intractable. In the long run, chronic anger and hostility predisposes a person to depression.
- Social Relation: People who get angry easily have poorer relationship with their partners, children, and friends, leading to social isolation. Tragedy may ensue for those who lose control of their anger e.g. crimes of assault or even murder may be committed by perpetrators in rage.
3. Advice on Anger Management
Stop and Relax: To prevent the angry feeling from escalating, stop first and think. Try deep breathing to calm down. Repeat the cue words ‘stay calm' so as to nip any impulsive act in the bud. Where necessary, leave the place for a while to help ease the mind.
- Understand the Cause: The root of anger may lie in person, event, time and place. Possible triggers for angry feeling include: being bullied, being treated unfairly, being intruded upon, being blamed, losing dignity, being neglected, being blocked, being bothered, feeling misunderstood, being controlled etc. The first step in anger management is to find out its cause. Confront your own weaknesses and understand yourself better. When you face up to your anger, then you can find ways to deal with it. Handle your emotional disturbance promptly in order to prevent it from developing into hostility. Learn to use ways other than lightning-quick anger to express disagreement. For example, you may tell other people how you feel so as to let them know that you are being hurt. On one hand, this lowers your negative feelings. On the other hand, this also promotes mutual understanding and collaboration towards problem-solving.
- Restructure Your Thoughts: Be aware of the relationship among thoughts, emotion, and behavior. Do not let angry feeling steer your behavioral response. Rectifying irrational thinking is important in raising your emotional quotient. Avoid exaggerations. Do not see things from a single perspective. Do not think in terms of ‘must' and ‘should'. Objective reasoning can assist in identification of the real problem behind a chaotic situation. With a calm mind, you will be able to find an alternative to solve the problem, choose the best option, and implement it smoothly.
- Manage Your Mood: Chronic sleep deprivation and anxiety affect the mood and will increase your tendency towards anger. Balanced and healthy life-style such as sufficient sleep and rest, regular exercise, wise use of leisure, relaxation practice, sharing of emotions with friends, more smiles and positive thinking all help to lower your inclination to angry feeling.
4. Do You Need Professional Help?
If you have followed the above advice but still find yourself suffering from intense and persistent anger, which has undermined your daily functioning, please seek help from a doctor, social worker, or clinical psychologist right away.