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Anger is a common emotion meant to:

  • Protect us from harm
  • Help us get our needs met 
  • Prevent us from sinking into despair

It is normal to experience anger. Sometimes anger is the appropriate response to misbehavior by others. Managed correctly, and kept in check, anger is an important ally for a healthy adult. But anger has great risks, perhaps more than any other emotion. Anger can alienate us from people; it can lead us to do things we regret. Anger may arise not due to the present situation, but because the present situation reminds us unconsciously of a past experience. Anger may be a habitual defense against feeling sadness or fear.

When Anger Becomes a Problem

Anger is a powerful emotion that can influence people's thought patterns and behavior choices. Anger can contribute to:

Anger can be a sign of serious psychological diagnoses such as major depression or bipolar. Drugs and alcohol may help mask anger temporarily, but are also likely to make anger worse at times, as drugs and alcohol reduce self-control and tend to increase impulsivity.


If you have an anger problem, you may know it but not know what to do. Or, you may not know it; the nature of anger may lead angry persons to deny they have any responsibility for the problems to which they contribute. If you find yourself feeling tense and frustrated with yourself and others, if you find yourself unable to enjoy people and life, if you yell often, if you argue with others frequently, if people seem afraid to speak their minds to you or disappoint you, it is possible you have an anger issue.

Psychotherapy for Anger

Anger control is difficult for many people. Emotional outbursts, physical aggression and violence are just some of the results of anger problems. Psychotherapy is a valuable tool for people who need help controlling their anger. With the right help, a person who struggles with anger can learn what lies at the root of their frustration and rage. They can identify what their anger triggers are and learn healthy ways to avoid or cope with those situations. Emotional regulation is a key component of effective anger therapy and empowers a client to face uncertain and stressful circumstances with control and emotional balance that benefits their mental and physical health and the well-being of those around them.

Therapy after Domestic Violence Incident - Case Example

Claude, 43, is referred by a court for anger issues after being arrested for beating up his girlfriend and her teenage son. Claude feels regret for his actions – an excellent sign that he can succeed in treatment. Therapy quickly reveals a tremendous, irrational fear in Claude that his girlfriend will leave him. Claude realizes that it is his angry behavior may in fact lead her to leave, but, with the help of his therapist, that his fears actually stem from childhood; his mother, for reasons Claude denies knowing, left his father to care for Claude and his four siblings. Claude realizes he has great anger at both his parents for this event, and in a couples session reveals this about himself to his girlfriend, establishing a level of intimacy and trust he has never achieved with anyone else. Claude still find himself angry more often than he would like, but is able to express his emotions more readily and avoids violence or aggression.

Depression Manifested as Anger - Case Example

Sarah, 23, seeks treatment for depression, and is soon angry with her therapist because her mood does not quickly improve. She is demanding in treatment, and has poor insight into her actions, blaming others and their shortcomings for everything wrong in her life. Her therapist reframes her disclosures, focusing not on complaints, but on what Sarah wants and need s but lacks – such as intimacy, a sense of purpose in her life, and self-forgiveness for past mistakes. The therapist also identifies some biological tendencies towards mood swings. Sarah is able to express her sadness and fear, and to gain insight into how she causes herself to be isolated from others by always criticizing or arguing with them. She soon begins to work on communicating more assertively and less aggressively, rediscovers her childhood love of painting and music, enrolls in school and begins apologizing to friends for her past actions. Her anger, while still sometimes a challenge for her, is under control.

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Last updated: 09-30-2014


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