There are lots of things in the world to be angry about. Horrible things happen. People hurt us. Things are out of our control. Life is unfair and sometimes makes no sense at all.
Anger is not inherently bad. In fact, anger is a healthy part of life, as it often moves us to action. When someone or something makes us angry, we are usually motivated to do something about it. We might defend ourselves, leave a bad situation, or help someone else.
However, too much anger can be toxic. It can control us and damage our relationships, physical health, work, and daily experience. Experiencing anger all the time is exhausting for us and challenging –or even scary for the people around us.
It’s important note that anger doesn’t always look like shouting or explosive outbursts. Some people keep their anger bottled up inside or directed at themselves. Anger can also lead to passive aggressive behavior and avoidance of responsibilities. Whichever way a person expresses anger, it stops us from communicating what we really want—at least effectively—with ourselves and those around us.
Underneath anger is typically hurt and fear, but anger can seem easier to feel and express. Anger is often associated with aggression, strength, and control. Fear and hurt are vulnerable and can make us feel weak or out of control. For these scenarios, we can learn to express what we are truly feeling when appropriate, instead of responding in unhealthy ways that ultimately hurt us.
Sometimes we feel angry, and we can’t pinpoint where it is coming from. Even small things that wouldn’t normally bother us set us off and we become increasingly frustrated with ourselves and our actions. While everyone has days like this occasionally, many people dealing with depression, bipolar disorder, substance use disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder can experience increased anger or irritability.
In addition to the usual recommendations for coping with those conditions, like therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes, there are changes you can work on yourself to address anger, too. You might want to build up your relaxation skills, deep breathing techniques, exercise, yoga, meditation, journaling, and walking are all activities that can reduce stress both as regular practices and in moments of stress.