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How to control your anger

Anger management

Media last reviewed: 30/07/2013

Next review due: 30/07/2015

Anger and your health

Anger is a normal, healthy emotion. But managing anger can be a problem for many people who find it difficult to keep their anger under control.

Health issues linked to unresolved anger include high blood pressure, heart attack, depression, anxiety, colds, flu and problems with digestion.

But anger doesn’t have to be a problem. “You can control your anger, and you have a responsibility to do so,” says clinical psychologist Isabel Clarke, a specialist in anger management. “It can feel intimidating, but it can be energising too.”

Dealing with anger

“Everyone has a physical reaction to anger,” says Isabel. “Be aware of what your body is telling you, and take steps to calm yourself down.”

Recognise your anger signs

Your heart beats faster and you breathe more quickly, preparing you for action. You might also notice other signs, such as tension in your shoulders or clenching your fists. "If you notice these signs, get out of the situation if you’ve got a history of losing control,” says Isabel.

Count to 10

Counting to 10 gives you time to cool down so you can think more clearly and overcome the impulse to lash out.

Breathe slowly

Breathe out for longer than you breathe in, and relax as you breathe out. “You automatically breathe in more than out when you’re feeling angry, and the trick is to breathe out more than in,” says Isabel. “This will calm you down effectively and help you think more clearly.”

Managing anger in the long term

Once you're able to recognise the signs that you’re getting angry and can calm yourself down, you can start looking at ways to control your anger more generally. 

Exercise can help with anger

Bring down your general stress levels with exercise and relaxation. Running, walking, swimming, yoga and meditation are just a few of the activities that can help reduce stress. "Exercise as part of your daily life is a good way to get rid of irritation and anger,” says Isabel.

Looking after yourself may keep you calm

Make time to relax regularly, and ensure that you get enough sleep. Drugs and alcohol can make anger problems worse. “They lower inhibitions, and actually we need inhibitions to stop us acting unacceptably when we’re angry,” says Isabel.

Get creative to get on top of your emotions

Writing, making music, dancing or painting can release tension and help reduce feelings of anger.

Talk about how you feel

Discussing your feelings with a friend can be useful, and can help you get a different perspective on the situation.

Look at the way you think

“Try to let go of any unhelpful ways of thinking,” says Isabel. “Thoughts such as ‘It’s not fair,’ or ‘People like that shouldn’t be on the roads,’ can make anger worse.”

Thinking like this will keep you focused on whatever it is that’s making you angry. Let these thoughts go and it will be easier to calm down.

Try to avoid using phrases that include:

  • always (for example, "You always do that.")
  • never ("You never listen to me.")
  • should or shouldn't ("You should do what I want," or "You shouldn't be on the roads.")
  • must or mustn't ("I must be on time," or "I mustn't be late.")
  • ought or oughtn't ("People ought to get out of my way.")
  • not fair

Getting help with anger

If you feel you need help dealing with your anger, see your GP. There might be local anger management courses or counselling that could help you.

There are private courses and therapists who can help with anger issues. Make sure any therapist you see is registered with a professional organisation, such as the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy.

Anger management programmes

A typical anger management programme may involve one-to-one counselling and working in a small group. The programmes can consist of a one-day or weekend course. In some cases, it may be over a couple of months.

The structure of the programmes can differ depending on who is providing it, but most programmes include CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) as well as counselling.

Domestic violence and anger

If uncontrolled anger leads to domestic violence (violence or threatening behaviour within the home), there are places that offer help and support. You can talk to your GP or contact domestic violence organisations such as Refuge, Women's Aid or the Alternatives to Violence Project.

Men of any age can be victims of domestic violence or abuse, in heterosexual or same-sex relationships. Help and support is available from Men's Advice Line on 0808 801 0327 or Mankind on 01823 334 244.

Anyone who needs confidential help with their own abusive behaviour can contact Respect on their free helpline: 0808 802 4040.

Read more about getting help for domestic abuse.


Page last reviewed: 03/01/2014

Next review due: 03/01/2016

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Comments

The 14 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Cherly258 said on 27 October 2014

.My experience is with my little brother he is 11 years old and struggles to control his temper. I have tried telling my mum that I think he has issues with his anger but she doesn't listen. He gets angry really easily to the point he attacks me or objects around the house, he has smashed his tv x-box remotes tried breaking my phone and if he's not breaking objects he starts fighting with me. I don't know if he is just spoilt or just doesn't like me but he could be having an argument with someone in my house and I would be the brunt of the storm even if I don't get involved. If he looses on the x-box he starts crying then gets really angry I always feel like I'm walking on eggshells around him. His behaviour is making everyone in my house ill and I don't know what to do anymore.

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ja58lre said on 12 October 2014

helpful, been discharged after 12 years six months ago, for some reason my patience is being tested, I win hands down due to the fact of my meds, but I am thanks this video seeing a psychiatrist to solve the problem, the new year will give me a fresh start, I don`t want to lose it ...

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Robbarnes83 said on 08 September 2014

I seem to leave things build up like stress, money problems and other problems for weeks but don't know why, I then take it out on the people I love but most of the time it's my girlfriend I snap at how can I resolve this issue so she knows I'm changed and am the right guy she should be with

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Sarahlou31 said on 06 September 2014

I had an outburst at work this week. Not professional at all. I usually have a good handle on my outbursts by removing myself from the situation that is irritating me. But in this instance when I asked the involved party to drop the subject and leave it alone, she kept on. Her tone was bulshy and voice was raised and I just flipped. It ended with me storming out if my office for 15 minutes or so to calm down. I felt like I had a knot in my chest and I was shaking for a good couple hours afterwards and it is still winding me up now when I replay it. I know not rising to it is the best way to deal with the situation but I just couldn't sit there and be spoken to like that. And now I have to sit in the same room as the woman day in day out at work and it's killing me.

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TryShan said on 12 August 2014

Buddha is first and greatest spiritual psychologist, he found that if our way of looking and perceiving things (which are input) changes, automatically our reaction (which is outcome) would change.

“Conquer anger by non-anger. Conquer evil by good. Conquer miserliness by liberality. Conquer a liar by truthfulness.”

There is a beautiful story that follows after these lines. I found uncomfortable to copy paste so many lines. You can read out full here at - factincept.com/conquer-your-anger.htm

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User894146 said on 08 August 2014

I struggle with my temper and have tried some of these ideas to stop me from getting so angry but the thing is as soon as someone or something has irritated me a little bit there is nothing that can calm me down except for me getting even more angry and then throwing things. Luckily, I have not hurt anyone when having my outbursts. My mum and family think that it is just me being immature and not wanting to take control of my anger but the thing is as soon as I get angry it is as if a red mist descends and I am not myself for about 10-30 minutes. I have punched and kicked holes in the walls, I have even thrown most of my possessions in my room down the stairs. It seems like when I get angry the only way for me to kind of get over it is to throw things and scream but at the same time it seems like that isn't enough. Throwing things and screaming just seems to be one rung short of the top of the ladder. I have tried counselling, it didn't work. I tried boxing, it didn't work. When getting angry my mum and friends have tried to help by telling me to breathe slower and calm down but this has the opposite effect. I don't think it will be long till my mum has had enough of my outbursts and kicks me out for good.
I think I might need some serious help.

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pgill said on 09 June 2014

Seems very useful information but only if I am the patient. But my misses is suffering from this problem and I discussed these things quite few times with her and it looks like she is not understanding how badly it is effecting our relationship. At times its too difficult to stay calm when she suddenly burst out at you. Worst thing is she does not show any signs that she have any regret about it and continue doing it again and again until I walk off. Her behaviour is getting worst day by day and I am extremely worried because it is harming our relationship. Sometimes I do feel that she has crossed all limits and I need to move on to live life peacefully. But I deeply love her and want to give time to her to realise that she need to sort out her anger. Can you please advice me what I can do to help her and make her realise that she need help.

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Pusia2 said on 11 May 2014

thanks for your comments ProfessiolAlan - I agree. Certainly links to courses and other info would be good

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ProfessionalAlan said on 06 December 2013

This is really not advice at all when you think about it. It makes out that one person's anger is a problem for someone else, when in fact the problem is predominantly for those that are burdened with this awful feeling. This kind of opinion wouldn't be deemed acceptable if it were aimed at sufferers of depression, but those that have issues with anger are told that it's their fault and because of the blame culture and stigma associated with anger they are only likely to become isolated and worsen, with fewer and fewer people willing or able to help. The author needs to get their priorities right as making someone appear less angry by counting to ten so the rest of us can get on is not taking a patient centred approach to care, nor is it addressing the cause of the problem. Lastly, I'd imagine that literally telling people with anger difficulties what they can and can't say is not necessarily politically correct, let alone effective.

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angermanagement said on 04 December 2013

Im looking at ways of containing my anger before it takes control, everyday i am becoming extreamly aggressive on the phone, while im driving, the parking fines... and really just perfetic things. Knowing this but just can't ignore it or find a way out to a better situation.
I have quit drinking alcohol for nearly 4 months as i end up being so uncontrollable after a couple drinks... i stopped drinking because i thought this was why i was so angry all the time. Quite a bit of time has passed now but i just feel that i am becoming even more angrier with each day passing.
I would like to find some angermanagemeny classes before i loose everything as things are all a bit troubled at the moment. Thank you

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avpscotland said on 28 November 2013

One practical step for anyone dealing with problems of violence is to attend an Alternatives to Violence Workshop which are held regularly in Glasgow and other parts of Scotland. Contact or visit www.avpbritain.org.uk. AVP is a charity which has been running workshops for over 30 year both in the community and in prisons.

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springrabbit said on 14 November 2013

Gave me advice on how to control my anger.

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Sinbad14 said on 13 October 2013

This has been helpful. I lost the lady I wanted to be with for the rest of my life because of this. But I didn't realise it was my anger and how I dealt with situations that pushed her away.

The only thing is readings tips is ok, I just need to know in myself when the change from the current as is, moves to the new man I want to be for myself and for everyone. Hopefully she may be there later in life. Then, we can progress knowing there's a future where there's calmness and the right way to treat another person. Which should be the only way.

Gutted.

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cnhova said on 13 September 2012

TThe written information is useful but the video is spoiled by having patches where there is a noisy scene of an angry driver screaming while presenter continues talking. The driver scene automatically switches viewer attention to what the driver is doing and unfortunately for that moment I don't hear what presenter is saying as I an hearing the sound of the captivating picture. It would be better if each time the shouting drive is shown she pauses talking (this is done in some parts of the video) or if she is talking the driver sound is turned off because it is distracting.

Just don't have a screaming driver scene and voice over simultaneously.

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