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Anger

Most people feel angry sometimes, but if it's affecting your life, there are things you can try that may help.

Support is also available if you're finding it hard to cope with stress, anxiety or depression.

Information:

If you're not sure how you feel, try our mood self-assessment.

Symptoms of anger

Anger can cause many different symptoms. It might affect how you feel physically or mentally, or how you behave.

Some people become aggressive towards others when they're angry. Other people hide their anger and may take it out on themselves.

It's not always easy to recognise when anger is the reason why you're behaving differently.

Physical symptoms
  • faster heartbeat
  • tense muscles
  • clenching your fists
  • tightness in your chest
  • feeling hot
Mental symptoms
  • feeling tense or nervous
  • being unable to relax
  • being easily irritated
  • feeling humiliated
  • resenting other people
Changes in behaviour
  • shouting
  • ignoring people or sulking
  • starting fights
  • breaking things
  • self-harming

Things you can try to help with anger

Do

Don't

  • do not try to do everything at once; set small targets you can easily achieve
  • do not focus on things you cannot change. Focus your time and energy on helping yourself feel better
  • try not to tell yourself that you're alone – most people feel angry sometimes and support is available
  • try not to use alcohol, cigarettes, gambling or drugs to relieve anger – these can all contribute to poor mental health
Information:

Further information and support

The mental health charity Mind offers more information on:

Where to get help for anger

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • you feel you need help dealing with your anger

They may be able to refer you to a local anger-management programme or counselling.

Anger management programmes

A typical anger management programme may involve 1-to-1 counselling and working in a small group.

A programme may be a 1-day or weekend course, or over a couple of months.

The structure of the programme depends on who provides it, but most programmes include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), as well as counselling.

There are also 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 for Counselling & Psychotherapy.

Where to get NHS help for stress, anxiety or depression

Referring yourself for therapy

If you need more support, you can get free psychological therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), on the NHS.

You can refer yourself directly to a psychological therapies service without a referral from a GP.

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • you're struggling to cope with stress, anxiety or depression
  • you've had a low mood for more than 2 weeks
  • things you're trying yourself are not helping
  • you would prefer to get a referral from a GP

Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment or call 111 if:

  • you need help urgently, but it's not an emergency

111 can tell you the right place to get help if you need to see someone. Go to 111.nhs.uk or call: 111

Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E now if:

  • you or someone you know needs immediate help
  • you have seriously harmed yourself – for example, by taking a drug overdose

A mental health emergency should be taken as seriously as a medical emergency.

Find your nearest A&E

Causes of anger

There are many different causes of anger and it's different for everyone.

Some common things that make people feel angry include:

  • being treated unfairly and feeling powerless to do anything about it
  • feeling threatened or attacked
  • other people not respecting your authority, feelings or property
  • being interrupted when you're trying to achieve a goal

How you react to anger can depend on lots of things, including:

  • the situation you're in at the moment – if you're dealing with lots of problems or stress, you may find it harder to control your anger
  • your family history – you may have learned unhelpful ways of dealing with anger from the adults around you when you were a child
  • events in your past – people who experience traumatic, frightening or stressful events sometimes develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which can lead to angry outbursts
  • substances such as drugs and alcohol – which make some people act more aggressively than usual

Some of the things that make you angry may not bother other people at all.

You might find it hard to explain why you feel this way but talking to someone could help you find a solution.

Find out about the 5 steps to mental wellbeing.

Important

If uncontrolled anger leads to domestic violence and abuse (violence or threatening behaviour within a relationship), there are places that offer help and support.

You can contact organisations such as:

Find out more about getting help for domestic violence and abuse.

Page last reviewed: 15 October 2019
Next review due: 15 October 2022