Psychotherapy & Counselling for Anger Management
Anger is a natural response to feeling attacked, deceived, frustrated or treated unfairly. Everyone gets angry sometimes – it’s part of being human. It isn’t always a ‘bad’ emotion; in fact it can sometimes be useful. For example, feeling angry about something can:
- help us identify problems or things that are hurting us
- motivate us to create change
- help us defend ourselves in dangerous situations by giving us a burst of energy
When is anger a problem?
Anger only becomes a problem when it harms you or people around you. This can happen when:
- You regularly express your anger through unhelpful or destructive behavior e.g lashing out
- Your anger is having a negative impact on your overall mental and physical health
If the way you behave when you feel angry is causing you problems in your life or relationships, it’s worth thinking about ways you can choose to manage anger and learning about your options to manage it
What is unhelpful angry behaviour?
How you behave when you’re angry depends on how well you’re able to identify and cope with your feelings, and how you’ve learned to express them. Not everyone expresses anger in the same way. For example, some unhelpful ways you may have learned to express anger include:
- Outward aggression and violence – such as shouting, swearing, slamming doors, hitting or throwing things and being physically violent or verbally abusive and threatening towards others.
- Inward aggression – such as telling yourself that you hate yourself, denying yourself your basic needs (like food, or things that might make you happy), cutting yourself off from the world and self-harming.
- Non-violent or passive aggression – such as ignoring people or refusing to speak to them, refusing to do tasks, or deliberately doing things poorly, late or at the last possible minute, and being sarcastic or sulky while not saying anything explicitly aggressive or angry.
If you find you express your anger through outward aggression and violence, this can be extremely frightening and damaging for people around you – especially children. And it can have serious consequences: it could lose you your job or get you into trouble with the law. In this case it’s very important to seek treatment and support.
But even if you’re never outwardly violent or aggressive towards others, and never even raise your voice, you might still recognise some of these angry behaviours and feel that they’re a problem for you.
What can I do to manage my anger?
It can be frightening when your anger overwhelms you. But there are ways you can learn to stay in control of your anger when you find yourself in difficult situations. You can:
1. Look out for warning signs
Anger can cause a rush of adrenaline through your body, so before you recognise the emotion you’re feeling you might notice:
- your heart is beating faster
- your breathing is quicker
- your body is becoming tense
- your feet are tapping
- you’re clenching your jaw or fists
Recognising these signs gives you the chance to think about how you want to react to a situation before doing anything. This can be difficult in the heat of the moment, but the earlier you notice how you’re feeling, the easier it can be to choose how to manage your anger.
2. Buy yourself time to think
Sometimes when we’re feeling angry, we just need to walk away from the situation for a while. This can give you time to work out what you’re thinking about the situation, decide how you want to react to it and feel more in control. Some ways you can buy yourself time to think are:
- Counting to 10 before you react.
- Going for a short walk – even if it’s just around your local area.
- Talking to a trusted friend who’s not connected to the situation. Expressing your thoughts out loud can help you understand why you’re angry and help calm you down.
3. Try some techniques to manage your feelings
There are many ways to calm down and let go of angry feelings, depending on what suits you and what’s convenient at the time you are angry.
- Breathe slowly – try to breathe out for longer than you breathe in and focus on each breath as you take it.
- Relax your body – if you can feel your body getting tense, try focusing on each part of your body in turn to tense and then relax your muscles
- Use up some of your energy safely – this can help relieve some of your angry feelings in a way that doesn’t hurt yourself or others. For example, you could try:
- tearing up a newspaper
- hitting a pillow
- smashing ice cubes in a sink.
4. Do something to distract yourself.
Anything that completely changes your situation, thoughts or patterns can help stop your anger escalating. For example, you could try:
- putting on upbeat music and dancing
- doing some colouring
- taking a cold shower.
5. Try mindfulness techniques
This will help you be aware of when you’re getting angry and to help yourself calm down.
Why would therapy help?
In therapy we can explore the anger and how to manage it in a safe way. Thinking about how to manage your anger when you’re feeling calmer, you can avoid feeling overwhelmed by it in the heat of the moment. In therapy the focus would be on how to:
1. Learn your triggers
Understanding what sort of situations trigger your anger means you can develop strategies to cope and think about how to react before the situation happens. You might find it helpful to keep a diary or make notes about the times you have felt angry. You could record:
- What were the circumstances?
- Did someone say or do something to trigger your anger?
- How did you feel?
- How did you behave?
- How did you feel afterwards?
If you do this for a while, you might start to see patterns emerging.
2. Examine your thought patterns
If you’re feeling upset or angry, you might find yourself automatically thinking or saying things like:
- “This is all their fault.”
- “They never listen.”
- “This always happens to me.”
- “Other people should behave better.”
But often there are lots of different ways we could interpret a situation. It can make you feel worse if you think in terms of ‘always’, ‘never’ and ‘should’, because in reality things are rarely so black and white. Making an effort to replace these words with softer terms like ‘sometimes’ or ‘could’ when thinking about your situation might help you to break up negative thought patterns, reflect more calmly on your situation and find new ways through conflicts.
3. Develop your communication skills
Being excessively angry and aggressive can get in the way of communicating your feelings effectively. People may focus on your anger, and find it hard to listen to what you’re saying. On the other hand, if you are able to express your anger by talking in an assertive, respectful way about what has made you angry, then you’re more likely to be understood by others.
Being assertive means standing up for yourself while still respecting other people and their opinions. It can:
- make communication easier
- stop tense situations getting out of control
- benefit your relationships and self-esteem
Learning to be assertive might not feel easy to start with, but here are some things to try:
- Think about the outcome you want to achieve. What’s making you angry, and what do you want to change? Is it enough just to explain what you are angry about?
- Be specific. For example, you could open your statement with, “I feel angry with you because…” Using the phrase ‘I feel’ avoids blaming anyone and the other person is less likely to feel attacked.
- Really listen to the other person’s response and try to understand their point of view.
- Be prepared for the conversation to go wrong and try to spot when this is happening. If you feel yourself getting angry, you might want to come back to the conversation another time.
4. Look at your lifestyle
Looking after your wellbeing more generally could help you feel calmer and more in control when things happen that make you feel angry. You might want to:
- Avoid drugs and alcohol. Although you might feel this could help you cope in the short term, alcohol and drugs can both affect your ability to control your emotions and actions, and can be a factor in violence.
- Be more active. Being active can help let out any tension you’re feeling, as well as having benefits to your self-esteem. Even gentle exercise like going for a walk can make a difference. See our pages on exercise for more information.
- Get good sleep. Not sleeping well can have a huge impact on how we’re feeling, and how well we cope with things that happen to us. See our pages on sleep problems for more information.
- Look at what you’re eating and drinking.
- Learn to deal with pressure. We can feel pressured or stressed for lots of different reasons, but taking some time to learn how to deal with pressure can help us feel more in control of difficult situations. See our page on dealing with pressure for more information.
- Develop your emotional resilience. Emotional resilience helps us feel more able to handle difficult emotions.
Private Counselling & Psychotherapy for Anger Management London
Anger control can be difficult for people at times. Psychotherapy may be of help to people who wish to work on controlling their anger.
With help you will be able to discover what lies at the root of your frustration and rage and learn healthy ways to avoid or cope with those situations. Emotional regulation is a key component of effective anger therapy, and this technique empowers an individual to be able to face uncertain and stressful circumstances with control and an emotional balance that benefits the individual’s mental and physical health and the well-being of those around them.