In a crisis?
For urgent medical attention, for example, if you’re worried about acting on thoughts of suicide, or you’ve seriously harmed yourself, you can call 999 or go straight to A&E.
What is anger?
Anger is a normal, healthy emotion to experience. It can arise when you feel attacked, deceived, frustrated, invalidated or unfairly treated.
Anger is sometimes useful – it can help you to identify problems and motivate you to change. It can also help you stay safe and defend yourself.
It’s important to learn healthy ways of recognising, expressing and dealing with anger.
Most people will experience manageable anger which does not have a huge impact on their lives. However, when anger gets out of control and harms you and others it does become a problem. The problem can arise when:
- you express anger through unhelpful/destructive behaviour;
- your anger has a negative impact on your mental and physical health;
- you feel anger to block out your ability to feel other emotions;
- you haven’t developed healthy ways of expressing anger.
Not everyone expresses anger in the same way. Some examples of unhelpful ways of expressing anger you may have learned include:
- outward aggression and violence – shouting, hitting or throwing things, being physically and/or verbally aggressive, threatening others;
- inward aggression – telling yourself that you hate yourself, denying yourself basic needs as a punishment, distancing yourself from the rest of the world and self-harming;
- non-violent or passive aggression – ignoring people, refusing to speak to them, being sarcastic or sulky whilst not saying anything explicitly aggressive or angry.
This 5 minute video shows all the emotions that may underlie feelings of anger. If we can untangle these emotions and learn to recognise them for what they are, we can get a much better handle on them. Understanding ourselves and the emotions that motivate us allow us to communicate better and have more control over our life.
How can I help myself?
It can be frightening when you feel overwhelmed by anger; however, there are several methods you can learn to help manage your anger.
Firstly, try to look out for the warning signs. Before you recognise the anger, you may notice your heart is beating faster, your body is becoming tense and hot or that you are clenching your jaw or fists. By recognising these signs, it gives you a chance to think about how you want to react to a situation before doing anything. Sometimes we just need to walk away from a situation; this will make you feel more in control, and give you precious time to think.
There are also a number of calming techniques that may be useful, such as:
- slowing down your breathing – focus on each breath, and aim to breathe out for longer than you breathe in;
- relaxing your body – focus on each part of your body that feels tense and then relax those muscles;
- trying mindfulness techniques – see our ‘Mindfulness’ page;
- using up your energy in safer ways – try exercise, hitting a pillow or singing;
- using distractions – try listening to music, taking a cold shower, exercising or finding something creative to do.
It’s also important to consider your lifestyle. By looking after your well-being, you may feel calmer and more in control when situations arise that make you feel angry. You may want to:
- avoid drugs and alcohol;
- try to be more active;
- get a good night’s sleep – not getting a good night’s sleep can have a huge impact on how you feel and how well you cope with situations;
- develop emotional resilience – this helps you handle a variety of overwhelming/difficult emotions;
- learn to deal with pressure – when you learn how to deal with pressure and stress, you’re able to be more in control of difficult situations and emotions;
- consider what you’re eating and drinking – food has been found to have a significant impact on our moods (see our ‘Food and our Moods’ page).
There are also a number of treatments and professional support available to help you control your anger, for example, talking therapies, such as counselling, psychotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). These can usually be accessed by talking to your GP. If you’re 18 or over, you can also consider self-referral (referring yourself) through the NHS Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme, represented by Steps2Wellbeing in Dorset (see Useful Contacts below).
There are also different anger management courses, such as:
- NHS anger management courses – ask your GP what is available near you;
- online self-help programmes;
- private courses or therapists specialising in anger – you can use the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy’s (BACP) website to find accredited (approved) private therapists.
Useful contacts – in a crisis
Dorset Mind isn’t a crisis service and we’re unable to help someone who may be in serious mental distress. Please use the following options if you or someone you know may be experiencing a mental health crisis.
Urgent medical attention>: If you or someone else is in serious risk of death or injury, call 999.
Other crisis situations:
- Call your GP or other allocated health professional, such as your Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) or Mental Health Crisis Team)
- Call NHS 111 (out-of-hours)
Someone to talk to: If you’re desperate to talk to someone, the Samaritans can help – call 116 123 for emotional support and a listening ear 24/7. This is a freephone number. It can be called from a mobile that has no credit and the call won’t appear on the phone bill.
Useful contacts – who else can help?
Provides information on mindfulness and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), including course listings.
Provides information and details to find accredited counsellors and psychotherapist practitioners. It’ll help you to find someone who specialises in anger and stress management.
Aims to offer individual support, workshops, seminars and bespoke packages for individuals who struggle with anger. They have expertise in anger, stress and conflict management, through practical and online workshops.
Provides further information on anger, anger management tips as well as information on how to communicate in a respectful and still assertive way.
Distributes free online self-help guidance from the NHS. It provides explanations about anger and its possible causes, techniques on how to channel your anger into healthier methods, and ways to challenge and understand your anger with activities.
Steps 2 Wellbeing – Local! (18+)
A free, confidential, NHS service for people aged 18+, providing psychological support across Dorset and Southampton for people registered at either a Dorset or Southampton GP surgery. As an IAPT service (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies), they accept self-referrals online and by telephone.
Support Line is a telephone helpline which provides young people with confidential and emotional support on issues surrounding anger, self-harm, abuse and relationships.
Provides free, confidential support for young people under 25. They offer a telephone or email helpline, crisis messenger, one-to-one chat on live messenger, telephone counselling and also webchat counselling. They aim to help young people to make informed choices about their physical and mental well-being.