- Anger issues come in different forms, including outward anger, inward anger, and passive anger.
- You may experience symptoms like muscle tension, anxiety, increased heart rate, and guilt.
- Anger can be caused by underlying emotions like sadness, betrayal, fear, and hurt.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
While everyone likely feels angry from time to time, some people have anger issues that can disrupt their day to day and jeopardize important relationships and friendships. .
In fact, a large 2015 study found that about 7.8% of the US population deals with either intense or poorly controlled anger.
Turns out, not all anger is the same, so anger issues can manifest in different ways. Here’s what you need to know about the different types of anger issues as well as their symptoms, causes, and treatments.
Types of anger issues
Anger issues can be categorized into three main types, says Renée Goff, PsyD, PMH-C, a licensed clinical psychologist at Orchid Wellness & Mentoring. They are:
1. Outward anger
Outward anger issues are what usually comes to mind when people think about “anger issues,” Goff says. This includes aggressive behavior that anyone can easily hear and/or see. Examples include:
- Throwing things
- Breaking items
2. Inward anger
Inward anger is mostly harbored more privately by the individual, and it may not be visible to others. Goff says inward anger includes:
- Negative self-talk
- Feelings of unworthiness
“Inward anger issues can be that awful nagging voice that continually says ‘You aren’t good enough’ or constantly reminds you of mistakes you’ve made,” says Goff.
3. Passive anger
Passive anger is not as obvious as the other two types. Passive anger refers to passive aggressiveness, such as snarky remarks you might utter under your breath, or spiteful things that you might play off as a joke, says Goff.
Symptoms of anger issues
Aside from feeling angry, there are additional symptoms of anger issues, both physical and emotional, says Nereida Gonzalez-Berrios, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist in private practice. She says these symptoms include:
Physical symptoms of anger:
- Increased blood pressure and heart rate
- Feeling hot or flushed in the face and neck
- Muscle tension
- Clenching fists or jaw
- Tightness in chest
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
Emotional symptoms of anger:
- Lack of patience
- Lack of emotional control
The causes of anger issues
Anger is a secondary emotion, Goff says, which means it’s important to take a step back and evaluate what the underlying cause of the anger is and what triggered it.
Usually, she says anger is caused by feelings of:
- Hurt, like when you’re going through a breakup
- Fear, like if you’re experiencing financial troubles
- Disappointment possibly from getting stuck in traffic or missing the train
- Betrayal like if you discover you’re being cheated on
- Sadness like while dealing with the loss of a loved one
- Unmet expectations from a spouse or parent who shows up late to an important event
“Anger issues occur when one repeatedly, consciously or not, avoids examining what initial feelings truly sent one down the path to anger,” says Goff.
By being introspective and identifying the root cause of your anger each time you experience the emotion, you can gain some clarity.
When to see a doctor
If your anger issues are impacting your day-to-day personal or professional life, you may need to see a professional. Goff says to look out for the following warning signs:
- Repeated conflicts in relationships due to anger
- Loss of relationships due to anger
- Increased frequency, intensity, or duration of anger symptoms
- Increased frequency, intensity, or duration of underlying emotions that trigger your anger
Treatment for anger issues
If you are dealing with chronic anger issues, there are various treatment options. Goff recommends working with a licensed mental health professional and trying the following approaches:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This is a type of therapy that helps you identify negative thought patterns that may be perpetuating your anger. “Once aware of these negative patterns of thought, you can begin working on how to change these thought patterns, which will in turn change your behavior,” says Goff. You may also find anger management classes or groups where CBT will likely be used in the process.
- Solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT): SFBT can help you pinpoint exceptions to your anger issues, and then make actionable changes based on that. “What was different about the times you were able to effectively manage triggers or feelings that would have typically led to anger? Once you’re able to determine and understand what exactly was different, you can begin to intentionally do more of what has or did work during those ‘exceptions,'” says Goff.
- Mindfulness techniques: Mindfulness is all about being present in the moment and acknowledging feelings without judgement. “Mindfulness techniques can be helpful with being more actively aware and in tune with what your body is telling you. This will help you better recognize and listen to those physical cues before heading down the, at times, quick path to anger,” says Goff.
- Psychopharmacological medications: While medications do not treat anger specifically, Goff says medications can treat underlying mental health conditions such as depression that may be presenting as anger.
If you feel like your anger is getting out of hand and interfering with your quality of life, help is available. Remember to take a step back and identify the root cause of your anger, and connect with a mental health professional so you can work on techniques that will help you regain control of your emotions and life.