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How Do You Control Anger?

Updated: Jun 20, 2023

What is Anger?

Angry Black Woman
Controlling anger isn’t easy.

According to an American Psychological Association, Anger is “an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage,” according to Charles Spielberger, PhD, a psychologist who specializes in the study of anger. Like other emotions, it is accompanied by physiological and biological changes; when you get angry, your heart rate and blood pressure go up, as do the levels of your energy hormones, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. https://www.apa.org/topics/anger/control


Effects of Anger.

1. An angry outburst puts your heart at great risk. Most physically damaging is anger's effect on your cardiac health. “In the two hours after an angry outburst, the chance of having a heart attack doubles,” says Chris Aiken, MD, an instructor in clinical psychiatry at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine and director of the Mood Treatment Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.


“Repressed anger — where you express it indirectly or go to great lengths to control it, is associated with heart disease,” says Dr. Aiken. In fact, one study found that people with anger proneness as a personality trait were at twice the risk of coronary disease than their less angry peers.


To protect your ticker, identify and address your feelings before you lose control. “Constructive anger — the kind where you speak up directly to the person you are angry with and deal with the frustration in a problem-solving manner — is not associated with heart disease,” and is actually a very normal, healthy emotion, says Aiken.


2. Anger ups your stroke risk. If you’re prone to lashing out, beware. One study found there was a three times higher risk of having a stroke from a blood clot to the brain or bleeding within the brain during the two hours after an angry outburst. For people with an aneurysm in one of the brain’s arteries, there was a six times higher risk of rupturing this aneurysm following an angry outburst.


Some good news: You can learn to control those angry explosions. “To move into positive coping, you need to first identify what your triggers, and then figure out how to change your response,” says Mary Fristad, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and psychology at the Ohio State University. Instead of losing your temper, “Do some deep breathing. Use assertive communication skills. You might even need to change your environment by getting up and walking away,” says Dr. Fristad.


3. It weakens your immune system. If you're mad all the time, you just might find yourself feeling sick more often. In one study, Harvard University scientists found that in healthy people, simply recalling an angry experience from their past caused a six-hour dip in levels of the antibody immunoglobulin A, the cells’ first line of defense against infection.


If you're someone who's habitually angry, protect your immune system by turning to a few effective coping strategies. “Assertive communication, effective problem solving, using humor, or restructuring your thoughts to get away from that black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking — those are all good ways to cope,” says Fristad. “But you've got to start by calming down.”


4. Anger problems can make your anxiety worse. If you’re a worrier, it’s important to note that anxiety and anger can go hand-in-hand. In a 2012 study published in the journal Cognitive Behavior Therapy, researchers found that anger can exacerbate symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), a condition characterized by an excessive and uncontrollable worry that interferes with a person’s daily life. Not only were higher levels of anger found in people with GAD, but hostility — along with internalized, unexpressed anger in particular — contributed greatly to the severity of GAD symptoms.


5. Anger is also linked to depression. Numerous studies have linked depression with aggression and angry outbursts, especially in men. “In depression, passive anger — where you ruminate about it but never take action — is common,” says Aiken. His No. 1 piece of advice for someone struggling with depression mixed with anger is to get busy and stop thinking so much.


“Any activity which fully absorbs you is a good cure for anger, such as golf, needlepoint, biking,” he says. “These tend to fill our minds completely and pull our focus toward the present moment, and there's just no room left for anger to stir when you've got that going.”


6. Hostility can hurt your lungs. Not a smoker? You still could be hurting your lungs if you're a perpetually angry, hostile person. A group of Harvard University scientists studied 670 men over eight years using a hostility scale scoring method to measure anger levels and assessed any changes in the men's lung function. The men with the highest hostility ratings had significantly worse lung capacity, which increased their risk of respiratory problems. The researchers theorized that an uptick in stress hormones, which are associated with feelings of anger, creates inflammation in the airways.


7. Anger can shorten your life. Is it really true that happy people live longer? “Stress is very tightly linked to general health. If you're stressed and angry, you'll shorten your lifespan,” says Fristad. A University of Michigan study done over a 17-year period found that couples who hold in their anger have a shorter life span than those who readily say when they're mad.


If you're not someone who's comfortable showing negative emotions, then work with a therapist or practice on your own to be more expressive. “Learning to express anger in an appropriate way is actually a healthy use of anger,” says Fristad. “If someone infringes on your rights, you need to tell them. Directly tell people what you're mad about, and what you need,” she says. https://www.everydayhealth.com/news/ways-anger-ruining-your-health/


Anger Management.

According to the Mayo Clinic, here are some tips to help you manage your anger.


1. Think before you speak

In the heat of the moment, it's easy to say something you'll later regret. Take a few moments to collect your thoughts before saying anything. Also allow others involved in the situation to do the same. Temple Code number 14 is wisdom. I will think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense and insight.


2. Once you're calm, express your concerns

As soon as you're thinking clearly, express your frustration in an assertive but nonconfrontational way. State your concerns and needs clearly and directly, without hurting others or trying to control them. Temple Code number 9 is Graciousness. I will be courteous and kind.


3. Exercise

Physical activity can help reduce stress that can cause you to become angry. If you feel your anger escalating, go for a brisk walk or run. Or spend some time doing other enjoyable physical activities.


4. Take a timeout

Timeouts aren't just for kids. Give yourself short breaks during times of the day that tend to be stressful. A few moments of quiet time might help you feel better prepared to handle what's ahead without getting irritated or angry. Temple Code number 12 is Patience. I will practice patience and be patient with others.


5. Identify possible solutions

Instead of focusing on what made you mad, work on resolving the issue at hand. Does your child's messy room make you upset? Close the door. Is your partner late for dinner every night? Schedule meals later in the evening. Or agree to eat on your own a few times a week. Also, understand that some things are simply out of your control. Try to be realistic about what you can and cannot change. Remind yourself that anger won't fix anything and might only make it worse.


6. Stick with 'I' statements

Criticizing or placing blame might only increase tension. Instead, use "I" statements to describe the problem. Be respectful and specific. For example, say, "I'm upset that you left the table without offering to help with the dishes" instead of "You never do any housework."


7. Don't hold a grudge

Forgiveness is a powerful tool. If you allow anger and other negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice. Forgiving someone who angered you might help you both learn from the situation and strengthen your relationship.


8. Use humor to release tension

Lightening up can help diffuse tension. Use humor to help you face what's making you angry and, possibly, any unrealistic expectations you have for how things should go. Avoid sarcasm, though — it can hurt feelings and make things worse.


9. Practice relaxation skills

When your temper flares, put relaxation skills to work. Practice deep-breathing exercises, imagine a relaxing scene, or repeat a calming word or phrase, such as "Take it easy." You might also listen to music, write in a journal or do a few yoga poses — whatever it takes to encourage relaxation.


10. Seek Help

Learning to control anger can be a challenge at times. Seek help for anger issues if your anger seems out of control, causes you to do things you regret or hurts those around you. Temple Code number 6 is Humility. I will remain humble and modest.


Look Within

Be mindful of how you feel. Be purposeful in avoiding anger and the vices that you may cultivate when you allow it to consume you. Anger can be hurtful to you and others so practicing management techniques is of the utmost importance. Remember, to seek God means to be virtuous and resistant to the vices of human life.


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