Anger is a natural reaction to frustrating or painful events in our lives. Most of us express our anger in harmless ways: yelling, crying, slamming doors and hanging up the telephone. After a while, the anger goes away. When anger lingers, though, it can make us enraged over little things, or we can resort to violent acts.

Excessive anger can make us sick, not only mentally, but physically. In fact, millions of Americans experience the side effects of chronic anger in the form of illnesses, drug and alcohol addiction, headaches, domestic violence, and depression, just to name a few. Anger also can be a symptom of depression. Angry outbursts can prevent us from having good relationships with others and feeling good about ourselves. On the other hand, learning to manage excessive anger can enhance our emotions and allow us to lead healthier, happier lives.

Self-Help Tips

  • Don't ignore anger; express it in a healthy way
    • Share your angry feelings with a person you trust and feel safe with, perhaps a friend, your spouse or a teacher

    • Get the anger "off your chest" . . . calmly and without violence or cruelty; tell the person or persons you feel angry about how they have upset you. You will likely start to feel better. (NOTE: This is not always possible. It may be inappropriate or could make things worse to express anger to a boss or other authority figure, especially if you can't do it calmly and rationally. Tell someone else, though, so you can constructively diffuse your anger.)
  • Be assertive; express your wants, needs and feelings in non-offensive ways (to keep you from getting into situations in which you feel taken advantage of and get angry as a result). Use "I" rather than "you" statements. For example, say, "I get angry when I feel put down by your comments in front of our friends." Don't say, "You make me angry when you put me down in front of our friends." This allows you to take responsibility for your feelings.
  • Make a list of the situations in which you feel excessive anger, including work, social and personal situations/relationships. See if there are any patterns to your anger and if they can be changed.
  • Channel the energy anger brings into doing something positive or creative. Understand that we have more control over anger than we realize.
  • Clean out drawers
  • Go to a driving range and practice your golf swing
  • Take a short walk or do other exercises
  • Paint, write poems, express yourself
  • Write out your anger, but keep it to yourself, if expressing it out loud could bring unwanted consequences.
  • Distract yourself. If you're stuck in traffic, for example, try to accept the delay and recognize that it's beyond your control. Instead of clenching the steering wheel, play pleasant music on the radio or listen to an interesting program. If you have a cassette or CD player in your car, buy and play tapes or CDs that are soothing for such situations.
  • To lessen anger outbursts, think of what will happen as a result of your anger.
  • Find humor in situations that result in anger.
  • Practice learning to lighten up.
  • Use stress management techniques on a routine basis.
  • If you or someone you know is in need of anger management, call for help.

Books to Read

Anger Kills: 17 Strategies for Controlling Hostility. Redford Williams, MD; Virginia Williams, PhD. Harper Perennial. New York, New York. 1993.

The Anger Workbook. Lorrainne Bilodeau. Hazeldon. Center City, Minnesota. 1992.

From Anger to Forgiveness. Earnie Larsen. Ballantine Books. New York, New York. 1992.

Our Inner World of Rage. Lucy Freeman. Continuum Press. New York, New York. 1990.

When Anger Hurts. Matthew McKay, PhD. New Harbinger. Oakland, California. 1989.