Life wouldn’t be life without those little irritants that push our buttons. And when our buttons get pushed, it’s natural to feel angry. Anger is a normal emotion that can facilitate better communication and positive change when expressed appropriately.
But for some people, managing their anger is challenging. Usually, these people are the last to know they even have what others may describe as “toxic” or “out-of-control” anger. That’s because their loved ones have gotten used to regulating their anger for them by hiding their feelings, choosing their words carefully, and walking on eggshells to “keep the peace.”
Common Reasons for Intense Anger
If you are uncertain whether or not you may have anger issues, read the following common reasons for intense anger and see if any of them ring true for you.
Anger as a Way to Self-Soothe
Self-medication is very common as a way to deal with life’s pain. For those with anger issues, there is a biochemical explanation as to why you may fly off the handle often.
One of the hormones secreted by the brain during a fit of anger is called norepinephrine, which acts as an analgesic or pain reliever. When we are triggered, often that trigger digs up deep wounds and past hurts, whether we are aware of it or not.
Becoming angry at the moment releases a powerful brain chemical that numbs our emotional pain, so we don’t feel vulnerable, ignored, unimportant, rejected, or worthless. But as with any drug, a person can become addicted to their anger because they become addicted to its chemical reaction.
Another chemical released by the brain during a fit of anger is called epinephrine. While norepinephrine acts like a pain reliever, epinephrine acts like an amphetamine, allowing us to feel a sudden surge of energy throughout our entire body.
This adrenaline rush counteracts our feeling of powerlessness at the moment, or maybe in our life. How seductive is that? Many medical experts will tell you that epinephrine is as addictive as alcohol and cocaine, so it’s no wonder many people are addicted to their anger.
Some of us don’t feel safe in a relationship without a safe bit of distance. This is typically a response to a parent or caretaker being unavailable, unresponsive, or untrustworthy in our past. The adult children of these parents feel the need to cultivate a certain emotional detachment in their relationships, and anger is a very effective way of doing that.
Tips for Managing Anger
1. Recognize the problem – As with substance addiction, it’s essential to recognize and admit you may have a problem.
2. Monitor your behaviour – Keep an anger journal and log behaviour you noticed or others accused of you. Note the incident, trigger, and the intensity of your anger from 0-10. Often just seeing your anger on paper will offer insights into where it’s coming from.
3. Feel your anger but don’t act on it – Bottling up emotions is never the answer. It’s essential for us to feel our feelings, ALL of them. But it’s equally important to regulate our actions. Walk away from potential fights, and don’t send that angry email.
4. Get some help – Speaking with someone about your anger can often help. By uncovering the emotions underneath the anger, you can diffuse it and begin to heal from past traumas.
If you feel you may have an issue with anger and would like to explore therapy, please get in touch. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.