Life wouldn’t be life without those little irritants that push our buttons. When our buttons are pushed, it’s completely natural to feel angry. In fact, anger is a normal emotion that can facilitate better communication and positive change when expressed appropriately.
But for some people, managing their own 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 loved ones have become used to the anger. They react by hiding their own feelings, choosing their words carefully, and walking on egg shells, all in an effort to “keep the peace.”
Common Reasons for Intense Anger
If you are uncertain whether you or a loved one may have anger issues, read these common reasons for intense anger and see if any of them ring true for you.
Anger as a Way to Self-Soothe
Self-medication, as a way to deal with life’s pain, is very common. For those with anger issues, there is a biochemical explanation as to why you may fly off the handle and often.
One of the hormones secreted by the brain during a fit of anger is called norepinephrine, which can act as a pain reliever. When triggered, that event can dig up deep wounds and past hurts, whether we are aware of it or not.
Becoming angry in 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 own anger because they become addicted to the chemical reaction of it.
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 a sudden surge of energy throughout our entire body.
This adrenaline rush counteracts our feeling of powerlessness in the moment, or maybe in our life in general. How seductive is that? Many medical experts will tell you that epinephrine is every bit as addictive as alcohol and cocaine. This explains why so many people find themselves addicted to their own 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 to these types of 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 a substance addiction, it’s important to recognize and admit you may have a problem.
2. Monitoring your behavior – Keeping an anger journal to log behavior you notice or you were accused of by others may offer some clues. Note the incident, trigger, and the intensity of your anger from 0-10. Often just seeing your anger on paper will offer some 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 important 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 with us!