Is Anger Management Counseling Right For Me And When Should I Seek It?
By Abigail Boyd
Updated March 03, 2020
Reviewer Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC
Anger is a normal, healthy human emotion that everyone experiences from time to time. Anger can be useful when managed correctly, allowing us to identify unjust circumstances and express our needs or opinions. In some cases, however, anger can become uncontrollable and have a severe negative impact on your relationship, work, or other areas of your life. People who undergo anger management counseling can learn valuable tools for decreasing and managing their anger and its negative ramifications.
What Is Anger Management Counseling?
Anger management, also called anger counseling, is a type of therapy that helps an individual recognize when they're beginning to get angry and respond in ways that defuse and control the expression of that anger. In most cases, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques are used to identify unhealthy thinking and behavioral patterns and correct them.
Anger management can involve either individual or group counseling, depending on the preferences and resources of the client. Sessions usually occur weekly or between several months, though they may occur more or less frequently depending on the individual. Unlike other types of therapy, anger management counseling focuses exclusively on treating and managing anger.
What Are the Signs of An Anger Management Problem?
By itself, extreme anger is a symptom, not a diagnosable condition. As previously mentioned, anger is a normal emotion that can be important in certain aspects of life. But an anger management problem can express itself in many ways. These include:
- Ongoing feelings of rage, aggressiveness, irritability, or dissatisfaction
- Cutting remarks or frequent sarcasm
- Shouting or cursing
- Threats of violence
- Breaking items
- Violence against others
In the heat of the moment, you may say or do things that cause severe and lasting damage to your relationships. Even if you regret it later, it can be difficult to repair the damage done.
What Causes Anger Problems?
Anger problems develop due to many factors. These can include the way a person is raised, chronic stress, past life experiences, domestic violence, and sometimes neurobiological disorders. You may have never been allowed to express your emotions healthily or witnessed examples of angry outbursts. Many people who end up seeking anger management have a history of physical or emotional abuse.
Anger management issues are often related to mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse disorders.
Mental Health Disorders That May Be Involved
Aggression, irritability, or increased anger can sometimes be symptoms of various mental or health conditions. A mental health professional can evaluate and diagnose any issues you may be experiencing, including:
- Depression: Depression is one of the most prevalent mental health conditions in the United States, affecting up to 16 million adults. Symptoms of depression vary depending on the person and may include emotional numbness, loss of interest in activities, social isolation, irritability, fatigue, and mood swings. Increased irritability and depression are more commonly found in men with depression.
- Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD): ODD is a type of behavioral disorder that involves aggressive behavior, irritability, and risk-taking. ODD is usually diagnosed in children, who often display defiance toward any authority figure.
- Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED): For a person to be diagnosed with IED, they must have ongoing, severe episodes of aggressive, uncontrolled rage. These instances may have no obvious trigger. The individual may also experience a constant underlying sense of irritability and discontentment.
- Substance Use Disorder: In some cases, anger may be a symptom of a substance use disorder, such as alcoholism or drug abuse. Anger may be expressed during or after a situation in which an individual has abused these substances.
Anger may also be a symptom of another mental or physical health condition, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). If you believe you may have a mental illness, seek out a formal diagnosis from a qualified professional.
How Do I Know If Anger Management Counseling Is Right for Me?
Anger, more than most emotions, has the potential to be destructive when it is extreme and poorly managed. Uncontrolled anger can lead people to lash out at their loved ones, be aggressive and violent, and have poor impulse control. It may even lead to arrest, in certain cases. Left unchecked, people with anger management problems may fall victim to alcohol and drug abuse.
Often, a person with an anger management problem doesn't see him or herself as having a problem. They may blame their rage on outside circumstances and the other people in their lives. They may have friends, family members, or even coworkers urging them to get a better handle on their anger but brush this advice off as nagging or unfair.
Unfortunately, it usually isn't until an individual faces serious consequences, such as an arrest or the breakup of a relationship, that they realize the extent of the negative ramifications of their anger.
Maybe you are aware that your anger is out of control, but you either think you can solve the problem yourself or you're not sure how to stop losing your temper. Maybe you've tried what feels like everything to tame your anger, without much success.
When Should I Seek Anger Management?
An individual is encouraged to seek out anger management counseling when there is evidence that their anger is negatively impacting their life. If you're consistently having difficulty managing your anger, if your relationships are suffering, if other people in your life have told you that you need to get help, if you've tried everything on your own only to wind up chronically frustrated, it's time to seek out anger management to harness your anger before it takes over your life.
Anger Management Required by Court Order
In certain cases, including those involving domestic violence, anger management may be mandated by the court system. Court order or the probation officer usually determines the frequency, duration, and several therapy sessions.
The Goals of Anger Management Counseling
Anger management counseling seeks to help you control your anger in many ways. First, you're taught to identify your triggers for losing your temper. This step requires an honest look at your past angry outbursts and what gets under your skin.
Triggers can take many different forms, including conversation topics, situations, interactions with particular people, or stressors. They vary from person to person and depend on each individual's life experience.
Once you and your therapist have a clear picture of your triggers, you can start to develop personalized strategies for recognizing your anger and managing it in healthy, non-destructive ways. You'll learn how to solve problems more effectively, which will give you a sense of control. You'll also learn how to be more assertive in a way that appears confident and not aggressive to others.
The strategies taught depends on the counselor. They may include:
- Cognitive Restructuring: Cognitive restructuring refers to actively changing the way that you think. By the time we mature into adulthood, we've developed automatic thinking patterns that guide our behavior. Without analyzing the way we think, we'll repeat the same behaviors, even if they're harmful. People who struggle to control their anger usually have cognitive distortions that cause them to exaggerate the importance of a situation or to blow things out of proportion. Cognitive restructuring involves identifying these thinking errors and replacing them with healthier, more realistic alternatives.
- Mindfulness: Mindfulness has become widely used in psychological settings to treat conditions such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD, and anger disorders. Mindfulness involves focusing your awareness on the present moment without judging or reacting to what's going on. Instead, you observe your thoughts, emotions, and experience with a certain level of healthy detachment, allowing you to build space in between your impulses and your actions. Preliminary research has indicated that mindfulness is useful for managing anger problems.
- Journaling Exercises: Your therapist may want you to keep a record of situations in which you lose control of your anger, noting the triggers, your state of mind, and the consequences of each episode. They may also have you use worksheets or workbooks that help you analyze your thinking patterns and automatic reactions when you experience anger. These exercises can help you get a clearer picture of how anger is affecting your life.
- Relaxation Techniques: Your therapist may teach you relaxation techniques for lowering your overall stress. This reduces the possibility of an aggressive or destructive outburst. Progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, and stretching exercises can all help you relax your body and mind when practiced regularly. Some relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, can help you calm down when you feel your anger beginning to get out of control.
When It's Time To Seek Help
Struggling with out-of-control anger can be difficult and isolating. Since your relationships are negatively impacted, you may feel alone, frustrated, and misunderstood. When it's time to seek out anger management therapy, it's best to connect with a therapist that you feel comfortable opening up to.
Regain.us offers professional online therapy that you can access from anywhere. You'll receive individualized counseling from a therapist experienced in your areas of concern, including anger management, as well as any comorbid conditions, such as depression or anxiety. Anger doesn't have to control your life or ruin your relationships. Click here to get connected with the help you need.