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Anger Management

Expressing Your Feelings Constructively

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Updated June 20, 2014

Anger is a powerful feeling that is a normal part of the human experience. Everyone has felt angry at one time or another. Anger itself is not a bad thing. But, if you express your anger in unhealthy ways, it can become a problem. Learning how to develop an anger management plan can help you cope with situations that sometimes lead to increased anxiety and panic symptoms.

It’s not unusual for people with panic disorder (PD), agoraphobia or another anxiety disorder to experience frustration because of their condition. Sometimes this frustration can develop into anger -- anger toward yourself, anger at your situation or anger toward others. Anger can intensify your anxiety and worsen your PD symptoms. At its worst, you may experience debilitating and troublesome anger attacks.

If your anger is out of control, you may have difficulty maintaining healthy personal or work relationships. There is also evidence that unhealthy expression of anger can be a risk factor for heart disease.

If you have trouble controlling your anger, here are some steps to get you started on an anger management plan:

Identify Your Goals and Action Plan

Think of your goals in terms of specific behaviors and your reactions. Use a time frame to measure your progress. For example, let’s say your first goal is to refrain from verbally attacking your spouse. How will you go about doing this? If you feel yourself getting angry, can you walk away and cool down? How much time do you think it will take you to reach this goal?

Don’t Play the Blame Game

Blaming others will not help you get over your anger. Learn to take responsibility for your anger and your reaction to it when things don’t go your way.

Learn and Practice Relaxation Techniques

Learning and practicing relaxation techniques on a regular basis can help you stay calm. Some examples include:

Deep Breathing

When people are anxious, they tend to take rapid, shallow breaths that come directly from the chest. This type of breathing is called thoracic or chest breathing. When you’re feeling anxious or angry, you may not even be aware that you’re breathing this way. Deep breathing can help you calm down and keep your anger from spiraling out of control.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)

Anger can cause a lot of physical sensations, including muscle tension. By using PMR, you can counter these physical changes and sensations to achieve a “relaxation response.” During PMR, your breathing slows and your heart rate and blood pressure decrease. Being in a relaxed state can reduce many of the unpleasant physical effects of your anger.

Visualization

By imagining yourself in a peaceful, stress-free setting, you can reach a state of mental and physical relaxation. For example, imagine yourself sitting by a beautiful, peaceful lake. Focus on the scene for a period of time. Feel the soft sand on the bottom of your feet. As a gentle breeze sweeps across the water, imagine the warm air on your face as you watch a magnificent sunset on the horizon.

Meditation

Many people find meditation calming and revitalizing. You can perform a meditation exercise sitting or lying down. Make sure your surroundings are quiet and dress comfortably.

Give it a try by following these steps:

  1. Close your eyes and do some deep breathing for several minutes.
  2. Concentrate on a single word or object. For example, slowly repeat the word “relax.”
  3. If you find your mind wandering during the exercise, just take deep breaths and refocus.
  4. Continue the process until you feel calm and refreshed.

Get Help and Support

If you have trouble expressing anger, talk to a friend, family member or mental health professional. You can learn how to constructively express your feelings without letting anger express them for you.

Sources:

Darin D. Dougherty; Scott L. Rauch; Thilo Deckersbach; Carl Marci; Rebecca Loh; Lisa M. Shin; Nathaniel M. Alpert; Alan J. Fischman; Maurizio Fava. (2004). Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex and Amygdala Dysfunction During an Anger Induction Positron Emission Tomography Study in Patients With Major Depressive Disorder With Anger Attacks. Arch Gen Psychiatry, 61:795-804.

Managing Anger – Self-Care Handbook. (2005). Deerfield, MA: Channing L. Bete Co.

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