There is an increasing perception that because of the rapid changes in the world we live in, levels of stress, anxiety and anger have increased significantly in recent decades. Whether you are a child, young person, adult or retired, you are bombarded by mass media and the fears and problems of people are constantly beamed into our homes 24/7. This has resulted in a snowballing effect, whereby more and more people are facing health-related issues on both a physical and emotional level.
It can be complicated in the case of children and teenagers, as parents may just consider their symptoms and behavior as ‘growing’ pains and a typical teenage problem. However, teenagers and children who suffer from excessive anxiety, stress and anger issues often have other factors in their lives that push them in that direction. For example, some may be living through the divorce of their parents, be medically unwell themselves, have a parent with a terminal condition or be subjected to abuse. It is not surprising then, that the body and mind react to this pressure and manifest themselves in a multitude of ways.
Reactions to Stressful Situations
Three common reactions to a stressful or irritating situation are:
- Bottling up emotions.
- Getting defensive.
- Lashing out.
None of these reactions are healthy or a solution to managing anger issues. When an individual decides to bottle up their anger instead of seeking anger management help, the outcome will invariable be a negative one. ‘Putting a lid’ on the situation may seem OK in the short term but the problem will usually fester and not go away. A viscous cycle develops whereby avoidance unleashes increasing negativity and growing anger. Bottled up anger can also transform into resentment which can last for an eternity. Without dealing with the problem, a person may accept the blame and guilt, causing them to feel discouraged and bad about themselves. Effective anger management will help an individual work on these attempts to cope with challenging situations.
A common reaction for individuals who lose their temper easily is getting defensive. People with anger issues tend not to consider the repercussions of their actions and react quickly to upsetting encounters. Acting on raw emotions of hurt or pain will produce very hostile reactions and likely promote hostile responses. This is not effective in dealing with such situations. Effective anger management training would encourage people not to be defensive but rather evaluate situations before acting on them.
Situations which provoke anger often cause people to lash out. Individuals act on impulse with physical or verbal aggression. Negative impulsive reactions produce negative consequences. It is easy for an angry person to lash out but it is not quite so easy to find positive results in such behavior. Effective anger management will teach the individual to control their anger and restrain themselves from thoughtless actions. Empowerment occurs when they understand that their current approach doesn’t resolve problems; it simply causes more of them.
Personality Traits of Angry People
Interestingly, there appears to be certain personality traits associated with anger-prone individuals. In general, they tend to feel that the world is against them and have an under-siege mentality.
4 common traits of such individuals include:
- Perception: Do not see the overall/bigger picture but filter the situation based on their negative, select perspective.
- Misinterpretation: Other people’s behavior (even when neutral or positive) is viewed with suspicion. They often have problems trusting others and exhibit suspicious, judgmental or jealous characteristics toward others. They tend to undermine people around them and be disruptive or unpleasant if they do not agree with something.
- Personalization: They believe that even innocuous comments are directed at them, leaving them feeling that, “No one is going to treat me that way and get away with it.”
- Denial: Such people always feel it’s the fault of someone else that they become wound up, angry or violent. This is borne out by studies which have shown that the number of individuals, who meet the criteria for anger management issues and should be receiving treatment for it, are significantly under reported. Why? Because less than 15% of people who fulfill the criteria will actually ask for treatment.
In addition, anger-prone people may exhibit the following traits:
- They tend to be aggressive, often engaging in malicious behavior towards property and people including retaliation and verbal or physical assault.
- They may be antisocial, with an incapability to relate to their peers. They tend to disparage people, be disruptive or unpleasant if they do not agree with something and hurt people to make themselves feel better. Surprisingly, although antisocial, many actually seek attention through their unpleasant and negative behavior.
- Aside from issues associated with trusting others, being suspicious or judgmental, many of these people also exhibit jealous characteristics toward others. They tend to complain excessively about everything or frequently point out minor imperfection in others.
Symptoms of Anger
Anger-prone people tend to fall into one of two categories, namely:
- Anger Explosive: Those unable to control rages.
- Anger Repressive: Those who suppress rages.
Both groups may exhibit a variety of mental and physical symptoms, which can include:
- Addiction issues. Not everyone with anger problems has an addiction to alcohol and/or drugs, but in some instances, it is an added problem that requires professional attention.
- Abdominal discomfort without an underlying pathology.
- Changing perception of time.
- Changes in appetite.
- Concentration levels can become poor.
- Dry mouth.
- Elevated, racing heart rate or palpitations when resting.
- Fear without a reason.
- Flat mood without a reason.
- Frequent or urgent need to urinate or defecate. Possible incontinence.
- Hallucinations or delusions.
- Headaches or head pressure.
- Heightened awareness including sense of sound, vision (including possible aura), smell or taste.
- Hyperventilation and possible panic attacks.
- Irrational behavior and feeling out of control or uneasy.
- Irritability and agitation without a reason.
- Memory issues or inability to recall encounters fully.
- Mental well-being and health issues. Not everyone with mental health issues has anger issues.
- Metabolic changes.
- Shortness of breath at rest.
- Sleep disturbances.
- Swallowing problems.
- Tightness in chest.
- Tinnitus-like symptoms or echo.
- Tremors or tingling.
In addition, there is evidence to suggest that adults prone to frequent anger issues are at increased risk of various heart-related problems including heart attacks. Higher levels of stress hormones increase both rate and contraction of the heart, elevate breathing and blood pressure (leading to wear and tear of the cardiovascular system) as well as possibly contributing to the build up of fatty plaque in the arteries (atherosclerosis).
Other conditions that have been associated with anger-prone people include an increased risk of migraines, strokes, depression, skin disorders, digestive problems and even certain cancers e.g. “People who have repressive styles tend to be more prone to illness, particularly (immune system-related) diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, infections, and cancers. The concept is of unexpressed anger. If one doesn’t let it out, that could have adverse consequences.” – University of California Los Angeles
Apart from health-related issues, there is clear evidence to show a link between anger and anti-social and violent behavior, emotional and physical abuse and crime. The quality of life for the person with anger problems and those around them is affected detrimentally, whether at home, in the workplace or any social environment.