Anger is a basic emotion all humans experience. Anger management is a process designed to help people learn to recognize the signs of anger in themselves, and how to manage the emotion and actions. Teens experience new situations and face new stresses in their lives as a normal part of growth and development. Frustration and confusion can lead to anger toward parents or peers.
Although anger is a universal emotion, it can lead to serious problems if not controlled or if chronic (long lasting). Anger can cause physical symptoms in your body, change or warp how you see others’ behaviors, and lead to inappropriate reactions, including physical violence.
Certain events can cue anger in a person. For example, traffic congestion or rude drivers often trigger angry reactions in teen or adult drivers. Other triggers for teens can include grief, being scolded or yelled at by a parent or other authority figure, being lied to, being bullied, and many other situations of stress, embarrassment, or unfairness. Fear is a major anger trigger in teens, but anger is not a healthy way to deal with fear. Teens can benefit by reflecting on past instances of losing their temper to identify triggers. It is easy to prevent or avoid some triggers. For example, showing up on time for class will prevent being scolded. Anger management can teach teens to become more aware of what triggers anger in them and how to prevent that anger from escalating.
Results of anger
Managing anger can prevent the negative consequences that can occur following an angry episode or pattern of anger (chronic anger). Among these consequences are:
- Heart disease
- Stomach problems
- Violence or physical aggression, resulting in injury to self and others or being arrested
- Relationship problems
- Lifelong emotional problems such as low self-esteem
- Substance (drug and alcohol) abuse
Purpose of anger management
In general, whenever anger begins to cause problems such as affecting school or work performance, interfering with relationships, or causing legal troubles, it needs to be addressed. Some people have an anger disorder. There are several mental health disorders related to anger that have been identified by psychologists and psychiatrists. Some relate to other problems such as defiance or conduct disorders. One such definition is intermittent explosive disorder, in which an individual’s response and aggressiveness is far out of proportion to the trigger. Learning to manage anger can help teens avoid negative consequences caused by emotional outbursts or aggression.Signs you need anger management
There is a line between occasional feelings of anger and acting on anger inappropriately. These signs can help you and your friends or loved ones know you need help: Constant negative thoughts and expression
- Frequent irritation and impatience
- Substance abuse
- Having frequent fights or arguments
- Out-of-control or scary behavior, such as damaging structures, breaking objects, or driving recklessly
- Violence or threats
- Talk about self-harm or suicide
How anger management works
One of the first steps for teens is learning how to recognize anger triggers and develop ways to manage their emotions and actions. Sometimes, a teen can gain control of anger through the help of books or websites that include tips or with a parent or other trusted adult. If these steps do not work or the teen’s anger shows signs of an anger disorder, professionals might recommend attending an anger management program.
Programs typically take the form of classes or counseling. Some programs work with the individual and others are conducted in group settings. Professional counselors or therapists lead the individual or group through exercises that help them identify anger triggers or situations in which angry or aggressive behaviors occur. Teens in particular can benefit from learning when their anger is not in proportion to the stressor or is based on irrational thoughts.
Some anger management approaches help teens learn methods for coping with stressors and triggers. These might include training in relaxation or meditation, how to self-monitor outbursts, and how to be assertive without being emotional and aggressive. The counseling can include helping a teen learn the specific skills to manage anger in certain situations. This might involve walking the teen through an exercise in which the teen identifies situations or events that lead to anger, cues or triggers that provoke it in those situations, and strategies to calm down and control how the teen reacts. For example, the counselor might help you realize you are more prone to angry outbursts when hungry or overwhelmed. In turn, the counselor can help you prevent outbursts with a plan that ensures you eat healthily and learn to manage your time or activities to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Learning standard strategies for problem-solving can be a part of anger management that teens can apply to many situations in life. Counselors also might suggest strategies for learning to manage anger when you are unable to avoid a stressful situation. For example, maybe you play sports, and want to continue to participate, but have been benched for anger episodes. One effective strategy is to discuss feelings you have or had at the time of an outburst with a supportive friend or family member who was not involved in the situation. The friend can help you see what happened more rationally and offer a perspective free of the emotion you feel.
Tips for managing anger
Whether learning to manage anger on your own or through a treatment program, the following strategies have been shown to help:
- Taking a timeout. This means stopping a situation that is leading to anger by walking away or stopping a discussion leading to it. Sometimes, a timeout involves temporarily or permanently ending a relationship.
- Using a timeout to reflect and think of strategies to help one calm down at the time or if faced with the same person or situation in the future.
- Using a timeout to evaluate the anger-provoking situation more logically and objectively or to discuss it with a friend.
- Exercising by taking a walk, riding a bike, or shooting baskets in the driveway.
- Listening to music or engaging in creative outlets such as drawing or writing.
- Reflecting on positive aspects of your life to make you feel better about yourself.
- Recognizing anger might represent feeling undervalued or even depressed.
- Learning to meditate and practicing deep breathing to calm down.
- Distracting yourself with a movie, time with friends or family, and keeping busy to get your mind past dwelling on the stressor or an incident.
It is not a good idea to spend your time justifying your anger or blaming others. Although the stressors might be real, your reaction to those stressors likely needs some adjustment, and it is difficult to move on to anger management steps while blaming others for your angry behavior. You are responsible for your actions and can learn to better control your emotions.
If attempts to manage anger are not working, a teen should seek help from a counselor or formal anger management treatment. All teens need to learn how to manage anger regularly and learn techniques for relaxation. Finally, there is nothing wrong with admitting you have problems controlling your anger and need help with anger management. Anger is a normal human emotion, but everyone needs to learn how to handle it and react appropriately when angry to maintain supportive, loving relationships and avoid lifelong consequences. Whether you work on managing anger on your own or through a formal program, it is much better to seek help while a teen than to allow the problem to become worse, causing serious problems in adulthood.