Karin has taught middle and high school Health and has a master's degree in social work.
What Is Anger?
Anger is a strong feeling of aggravation or irritation towards or about something. We can feel angry if we feel that someone has wronged, offended, or annoyed us. It is important to note that anger is a very normal feeling. We actually feel the emotion of anger because it is a protective mechanism of our bodies in response to something that is threatening us.
Anger management is the process of noticing when anger is occurring and implementing techniques to calm down and deal with the situation in a positive and healthy manner. Anger management is a popular topic amongst therapists and other mental health professionals. But before mental health professionals delve into anger management techniques with their clients, they typically teach clients about the symptoms of anger and the cause or root of that anger. Many people will be surprised to learn that anger is merely the resulting emotion of underlying feelings like fear and sadness.
Initial Symptoms of Anger
There are many physical symptoms one might experience that can be indicators of anger. It is helpful for people with anger problems to get to know the symptoms that they typically experience when angry. Hopefully, they can notice when their anger is occurring and start implementing their anger management techniques. Here are some of the most common symptoms:
- Clenched jaw or fists
- Muscle tension
- Increase in heart rate
- Increase in respiration
- Red/flushed face
- Stomach ache
- Feeling hot in the face or neck
Another symptom of anger is an urge to cause harm to oneself or another person. This is where anger gets dangerous and leads to more serious consequences.
Aggressive Symptoms of Anger
For those who have serious anger issues, the initial symptoms of anger may occur only for a fleeting moment and the more damaging and aggressive symptoms of anger may transpire quite quickly. Here are some aggressive symptoms of anger:
- Shouting or yelling- This is evidence that the emotion of anger has escalated so much that you feel the need to shout in order to tell the person how they have wronged you. You might hurt them with profanity, name-calling, or insults. This symptom can be abusive and damaging to relationships.
- Threatening- This can range from serious threats to another's life or safety to more trivial threats, like an angry mother threatening not to take her child to the park because of his behavior.
- Hostile questioning- Are your questions towards someone meant to hurt them or prove they are wrong? If so, you are probably angry with them and should determine the reason.
It could be said that physical violence is a symptom of anger, but it is more of a consequence of anger. Shouting and threats can lead to serious consequences such as violence, crime, suicide, and homicide.
Causes of Anger
A variety of circumstances (that negatively affect ourselves or someone that we love) can cause someone to feel angry:
- Physical or verbal threats
- Verbal or physical attacks
- Disruptions while pursuing goals
- Financial threats
- Violations of our moral standards
- Mistreatment or unfair treatment
- Insults from others that serve as a blow to our ego
Feelings That Cause Anger
Sadness, anxiety, fear, and insecurity are feelings that can make people feel very vulnerable and weak. Many times people display the emotion of anger, which serves as a mask to hide the more vulnerable feelings. Therefore, these feelings could be considered causes of anger.
Here are some examples of underlying feelings leading to anger:
- Sadness- When people are sad or depressed, they aren't feeling very good about themselves or the world around them. Therefore, they may feel hopeless and frustrated, and this can turn into anger. Do you know someone who is very angry but may actually be depressed?
- Hurt- When people have had their feelings hurt, they may feel vulnerable showing sadness or hurt. Therefore, they might outwardly display anger towards the person who has hurt them. Teenagers often are prone to showing hurt masked by anger and aggression. A good example of this is a bullied child who lashes out at the bully with violence.
- Fear- Imagine a woman who is fearful of divorce and what her family and friends will think if her marriage crumbles. This fear may turn to anger when her husband is late one night, with the spouse fearing that her husband may be cheating.
- Anxiety- When someone is anxious, they are generally worried about many things and concerned about having a lack of control. Imagine someone who is stuck in traffic on the interstate due to an accident up ahead. Their anxiety about being late to work may manifest into anger.
- Insecurity- Insecurity is one of humanity's most vulnerable emotions. Imagine that an insecure student is called to speak in front of the class. Instead of revealing his insecurity, he may display anger to keep from having to go up in front of the class.
- Guilt- Consider a situation where a child has broken his mother's vase. She questions him about it upon returning home from work. The child may lie to avoid getting into trouble, but may also become angry if pressed further.
- Shame- Shame from committing a wrongdoing can lead to a poor self-esteem and self-image. This is an instance where the anger is directed at oneself, but it may also be projected onto a close family or friend instead.
Anger is a normal emotion that typically occurs when someone feels threatened. Anger is a strong feeling of aggravation or irritation towards or about something. Anger management techniques can be used to help someone calm down and communicate their anger in a constructive manner. Some typical symptoms of anger include a hot face, clenched fists or jaw, muscle tension, and fast breathing. Anger can be induced by verbal or physical threats, disruptions while pursing goals, or unfair treatment, to name a few examples. Certain feelings can cause anger because people would rather display anger rather than the more vulnerable feelings of hurt, fear, anxiety, sadness, insecurity, guilt, or shame. Hopefully you now have a better understanding about anger's symptoms and causes.
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