Karin has taught middle and high school Health and has a master's degree in social work.
What Is Anger Management?
Tony is known by others as a 'hot head.' His anger often erupts into a teenage tantrum. He has cursed at teachers and engaged in physical fights. Tony is often in detention and has frequent suspensions. He is required to visit the guidance counselor for anger management counseling before he is expelled.
Anger is an emotion that is completely normal. It only becomes a problem when expressed in a dangerous manner, such as with verbal or physical attacks. When anger is expressed in one of these negative manners, a therapist, psychologist, or counselor may employ anger management therapy. Anger management encompasses noticing when anger is present and employing methods to calm or distract oneself from becoming overly angry, emotional, and irrational with the anger.
Teenagers are often angry as they are confronted with many distressing issues including peer pressure, struggles with physical appearance, academic challenges, demands from sports or extracurricular activities, bullying, sexual interest and approval of the opposite (or same!) sex, pressure to try alcohol or drugs, identity formation, and questions as to their purpose in life. Teens are also dealing with restrictions from parents when they feel that they are deserving or able to have more freedom. Some teens are dealing with poverty, neighborhood violence, and neglect or abuse at home.
These issues are some of the reasons that many teens would benefit from anger management techniques.
Anger Management Techniques for Teens
Sometimes teens have not learned how to express their feelings or needs. They may also be under the impression that physical or verbal attacks are the only way to channel their anger properly. We will follow Tony through his therapy to learn about some effective anger management techniques for teenagers. First, Tony must learn to identify his anger and anger triggers and learn about emotions that often underlie anger.
Learn To Identify Anger
The guidance counselor asks Tony what physical symptoms he experiences when he gets angry. Tony says that he feels hot, tense, gets red in the face, clenches his fists and starts breathing fast. Now that Tony has learned to identify what it feels like when he gets angry, he can take a pause and implement anger management techniques.
Learn Anger Triggers
Tony thinks of the things that typically make him angry. For example, he always gets angry when people insult his family. He also gets angry when he is made to look stupid in front of others, like when the teacher calls him out for not reading the homework assignment or knowing the right answer when she calls on him. Identifying anger triggers helps Tony identify which situations will make it more likely that his anger will erupt and to problem solve ways to avoid those situations.
Learn Underlying Emotions for Anger
The guidance counselor explains to Tony that anger is often a secondary emotion to another feeling such as fear, anxiety, irritation, frustration, boredom, hurt, embarrassment or humiliation. For example, Tony learns that he feels humiliated and embarrassed about his family's low income level and that this triggers anger when people make fun of these things.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Once Tony realizes that his anger is escalating, he can use the following relaxation techniques:
- Deep breathing- Breathing in his nose on a count of three seconds and out his nose or mouth for another count of three.
- Counting to 10, 20, 30- Or counting backwards, as it can offer more distraction.
- Progressive muscle relaxation- Gradually tensing and relaxing muscles one-by-one, starting with the toes and ending with the face.
Practicing relaxation techniques will also allow Tony time to think before he acts.
Walking away from an anger-inducing situation is much harder than it sounds. Tony would need to practice self-control. The guidance counselor explains that when a person becomes overly angry, the emotionality leads to a tendency to behave irrationally, so walking away allows emotion to subside and rational decision making to happen.
Learn How to Express Feelings and Needs
Tony thinks of the last time that he got angry and learns to speak to the instigator of his anger by vocalizing his feelings and needs. This type of communication is good in arguments or fights because the speaker is taking responsibility for his own feelings and/or needs instead of placing blame on the other person.
Practice Positive Self Talk
Tony makes a list of phrases that he can say to himself (in his head) the next time something or someone makes him angry. These phrases will help him calm down and handle the situation rationally. Tony's list includes, 'I can handle this,' 'Just walk away and calm down,' and 'Just breathe.'
This is more of a preventative measure than an anger management technique, but making sure a teen gets plenty of exercise, sleep (9 hours is the recommendation for teenagers), and eats enough nutritious foods is imperative to making sure that they feel good physically and mentally. A lethargic and sleepy teen is more inclined to become depressed and angry than one that is mentally and physically fit and healthy.
Finding a Positive Outlet for Anger
Research studies and academic articles have shown that sports like martial arts or boxing can be a structured and safe activity for teens who have a lot of pent-up anger and perhaps don't take well to therapy strategies. Yoga can be a calming activity that focuses on deep breathing and can suggest a more peaceful and compassionate attitude towards others and life in general.
Although anger is a normal emotion, it becomes problematic when it is expressed in a dangerous manner. Anger management can help one with distraction and relaxation techniques, and can also help someone communicate their needs and feelings calmly and rationally. Teens can often benefit from anger management techniques because they are dealing with many social, academic, and emotional issues.
Some anger management techniques for teens include learning the symptoms of anger so they can recognize it, pinpointing the triggers, determining the underlying emotions to their anger, deep breathing, counting to 10, progressive muscle relaxation, walking away, expressing feelings, positive self talk, exercise, nutrition, sleep, and finally finding a sport or activity to channel anger.
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