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Anger: Definition, Characteristics, and Types

Jennifer Carnevale, Sharon Linde
  • Author
    Jennifer Carnevale

    Jennifer taught 9th grade ELA and AP Literature for over 8 years. She has a dual master's in English Literature and Teaching Secondary Ed from Simmons University and a BS in Psychology. She is a full-time senior content writer and certified AP Test Reader.

  • Instructor
    Sharon Linde

    Sharon has an Masters of Science in Mathematics and a Masters in Education

Learn about anger in the field of psychology. Identify the dimensions and types of anger, study examples of anger, and discover treatments for health complications and other anger-related issues. Updated: 03/08/2022

Table of Contents


What is Anger?

Humans are capable of an array of emotions. But, even within individual emotions there are wide spectrums of feelings and reactions. Anger is one such emotion that can trigger myriad responses. This begs the question, what is anger?

Anger is defined as a strong feeling of annoyance, irritation, hostility, and even antagonism. The anger definition encompasses this spectrum of feelings that can manifest in various, but typically negative, ways. While anger is a normal and naturally occurring feeling, there are various types of anger, along with various reasons that people feel and express anger. So, what does anger mean in terms of psychology?

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  • 0:04 Definition & Types of Anger
  • 1:38 Passive Anger
  • 2:42 Aggressive Anger
  • 3:22 Assertive Anger
  • 4:21 Expressing Anger
  • 5:16 Lesson Summary
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Dimensions in the Psychology of Anger

Since anger can have an array of definitions and can manifest differently for different people and situations, the psychology of anger aims to categorize it not by feeling, but by the reactions the feeling evokes. The psychology of anger is broken down into the following six dimensions:

  • Direction: Where a person's anger is being directed (internal v. external)
  • Locus (of control): The degree to which a person can control or believes they can control their anger
  • Reaction: How a person responds to feelings of anger by either resisting the feelings or retaliating in some way
  • Modality: How a person retaliates or responds to anger either physically or verbally
  • Impulsivity: A person's controlled or uncontrolled response
  • Objective: The result of a person's anger being used as a punitive or restorative behavior

Along with varying dimensions, the characteristics a person will exhibit when angry can also vary from person to person and situation to situation. However, many may feel some or the following symptoms:

  • Higher blood pressure
  • Hormonal increase
  • Tense muscles
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Clenched jaw

What are the Three Types of Anger?

Since people feel and express anger in various ways, it is important to note that there are many types of anger. Here are three of the main types:

  • Passive anger: Often known as passive-aggressive anger, passive anger is anger that is held in. Essentially, a person who exhibits passive anger refuses or is unable to deal with their emotional response and often avoids dealing with situations that make them angry. That is not to say the anger doesn't exist; it means the person keeps their anger bottled up, which, in turn, manifests as judgmental comments, spreading rumors, holding grudges, etc.
  • Aggressive anger: Aggressive anger is what most people commonly imagine when it comes to anger. Aggressive anger is expressed outwardly through behaviors such as yelling or acts of physical violence. This violence could be retaliatory, such as harming the person who harmed them or that person's property, or it could look like a person smashing their phone on the ground or breaking something like a plate or vase in the heat of the moment.
  • Assertive anger: Assertive anger is the healthiest of the three types of anger, aiming to problem solve and work through the difficult feeling to find a resolution. A person who is exhibiting assertive anger uses direct and straightforward wording, '' I'' statements, and aims to problem solve in a controlled way.

While these types of anger are only a few of the ways in which anger can manifest, it's also important to note that anger can also be verbal and nonverbal. For some, they may be unable to speak, overtaken by their emotions, while others talk and or yell through their feelings as a way to process. No matter what, it's important to understand that every person will react differently when overcome with the feeling of anger, and may even exhibit a different response to a repeated angering situation.

Examples of Anger

Since anger can manifest in myriad ways, there are many potential examples of anger. Here are just a few to help aid comprehension:

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the true meaning of anger?

Anger is a human emotion that can manifest in many ways. For most, anger is a feeling of annoyance, irritation, hostility, or antagonism.

What are the 3 types of anger?

There are various types of anger. The most common are passive anger, where a person avoids their feelings; aggressive anger, where a person behaves in negative ways because of their feelings; and assertive anger, where a person attempts to problem solve and find a solution.

What are the characteristics of anger?

Anger can manifest in various ways. For some, anger can look like higher blood pressure, hormonal increases, tense muscles, increased heartbeat, sweating, trembling, and a clenched jaw.

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