While anger is undoubtedly a completely normal, understandable emotion to feel, especially today in a world which seems full of frustrations and annoyances, it’s important to not let your anger rule your behaviour. Without effective knowledge and management of your anger, you can easily find yourself doing serious damage to your personal, professional and overall health.
According to a 2010 study, uncontrolled anger issues are bad for people’s physical and mental health, especially as they get older. It even makes you a worse driver. With anger issues negatively affecting our health as we get older, there’s no reason not to try to get them under control and get the help we need.
In this piece we break down what you can do to get control of those anger issues, how to better handle your emotions as a man in healthy and responsible ways and help you figure out which course of treatment is right for you.
How to Tell If You Have An Anger Issue
While anger is a normal, healthy emotion, it is important to be able to identify when your anger and behaviour are out of control.
According to the American Psychological Association, there are well-defined tests designed to measure the intensity associated with someone’s angry feelings, how prone to anger outbursts someone is and how well they’d typically handle that anger.
The key to determining if you need professional help likely has more to do with you as an individual. According to Jerry Deffenbacher, PhD, a psychologist specializing in anger management, some people are just wired to be more “hot headed” than others from birth. Other factors, like family background and upbringing, also have been shown to play a role.
Those individuals likely get angry more quickly and easily than the average person, generally demonstrate a trait known as ‘low tolerance for frustration’.
Generally, you may have anger issues if:
- you feel angry often, (hourly or daily)
- you feel that your anger seems out of control (‘flashing out’)
- your anger is impacting your relationships (others tip toe around you or try to manage you)
- your anger is hurting others (others are intimidated or scared by you)
- your anger causes you to say or do things you regret
- you are verbally or physically abusive
Why Anger In Men Is So Prevalent
Once you can recognize that you might have an anger issue, the next step is being able to understand why you might be feeling that way.
Dr. Thomas Harbin, a clinical psychologist and author of “Beyond Anger: A Guide for Men”, specializes in working with men suffering with anger issues. He sees male anger as no different than the anger women feel. The difference lies in how that anger is expressed and in how society responds to anger from the different sexes.
“I think that male anger is probably like everybody’s anger, only that men tend to express it differently than women. Men tend to be more physically aggressive than women, men tend to be more verbally aggressive than women. But I think in general, anger is anger.” Harbin said. Harbin sees anger issues in men as a complex stew created from the societal expectations placed upon them and internal pressures they place upon themselves.
For example, Harbin said he felt the root cause of much of the anger he finds in men stem from a core sense of inferiority.
Older men, like those born after World War II, “Boomers” were caught in a complex web of changing social dynamics. Women started taking on bigger roles in life outside the home, working more and bringing in their own paychecks simultaneously those men had to deal with the instilled idea from the generation of men before them that they were failures for not doing so themselves, sending their hard-and-fast definition of “manhood” into flux.
Younger generations of men have had to struggle with similar issues, although not exactly the same. Over the last twenty years, there have been significant financial downturns like the dot com bubble in 2001, and the 2008 recession that have forced men to rethink their roles in the home and reexamine that long-held idea of manhood.
Harbin was quick to point out his concern about how nearly every discourse of life has gotten more and more emotionally charged over the past two decades as well.
“There is an acceptance of humiliating trash talk in sport, many of our political bodies sit and scream at each other instead of getting anything positive accomplished, I think a lot of people value belligerence in and of its own self, so that belligerence is now a virtue. I think there’s a lot of disturbing trends in our culture in the last 20 years.” Harbin said.
When asked what he would tell a male patient who was struggling with controlling and managing his anger effectively, Harbin stated: “The first thing I would say is that anger is not bad. Anger is not bad, anger is not good, it just is. And it is for its own reasons. What we worry about, or at least what I worry about with my patients is: What does it take to get you angry, how angry do you get when you get angry, what do you do when you get angry? Those are the things that I like to focus on.”
Types of Anger Issues
Generally, anger issues can be broken down into three different types, outward, inward and passive.
Outward anger typically means you express your anger in an obvious way, like shouting, cursing or verbally abusing others and taking your anger out on objects by throwing or breaking them.
This is a common type to see especially in young men, where nearly two of three young adults in the U.S. have a history of anger attacks. The study attributes many of these attacks to those diagnosed with Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED).
According to one of the study’s authors and a professor of health care policy at HMS Ronald Kessler, “If we can detect IED early and intervene with effective treatment right away, we can prevent a substantial amount of future violence perpetration and associated psychopathology.”
This is a type of anger directed at oneself, often characterized by negative self-talk, Depression, low self-esteem and denying oneself basic necessities like food or water. Self harm and isolation are often associated with this type of anger.
A more subtle and indirect anger than the other two, this anger type is rooted in passive aggressive actions like sulking, sarcasm, teasing or snide remarks directed to those close to you and romantic partners, and the silent treatment, an action studies have found to be incredibly damaging and toxic to relationships.
According to a 2014 study, the silent treatment is a “demand-withdraw” pattern, a distressing sign in a relationship. “It’s the most common pattern of conflict in marriage or any committed, established romantic relationship,” says one author. “And it does tremendous damage.”
This is an anger that puts incredible internal stress on loved ones and partners, eroding relationships and connections between the two in profound ways. Not dealing with these issues is deeply problematic and can lead to isolation of loved ones.
How Getting Anger Management Treatment Can Help
Once you first acknowledge and accept your anger problem the next step is choosing the treatment method that’s right for you.
One of the most common therapies for anger management is cognitive behavioral therapy, (CBT), a method designed to help angry people recognize the self-defeating thoughts that often lead to anger flare ups.
CBT has been shown in studies to be incredibly helpful for patients, helping pro athletes handle their stressful situation better, military service members deal with issues like insomnia and, most importantly when it comes to anger issues, better regulate themselves emotionally.
CBT focuses on dealing with anger issues with conscious, goal-centered strategies via steps like identification of situations or circumstances in your life that lead to trouble, awareness of your thoughts and emotions surrounding anger triggers, acknowledgement of inaccurate, negative thought patterns, and the relearning of healthier and positive thought patterns.
Another important factor in this type of therapy is that there are very few risks when it comes to CBT with plentiful benefits. It’s an effective way to explore painful issues and break down the causes of your anger issues, all in a safe, guided manner with a therapist.
The therapy breaks down what’s really behind your anger, makes you aware of your anger warning signs and triggers and teaches you ways to cool down and find healthier ways of expressing your anger. Again, the goal of any effective treatment for anger is more awareness and strategies for effective and functional emotional regulation. Functional regulation of feelings means that, as men, we recognize and feel our emotions proportionately to the triggers and without doing harm to ourselves or others.
The Bottom Line
Learning how to manage your anger as a man can be a real challenge, especially for someone with chronic, traumatic, or childhood issues that remain unaddressed. Seeking help for your anger issues is the best step you can take for your mental and physical health, your loved ones’ health. It is also a key stepping stone in stopping you from harming the ones you love and preserving those ever-important relationships. Seek out a mental health professional to begin the healing process today.