How Anger Works

Out of Control: Anger Management

They just asked if he wanted onions on his sandwich.
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We all know someone who always seems to be upset with something, to the point that their entire worldview is angry. These people likely use the words "always" and "never" in describing their anger, as in, "You're always late," and "I never get promoted," which suggests that there's no solution, and thus no reason to healthily express the anger [source: APA]. Chronically angry people may have built up years of expecting to be disappointed and frustrated by events around them. These people react more angrily to even small stressful events, but in doing so, they create even more reasons to be angry. Individuals with higher anger describe higher levels of family conflict and lower levels of social support because of the effect their anger has on those around them [source: Diong].

You've also likely observed that some people are more prone to get aggressive and violent. Several things may be behind that shorter fuse, including genetics, traumatic experiences and environmental stress. It may also be societal; if your society holds that anger is bad, then you may not learn how to express anger productively. That's where anger management might help.


Anger management therapy is often court-ordered for people who show violent tendencies, such as young bullies, criminals and aggressive drivers. The work can be conducted individually or in a group and include training on identifying anger triggers, expressing anger without losing control and relaxation methods. These courses may be somewhat limited because anger is not defined by the DSM-IV, the diagnostic bible for mental health professionals, and as such, there's not a specific way to diagnose or treat someone with chronic anger. Some studies indicate that the classes have little to no effect [source: Carey]. One reason may be that many people don't realize they have a problem with anger and may not be receptive to the classes.

If you decide to pursue anger management therapy, it's important to have the right attitude and expectations. These classes do not cure you of anger, so that you're never angry again. Instead, you learn how to defuse triggers and express anger in a healthy way. Be prepared to pay: One anger management facilitator puts his usual fees at $250 per hour for one-on-one training, and about $500 per person for 10 one-hour classes with multiple participants [source: Andrews]. To find an anger management professional, you could start with the American Association of Anger Management Providers.

On the next page, we'll look at how anger through the lens of religion and politics.