How to Determine the Cause of Your Anger

Anger is an emotion that causes you to feel animosity toward someone or something, for example, when someone has wronged you. Circumstances like traffic jams and memories of a bad experience can also trigger anger.

While most people consider anger a "negative" emotion, it can also be good for you. For example, it can prompt you to find solutions to problems. On the other hand, since your heart rate, blood pressure, and hormones are affected when you experience anger, excessive anger can sometimes lead to physical health complications and mental health problems.

This article explains anger causes and triggers. It also covers anger issues and how to manage the emotion.

Angry Woman

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What Causes Anger?

Anger is a basic human emotion that can be caused by interactions with people and by circumstances. Sometimes anger also presents as a secondary emotion. For example, when you feel hurt, rejected, or humiliated, you may also experience anger.

Anger causes include:

  • Reaction to bodily distress (for example, injury or illness)
  • As a consequence of fear (for example, a response to threats or abuse)
  • Frustration over the inability to fulfill a goal (for example, not meeting a deadline)
  • Interpersonal conflict

Researchers believe that anger is a protective emotion that evolved in complexity to initiate and support the fight-or-flight response and attain goals.

Signs of an Anger Management Problem

Anger management is how you handle and express anger. People deal with anger in several ways, including:

  • Expressing
  • Suppressing
  • Calming (controlling your internal responses)

The healthiest way to deal with anger is to express it constructively. That's because when anger is suppressed (or unexpressed), it can fester and result in unhealthy patterns, like passive-aggressiveness, cynicism, and hostility.

How Common Are Anger Issues?

In a national survey of 34,000 U.S. adults, the prevalence of inappropriate, intense, or poorly controlled anger was 7.8%. It was especially common among men and young adults. In addition, it was significantly associated with bipolar disorder, drug dependence, psychotic disorder, and borderline and schizotypal personality disorders.

Signs you might have anger issues include:

  • You have difficulty controlling your anger.
  • Your anger is brought on by small things.
  • You lose your temper when you are angry.
  • You hit people or throw things when you're angry.

Anger management therapy is an effective, evidence-based intervention. If you have trouble managing your anger, seek a therapist specializing in anger management.

How to Control Anger

While it is often best to express anger, it's essential to do so in an assertive but nonaggressive way. Controlling your emotions can be challenging when you experience anger, so some anger management techniques can help.

Relaxation

Stepping away from the situation and giving yourself space before reacting is a useful first step in managing anger. Relaxation techniques such as focused breathing, recalling soothing imagery, and progressive muscle relaxation are all calming techniques that can help you center yourself before you express your anger.

Moving your body can help too. For example, a walk or a run may help you burn off energy and help you think through your anger before you act.

Looking Inward

Sometimes people tend to get angry about the same thing repeatedly. Ask yourself if you're dwelling on something and whether it's productive or worthwhile. If this is difficult to identify on your own, psychotherapy may be helpful.

Changing Your Thinking Patterns

When you're angry, you can get stuck in a loop of distorted or negative thoughts. Replace those thoughts with something more positive or realistic. For example, instead of "This is the end of the world," think, "This is irritating, but I can get through it." In addition, eliminate absolute statements, like "always" or "never."

Identifying Triggers

Everyone has certain things that tend to cause an anger response. If you don't know what triggers your anger, pay attention for a little while and see if you notice a pattern. Therapy may also help you identify these patterns.

Sometimes simple approaches can help with this. For example, if you get angry when your workday is interrupted, you could try shutting your office door. If your anger surfaces every time a particular news topic comes up, maybe you want to take a break from the news for a while.

Summary

Anger is a normal, healthy human emotion. However, sometimes people have trouble managing their anger, which can interfere with their work, relationships, and life. Often, the best way to manage anger is to express it healthily without hurting others. Behavior modifications and calming techniques often help people manage their anger; however, some people require professional help.

A Word From Verywell

It can feel scary to experience explosive, uncontrolled anger. But take heart: Anger management and other psychotherapy approaches have a long track record of helping people. If you notice your anger bubbling over, use some strategies for managing your anger, and if you need support, reach out to a therapist specializing in anger management.

Anger Issues vs. Abuse

While violent behavior is associated with inappropriately managed anger, abuse and domestic violence are separate issues requiring different kinds of interventions.

If you or a loved one is experiencing or has experienced domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for confidential assistance from trained advocates. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes anger in the brain?

    Brain systems that mediate reactive aggression (aggressive behavior in response to a threat) are involved in anger. These include the amygdala, hypothalamus, and periaqueductal gray.

  • Can anger issues be cured?

    Anger management therapy won't improve anger issues for everyone. However, research indicates that it does resolve it for most people. According to the American Psychological Association, 75% of people who received anger management treatment improved.

  • What is the root cause of anger?

    Many experiences can trigger anger. Interpersonal conflicts and frustrating or unjust situations are common causes. Anger is a response that prompts the fight-or-flight response and pushes you to attain goals.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Psychological Association. Anger.

  2. American Psychological Association. Control anger before it controls you.

  3. Williams R. Anger as a basic emotion and its role in personality building and pathological growth: The neuroscientific, developmental and clinical perspectivesFront Psychol. 2017;8:1950. Published 2017 Nov 7. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01950

  4. Okuda M, Picazo J, Olfson M, et al. Prevalence and correlates of anger in the community: results from a national surveyCNS Spectr. 2015;20(2):130-139. doi:10.1017/S1092852914000182

  5. American Psychological Association. Understanding anger: How psychologists help with anger problems.

By Kathi Valeii
As a freelance writer, Kathi has experience writing both reported features and essays for national publications on the topics of healthcare, advocacy, and education. The bulk of her work centers on parenting, education, health, and social justice.