You’ve felt it before. Your heart begins to race. It may even pound in your head or chest. Your muscles tighten and your breathing picks up. You may even clench your fists or struggle to catch your breath. And although you might not notice, your temperature increases and perspiration begins to build on your forehead and under your arms. All of this build up of physical sensation is part of the stages of anger. Let’s take a look at anger, what causes it and what can be done about it.
Can anger harm me?
Every now and then, everyone feels anger. It is a normal response to a threat or an injustice. Anger in and of itself is not good or bad. In fact, anger can be helpful in many situations. Anger can help you right wrongs or injustices. It can also be a motivator for change within oneself, a motivator to improve. Relatively infrequent anger is not the problem, chronic anger is.
Chronic, uncontrolled anger can damage many aspects of one’s life. It can damage relationships, jobs, social lives and even someone’s health. Chronically angry people put their body in a constant state of overdrive. The fight or flight response takes over causing a rise in blood pressure, breathing rate and perspiration. Our bodies aren’t meant to exist in this state long-term. Therefore, chronically angry people are putting massive strain on their body, which eventually breaks down.
Another issue with chronic anger is the state it leaves your brain in. Chronically angry people have a heightened sense of awareness. Although this can help the individual recognize a potential threat, it can also make them irrational. An “amped” up brain can cause a person to make split-second decisions, without logic. It makes sense that people with anger are more likely to struggle with addictive behaviors, as well. Things like gambling, drinking, overeating and smoking are all correlative with chronic anger.
Anger, when uncontrolled, can also damage relationships. People who suffer from chronic anger are prone to outbursts, which harm those closes to them. Uncontrolled anger also runs the risk of turning into aggression, or violence. So, yes. Anger is a harmful emotion when left unchecked. If you find yourself constantly in one of the stages of anger, it may be time to get help.
What are the four types of anger?
Before discussing the stages of anger, let’s discuss the types of anger. There are four types, and all can be destructive over time.
- Justifiable anger. This is a type of anger with a cause. It’s usually associated with anger over moral injustices in the world. Anything from animal cruelty, social issues or politics. This can be a beneficial type of anger, as it encourages us to act and change. However, over time, this type of anger can cause tear down of the body, relationships and other aspects of our lives.
- Annoyance anger. This is the most common type of anger. This type of anger occurs from challenges in daily life. Like someone cutting you in line at the grocery store or similar situations. This type of anger is triggered, usually by external sources, but can also come from internal sources. Though common, it is equally as destructive as other types of anger.
- Aggressive Anger. This anger is typically used as a manipulation or domination tool by an individual seeking to gain control of a situation, or others. Left untreated, this type of anger can lead to bullying or abuse. Anger of this type is often caused by a fragile self-esteem or powerful insecurities.
- Temper Tantrums. Anger of this type is characterized by outbursts of anger towards others in an attempt to get something they desire. They are a direct result of a person’s desire to have their own needs met, with no regard for the person the tantrum is directed toward. This anger usually originates from a person’s childhood, and progresses into adulthood. It’s a learned mechanism to get what they want when they want. Left untreated, this type of anger causes severe problems in developing relationships. It is not likely to be resolved without treatment.
What are the five stages of anger?
Just like most emotions, anger comes in stages. Five, to be specific. Let’s go over the five stages of anger. Learning the stages of anger can help you be aware when it’s happening. Knowing which stages of anger you’re in can also help you know ho to get back to calm. So, here’s five stages of anger:
- Noticing. This is the first moment when you notice something that may become irksome. The thing, person, event etc. is brought to your attention.
- Annoyed. Annoyance can be caused by an external trigger or an internal trigger. At this stage, something is slightly bothersome or irritating to you. You feel slightly annoyed, or miffed. At this stage, you are unlikely to take action but you recognize the annoyance.
- Frustrated. Number three in the stages of anger is frustration. Here, you will begin to notice a rise in in stress levels. You will begin to notice the physical sensations associated with anger developing. At this stage, you still have the ability to think rationally, but it may be more difficult to remain calm. You will also experience a heightened state of dissatisfaction.
- Hostility. Hostility occurs when anger boils over inside of you before you can find a solution to the anger. This stage may involve snapping or yelling at another person or yourself. Your fight or flight system is engaged, which makes it more difficult to think rationally. It is very unlikely that you’ll be able to talk yourself down at this stage.
- Enraged. In the fifth stage of anger, you are completely out of control. You will likely become destructive, lashing out in physical anger or through excessive swearing our violence. At this stage, logic is impossible to reach. The rational brain is completely shut down.
What causes anger?
It can be difficult to get to the root of your anger, without knowing the cause. There are many potential causes of chronic anger, and they vary from person to person. Sometimes it is difficult for a person to recognize they have a problem, because they are in denial. If you or someone you love has been told they have an anger problem, look for the source. The following are some potential causes of chronic anger, but certainly not the full range of possibilities.
- Depression. While we often think of depression as someone lying on the couch feeling sad, this is not always the case. Depression may cause suppressed or outward anger. The intensity varies from person to person.
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. One study found that nearly one half of people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder struggle with anger difficulties. This is likely due to frustration over obsessive thoughts and behaviors.
- Alcohol Abuse. Studies show a link between alcohol abuse and anger. Alcohol impairs your ability to think and make good decisions, making it easier to become enraged.
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Anger is often associated with people who have this disorder.
- Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). This disorder affects only school-aged children. Children with this disorder are angry, hot tempered and easily annoyed.
- Bipolar Disorder. People with this disorder experience manic “highs” and depressive “lows.” However, anger and enragement are also associated with people who have this disorder.
- Intermittent Explosive Disorder. This disorder is characterized by repeated episodes of anger, violence or aggression, typically without warning. People with this disorder likely feel angry most of the time. They also experience explosive anger outbursts, not appropriate to the situation.
- Grief. Though many people think of grief as sadness, grief comes in stages. Anger is one of the stages of grief.
I think my stages of anger are due to grief. What do I need to know?
Grief is a common cause of anger. Life circumstances inevitably lead us all to grief, and anger is a normal part of the process. In fact, there are five stages of grief. Take a look at them and see if you recognize any or all of them. Your anger problem may be related to your grief.
- Denial- The denial stage of grief is usually the first. Grief can be overwhelming and our brains want to protect us from the depths of sorrow associated with grief. So, the brain often tricks us into the thinking the loss is not happening. This gives us more times to process the trauma or change, leaving us more capable of handling the coming emotions.
- Anger- Our brains use anger to hide the emotions we are feeling, a masking effect. The anger may be directed at a person or object. It’s not uncommon for someone to feel angry at a person that died. Some may not experience anger at all, and some may become stuck in this stage. This is all part of the grief process.
- Bargaining- In this stage of grief, the individual “bargains.” Statements like “what if” and “if only” are common. This stage is all about an attempt to regain control or affect the outcome of an event or loss. It’s a coping mechanism that delays sadness, confusion or pain.
- Depression- The depression stage of grief is often associated with sadness, isolation and pain. Feeling overwhelmed is also common in this stage. Some become stuck here, and need help to get out of this stage.
- Acceptance- In this stage, the individual accepts the loss for what it means in their life. They may not be happy, or have moved on, but a degree of acceptance is attained.
Can grief be the cause of my anger?
When looking at the stages of anger and grief, it’s important to remember you may not experience all of them. You may also experience them in a completely different order. Everyone is unique and emotions associated with grief and anger can present differently in a wide array of people. If you are experiencing grief over a loss or change, it is very likely it is adding to your anger.
Anger masks our emotions. It’s a coping mechanism used to prevent the outside world from seeing the hurt or insecurity we feel on the inside. Behind the anger is potentially an intense vulnerability, fear and yes, even grief. Though it can be difficult, it’s important to search inward and think deeply about the root of your anger.
Acknowledging your pain, grief or insecurity is the first step to healing. Because that’s the thing about chronic anger. It’s treatable. You don’t have to suffer with these feelings for the rest of your life. There’s always hope.
How can I overcome my anger problems and better understand the stages of anger?
Chronic anger can be treated through a mental health professional. These individuals are trained to provide the best care, tailored to fit you and your circumstance. They can help you understand the root of your anger and the effect it has on your life.
It can be difficult to see a therapist due to the nature of our busy lives, or fear surrounding therapy. The good news is, there is now and option for online therapy. Online therapy gives you access to worksheets, meditations and guides on how to overcome anger for free. You also have the option to match with a therapist, who can meet with you on your schedule. He/She will help you overcome all of the negative impacts that come from chronic anger.
All of this can be done from the comfort of your own home. Online therapy is a viable option for those who just can’t seem to make it to an office. If you’re struggling with an anger problem, reach out today. There’s no need to suffer in silence when you can fix the problem. Find the support you need and see the changes within yourself.