What Is the Best Therapy for Anger? 

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Best therapy for anger
Author Name: Lucas Cook
Date: Tuesday March 19, 2024

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Maybe you know someone who is angry all the time, and you want to help. Perhaps you feel plagued by a slow-burning rage that never departs, and you’re tired of feeling so negative. What is the best therapy for anger to calm uncomfortable feelings and alter behavior? 

Many people fear this emotion and justifiably so. When others act on it inappropriately, it can result in bruised emotions — and much more. Its ultimate expression is violence and war, which never leads to anything but destruction and despair. While it’s understandable to treat anger with caution, it’s equally vital to recognize its purpose and learn how to express it correctly. 

What is the best therapy for anger? Let’s take a deeper dive. 

What Is Anger? What Purpose Does It Serve? 

There are hundreds of words for the subtle variations in human emotion. However, psychologist Paul Ekman identified six basic ones that are universal to all humans everywhere. They include:

  • Anger
  • Disgust
  • Happiness
  • Sadness
  • Fear 
  • Surprise

According to this theory, anger is one of the oldest, most primal and basic parts of being human. However, it often leads to violence, which often harms the perpetrator as much as the victim. How can something so destructive possibly have a purpose? 

1. Can Anger Be Healthy? 

However, there are multiple good reasons to get angry, although learning how to express it appropriately is a must to keep from harming others — and yourself. At its heart, anger is an alarm system. It often originates from fear and alerts you to an unmet need. It can occur when you feel threatened, rejected or abandoned when someone crosses a boundary or stands in the way of something that matters to you. 

The next time you get angry, ask yourself these questions to help identify the source of the alarm. 

  • Is my safety or well-being at risk? 
  • Has something happened that is wrong or unfair?
  • Do I feel unloved, abandoned, rejected or disrespected? 
  • Is something preventing me from meeting my goals? 

2. Healthy Ways to Manage Anger 

The healthiest way to manage anger is to get mindful about what’s enraging you. However, you might find it impossible to do so if your body’s alarm system screams at you to do something, anything, right now. The compulsion can feel as strong as panic, as if you will spontaneously combust if you don’t react. 

When you feel this way, start by dispelling the worst of your anger healthily. You might:

  • Punch and kick a punching bag
  • Go for a long run or bike ride
  • Scream into your pillow 
  • Vigorously weed your garden 
  • Hike the tallest mountain you can find 
  • Crank angry music and scream the lyrics while dancing or playing mad air guitar

The idea is to lower the levels of adrenaline and cortisol, driving your need to act impulsively. As you tire yourself off, they dissipate, letting you think more objectively. Only then can you sit quietly and mindfully explore the questions above about the source of your anger, either meditating or reflecting in your journal. 

2. Why Are Some People Angry All the Time? 

Various causes make people feel angry. You might get triggered to rage from internal or external factors — or a combination. However, certain conditions predispose people to irritation and outbursts. 

1. They Have a Trauma History 

Some people who grew up in abusive environments never learned how to express any emotion outside of anger. Their households were that toxic. 

Sometimes, they were raised with maladaptive gender roles in which expressing any emotion other than rage was shamed as a sign of weakness. Others may have been shamed for expressing negative feelings without ever learning what they signified — only how to repress them. Which they often do until the pressure becomes too great. Then, they explode. 

Further compounding the problem is that people raised in violent, chaotic households experience physical changes in their brain and nervous systems that make them extremely reactive. Their amygdala and HPA axis become hyper-attuned to potential threats and may misinterpret the most innocent stimuli. That’s why finding non-harmful ways to dispel these overwhelming emotions is crucial to stopping impulsive behaviors that can have unintended consequences. 

2. They Have a Substance Use Disorder 

Drugs and alcohol alter neurotransmitters and behavior in sometimes unpredictable ways. Many cause increased anger, which can turn dangerous when paired with how these substances reduce inhibition. People who might not behave violently when sober can do things they live to regret in a heartbeat. 

The problem doesn’t always immediately disappear when a person stops using. Alcohol, for example, is well-known for producing “hangxiety” as your brain strives to regain equilibrium after heavy drinking. Because this substance increases GABA, your brain’s natural valium, you make excess levels of glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter that spurs you to action as your mind attempts to rebalance itself. This restless feeling often manifests as irritation, even rage.

3. They Have an Inordinate Stress Load 

Stress activates your body’s fight-or-flight response. However, you can’t run away or fight off past due rent or that stack of work that keeps piling up on your desk. When high tension continues unrelieved, it keeps cortisol levels elevated. 

This stress hormone is useful in small amounts. However, your body develops a tolerance to it to protect your organs from the overabundance. As a result, you may have a flat, emotionless aspect much of the time but explode when the right trigger occurs and you suddenly feel the flood of repressed emotion. 

The best intervention is to decrease your stress levels, which can, admittedly, be easier said than done. However, working with a therapist can help you identify areas where you can cut back on your duties or delegate some chores to others. 

The Best Therapy for Anger 

If you struggle with anger, therapy can help. The best treatment for anger depends on the underlying cause, although the most important quality might be the comfort level you achieve with your therapist. You need to be honest and willing to self-examine, but a supportive environment helps, especially if you have a trauma history. 

Here’s a closer look at five of the best types of therapy for anger. 

1. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy attributes psychological problems, including trouble with anger, as based on faulty thought and behavioral patterns that are often self-reinforcing. It teaches you more adaptive ways of dealing with how you think about anger and express it to bring about lasting change and greater inner peace. 

For example, your therapist might ask you to write down your thoughts when you feel angry. You can then examine each one and challenge it — is it really true, for instance, that your partner neglected to text you because they no longer care, or could it be simply that they were busy, driving or forgot to charge their phone? If such instances make you freak out and rant about them on social media, how could you approach the situation differently? 

2. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy 

Dialectical behavioral therapy is ideal for people who experience intense emotions, such as those with borderline personality disorder. It’s based on CBT, but it focuses on four key skills:

  • Mindfulness or remaining in the present moment instead of ruminating or plotting. 
  • Distress tolerance or decreasing your reactivity. 
  • Interpersonal effectiveness or learning how to better relate to others.
  • Emotional regulation — recognizing and controlling your emotions. 

For example, a DBT role-playing session may walk through how you typically respond when angry. Your therapist can help you mindfully explore what’s happening in your mind and body when these episodes occur, gradually reducing reactivity and teaching you how to express and validate your anger without hurting your relationships with others. 

3. Trauma-Informed Therapy 

Both CBT and DBT focus on present-day behaviors. Trauma-informed therapy incorporates elements of these techniques but does so with an eye to how the ghosts of the past continue to haunt the present. 

Trauma-informed therapy encourages participants to explore the source of their anger. While it doesn’t necessarily focus on recalling past memories, it helps patients connect events in their childhood to their present-day behavior and evaluate how it affects their circumstances and how they can change. 

4. Psychosomatic Therapy

According to Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk, trauma exists not only in the mind but is stored in the body through the nervous system. Psychosomatic therapy uses body movements in conjunction with talk therapy to achieve healing and calm anger. For example, integrated yoga therapy is a type of psychosomatic therapy that seeks to release trauma trapped in muscles, tendons and connective tissue through gentle movement and guided meditation. 

5. Alternative Therapies 

Some people have success with alternative therapies for anger, including the following:

  • Tai chi
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Biofeedback
  • Art, music or dance therapy
  • Ayurveda

You might have to try various modalities until you find one that fits you best. While this process can be frustrating, it can transform your life. Be patient and persistent and investigate free resources if it becomes too expensive. For example, YouTube now informs you which content creators are licensed professionals, and many such therapists provide free content that can help. Support groups are another avenue where you can find free help. 

Finding the Best Therapy for Anger 

Anger is a frightening emotion that can have dangerous consequences. It can lead to violence, which harms both the person committing the act and the victim. Learning how to manage this emotion is a crucial part of being a responsible adult. 

Finding the best therapy for anger can be a time-consuming process, but it is ultimately worth it. Use this guide to discover the best type of help for you. 

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