Anger Management: Calming a Hot Head

By Amy Lewis Bear, MS, NCC, LAPC

Everyone experiences daily frustrations that cause tempers to flare. But if the blood boils after minor incidents, such as someone cutting in line at the grocery store, or if there is constant seething and overreacting to small annoyances, anger could be out of control.

Anger is a normal feeling that can result in a healthy emotional release, defense in a dangerous situation, or motivation for needed change. Reckless expression of anger, such as yelling at a co-worker, pushing a spouse, or slapping a child, causes damage and creates more problems. It can mean the loss of a job, the breakup of a family or even arrest and imprisonment. It can lead to a host of ailments such as anxiety, depression, stomach ulcers, stroke, heart disease and a depressed immune system.

Hostile and aggressive behavior is often caused by an error in thinking that results in a reaction grossly disproportionate to the situation that prompted it. A typical distortion is that anger will go away if only a spouse, child, boss or friend would change. In truth, the angry person must learn to calm down, think rationally, and consider the consequences before taking any action.

Treatment for anger problems requires a combination of insight, knowledge and practice. It's important to recognize normal and abnormal reactions, the negative consequences of angry outbursts, and how the angry person contributed to the experience. What is the true cause of the anger? Is it the result of an underlying cauldron of emotion generated by past experiences? Or, is it a behavior that has been shaped by cultural, social and environmental influences?

Learning skills to cope with anger results in less aggravation. By taking certain cognitive and behavioral steps when anger is aroused, a racing heart or flow of adrenaline can be calmed. The stage is set for affirmative expression and constructive problem solving. Over time and with practice, attacks of anger become less common and less intense.

Atlanta Area Psychological Associates offers anger management programs for every age group. We recognize that the experience and expression of anger is different for men, women, adolescents and children. In many cultures, men are taught to express anger and women are taught to suppress it. Children learn how to vent anger from their parents and other role models. Our proven methods and interventions for anger control are designed to account for differences in the experience of anger depending on age, gender and life stage.

Learning a more mature response to anger can lead to higher self-esteem, effective functioning and improved relationships at home and work. It can also have a significant and long lasting influence on others. If you or someone you know has an anger problem, schedule a consultation with an AAPA therapist to learn how to calm a hot head, and turn anger into a positive and productive force.