Dear Tacit,

People tell me that I have an anger issue.  How do I know if my anger is really becoming a problem?

Signed: Angry

Dear Angry,

First, let’s talk a little about what anger is, and where it comes from.  Anger is a natural human emotion.  We ALL experience it.  Some people release it easily; others bottle it up and keep it stuffed deep down inside (this can often result in feelings of depression or explosions of anger).  Anger takes a toll on us physically, emotionally, and mentally.  So, it is wise to make friends with it, and to know how to manage it effectively.

We sometimes refer to anger as a “secondary emotion” because it is the most common emotional response that people have when they are needing to protect themselves from deeper feelings that are sometimes harder to manage.  Anger is a very healthy thing to feel, but it can be scary when it surfaces.  It takes over and we can feel like we have lost control.

People experience anger for a variety of reasons.  It is a complex emotional response that can be triggered by both internal and external factors.  Anger becomes a problem if it starts interfering with our daily life, with our relationships, and with our overall well-being.

Here are some common reasons why we might get angry:

  1. Frustration: When we encounter resistance, obstacles, challenges, or situations that prevent us from achieving our goals or desires, we can become frustrated, which can escalate into anger.
  2. Threat to Well-being: Perceived threats to physical, emotional, or psychological well-being can trigger anger as a defensive mechanism. It can be a response to feeling unsafe or when we experience a perceived injustice or unfairness of some kind.
  3. Unmet Expectations: When we have certain expectations about how things should go or how others should behave, and these expectations are not met, we can feel disappointed and angered.
  4. Lack of Control: Feeling like we are not in control of a situation or of our own life can lead to feelings of helplessness and frustration, which may evolve into anger.
  5. Pain: When another person hurts or betrays us through their actions or words, anger can be a response to the emotional pain we experience.  We can also react in anger when we are physically hurt in some way.
  6. Perceived Disrespect: Feeling disrespected or de-valued by others can trigger anger, as it can be seen as an affront to our dignity and self-worth.
  7. Stress and Overwhelm: High levels of stress, pressure, or overwhelming situations can lower our tolerance for managing emotions, making us more prone to angry outbursts.
  8. Personality and Temperament: Some of us have a naturally shorter fuse or a temperament that genetically makes us more prone to anger.
  9. Underlying Issues: Certain mental health conditions, like anxiety or intermittent explosive disorders, can lead to recurrent and intense outbursts of anger that are disproportionate to the situation.

It should also be noted that how we are raised (social norms, cultural expectations, and role modelled behaviors related to anger) also plays a huge part in how we express and manage our anger. Some of these influences might encourage more open expression of anger, while others might discourage it.

So, now that we understand anger a bit more, how do we know if our anger is becoming a problem?

  1. Frequency and Intensity: If you find yourself getting angry frequently or with increasing intensity over small issues, you might have an anger issue developing.
  2. Physical Reactions: If your anger often leads to physical reactions like clenched fists, raised heart rate, or headaches, you are experiencing the warning signs of a loss of control over your anger.
  3. Duration: If your anger lingers long after the triggering event has passed, it could indicate a problem. Holding onto anger can affect your longer-term mood and mental health.
  4. Impact on Relationships: If your anger is causing conflicts with loved ones, friends, or colleagues, and these conflicts are becoming more frequent or severe, it is a sign that your anger is negatively affecting your relationships.
  5. Regret: If you often feel regret after expressing anger, whether due to words you said or actions you took, your patterns suggest that your anger might be problematic.
  6. Isolation: If you find yourself avoiding people or situations to prevent getting angry, it could indicate that your anger is affecting (controlling) your social life.
  7. Legal or Financial Consequences: If your anger leads to aggressive behavior that results in legal trouble or financial repercussions, you are having a problem.
  8. Difficulty Concentrating: If you find it hard to focus on tasks or make decisions due to your anger, it’s a sign that your anger is interfering with your ability to function effectively.
  9. Physical Health Issues: Chronic anger can lead to physical health problems such as high blood pressure, heart issues, and a weakened immune system.
  10. Ruminating: If you find yourself constantly replaying situations that made you angry and dwelling on them, it could be a sign that your anger is becoming obsessive.

Anger can serve as a signal that something is wrong or out of balance. It needs our attention (and appropriate action).  However, how people express and manage their anger can vary widely, and unhealthy expressions of anger can lead to negative consequences for both the individual experiencing it and those around them. Learning healthy coping mechanisms, communication skills, and emotional regulation techniques can help us all manage our anger more effectively.

If you would like to know more about how to cope with a potential anger issue (yours or a loved one’s), please feel free to join Tacit Knowledge, in partnership with Beaumont FCSS, for our FREE 6-week Managing Anger Effectively Support Group Program, which starts on September 11th.  This Program is open to Beaumont residents only – you do not have to attend every session.  Contact Beaumont FCSS at 780-929-1006 to register.

Take Care!

Have a question? Please feel free to reach out to us at Your answer will be provided confidentially. 

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