Anger Management Techniques
What’s Your Anger Type?
Surprisingly, some anger types are healthy for you.
By Debbie Strong
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Anger may be an unpleasant emotion to deal with, but it's a normal, healthy part of being human. If you express it in a healthy way, anger serves as a powerful motivating force.
But chronic anger can increase your heart-attack and stroke risk. Before you can address your anger issues, it helps to first determine your anger type. Here are seven common anger profiles, as well as tips for managing your feelings of hostility.
If deep down you’re ticked off, but you haven’t said so out loud or you haven't acknowledged it yet, you may have passive or resistant anger. Sometimes manifesting itself as sarcasm or making passive aggressive statements, this type of anger is difficult to identify and can wreak havoc on your health.
“When you keep the feelings all bottled up, your body is tense all the time. Your immune system weakens, and you're at higher risk for heart disease, cancer, osteoarthritis, even and skin conditions,” says Peter Sacco, PhD, a psychologist in Niagara, New York, and author of What's Your Anger Type? “It's not uncommon for this type of person to one day just snap,” says Dr. Sacco.
People who fit the passive anger profile should practice expressing emotions in a healthy way, like venting to friends, says Sacco. Another way to break the passive anger cycle is to engage in physical activity to lower your overall stress, he recommends.
Prone to road rage when you're behind the wheel? You may be experiencing volatile anger or its more serious form, intermittent explosive disorder. People with intermittent explosive disorder have episodes of aggressive, violent behavior or angry verbal outbursts that are grossly out of proportion to the situation. “In intermittent explosive disorder, people shift into sudden and extreme bouts of anger that are out of character for them, almost like a seizure,” says Chris Aiken, MD, director of the Mood Treatment Center and instructor in clinical psychiatry at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina.
Volatile anger is slightly more common in males and those with substance abuse problems. This type of anger puts people at risk for self-harm, damage to property, violence against others, and trouble with interpersonal relationships. It's important to seek professional help for patterns of this type of anger, and to use caution if someone around you is prone to it.
“Volatile anger should not ever be an accepted form of expression of anger,” warns Cynthia Pavlock, a licensed clinical social worker and director The Center for Anger Resolution in Houston, Texas. “I encourage women or men to call 911 if their partner ever expresses anger inappropriately in a physical manner,” she adds.
Do you hold on to anger for longer than a few months? Then you might fit the chronic or habitual anger profile. Over time, this type of anger weakens the immune system and causes health conditions like hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
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“This is a person who gets into the habit of anger,” says Sacco. “[He or she] wakes up pissed off, and moves angrily from one thing to the next, setting the day up in their mind as 'Here we go again.' [He or she] is always looking for something to get angry about,” he adds. If you're chronically angry, you may find help in an anger management support group or by working with a therapist. “Left untreated, this is the type of person who ends up in trouble with the law or alienates him or herself from family and friends,” says Sacco.
If you're obsessed by someone you feel has wronged you, you probably have what's called vengeful anger. This type of anger takes a toll on you both mentally and physically in the form of obsessive thoughts, high levels of stress, and an increased risk for heart problems, says Dr. Aiken.
“Studies find that when someone wrongs you and you are given the opportunity to take revenge, the dopamine or reward center in the brain gets activated in a similar manner to addictions,” says Aiken. “In other words, revenge is sweet and addictive, which explains the tendency for angry people to ruminate over vengeful themes that get more and more intense as the thinking progresses,” says Aiken.
If this sounds like you, try to distract yourself. “A good approach for this type of anger is to find activities that get you out if your head, such as volunteering, which shifts your brain from anger at others toward helping others,” he says.
The best cure for vengeful anger? Forgiveness.
If you feel stuck in your anger and have a very hard time forgiving and forgetting an event where you feel you were wronged, you may have what Sacco refers to as petrified, or hardened, anger. “This is when someone hangs on to a sense of hatred and bitterness. You're waiting for an apology, but the person who did it maybe doesn't care or doesn't even know that you're mad,” he says.
The key to overcoming petrified anger to forgive, says Sacco. “You've got to realize that the anger isn't getting you anywhere. Even if you're no longer in touch with the person, you can choose to forgive them once and for all, and by doing so you'll forgive yourself,” he adds.
If you're ready to forgive, a therapist can help you work through the buried emotions. A therapist can also help you reach out to the person who has upset you, so you can finally let go of anger.
“Anger is not a bad or terrible emotion; it helps us to sense that something is wrong,” says Pavlock. One such healthy type of anger is incidental anger, or anger about a specific event or situation that gets addressed directly and quickly. “It's great to have an anger-provoking incident, appropriately express it and then move on,” she says.
Pavlock recommends using “I feel” statements instead of accusatory language to keep the conversation direct and appropriate. She also recommends avoiding angry outbursts or verbal abuse, which often upsets the other person involved.
As long as its expressed appropriately, another type of healthy anger is empathic anger, or righteous indignation. Empathic anger occurs when you are angry on behalf of someone else, says Aiken. Empathy is a healthy emotion for reducing anger in many situations, he adds.
“Mental health usually improves when we focus on others rather than ourselves, despite the frequent popular advice to schedule self-time and self-care,” Aiken explains.
Video: Exposing the 12 Types of Anger
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