Anger and Aggression

Below is a very simplified and general explanation of anger and aggression. You may experience some or all of these things or your experience may be different. You are welcome to contact us to discuss whether what you are experiencing is a difficulty with anger and/or aggression and what we can do to help. 

Everyone gets angry. It’s a natural emotion when things upset us. There are a few things, however, that make anger a problem:

  • If you are getting angry more often than you think other people in similar circumstances to you would be
  • If your anger is more intense than others; so when you are angry you feel more anger than others would in the same situation
  • If anger is getting in the way of things you want to be doing, so either it if stopping you from doing things you want to or your reactions to your anger are upsetting you and those around you. 

Anger can be thought of as like a volcano. Sometimes the lava inside will be near the bottom and it will take a lot to move it to the top and for the volcano to blow. If the lava is already near the top, however, it will seem like almost anything can make the volcano blow. People will often look for triggers for anger and think about what makes us angry but if the lava is close to the top and the volcano blows very easily then it can look like there is no trigger, like we are angry all of the time or like it is spontaneous like flicking a switch.

People sometimes confuse anger with aggression but they are very different. Anger is an emotion whereas aggression is a behaviour. They may look linked in that when we are angry we may become aggressive and aggression is generally something obvious to other people which they attribute to anger but they cannot actually see our anger.

Our bodies don’t really like being angry, it takes a lot out of us, which can make us tired and irritable. This can look like more anger. Also, when we’re angry we can sometimes notice that we don’t like being angry but not knowing what to do about it can make us – guess what? – more angry! Anger can easily become a vicious cycle. 

Symptoms of anger and aggression

Physical symptoms – muscle tension, clenched jaw, clenched fists, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, sweating

Cognitive symptoms – concerns about mistreatment, thoughts of hostility towards people

Emotional symptoms – feelings of frustration, feelings of rejection

Behavioural symptoms – aggression, passive aggression, shouting and/or swearing, violence towards people or things, ignoring or socially excluding others.

Our Psychologists have specialist training to support you to know what to do when you are angry, to avoid aggression and to reduce the underlying anger and make the lava inside the volcano move closer to the bottom than the top.