Anger is a strange and complex emotion. Some experts view anger as an extension of the fight-flight-or-freeze response. By reducing other behavioral, cognitive, and psychological functions, anger allows us to face certain dangers more effectively. At the same time, too much anger can isolate someone socially, cause them to lash out at loved ones, or even directly harm others.
Nearly everyone feels angry at some point in their lives. Life doesn’t always go the way we plan or need and anger is a natural response. But some people feel constant and unrelenting anger. Even slight disturbances trigger a flood of uncontrollable rage. Long-term, this can create a loop of negative emotions and poor mental health.
We’ll discuss some of the causes of chronic anger, as well as introduce anger management strategies that can help. If you need more help, reach out to a mental health expert.
Understanding Persistent Anger
Managing constant anger is difficult if you don’t first have a grasp on this type of anger. Typical anger, at its core, is just an emotional reaction to a situation that motivates us to make changes. The body floods with stress hormones that increase focus, increase heart rate, speed up breathing, and mute various other impulses.
When we are actually in danger, these changes can be extremely helpful. Unfortunately, the stress response can trigger in response to pretty much anything—especially if a person already struggles with coping with anger issues. But why is that the case?
Over time, chronic anger changes the body and mind. Because the stress response “turns down” the intensity of other emotions and sensations, anger becomes the predominant emotion for all reactions. Angry people essentially prime themselves to feel anger in response to incoming situations and anticipate other events that would cause them to become furious. Additionally, they will place greater blame on others for their misery, leading to a feedback loop as the blame feeds right back into the fury.
Other outcomes include viewing neutral situations more negatively, thinking more poorly of other people, loss of analytical thinking, and an increase in recalling situations that caused anger.
Everyone’s experience with anger is different and we all have unique reactions to anger. It’s important to remember that while we often associate anger with aggression and explosive reactions, this isn’t always the case. Anger can be a much more subtle emotion, especially in cases of chronic anger.
Common Triggers for Chronic Anger
So what are the chronic anger causes? In the short term, pretty much anything that causes stress can trigger a bout of rage. It just depends on the context and your personal history with anger. Driving is a major source of anger for people, especially because road rage is quite normalized. Others might become enraged if they feel slighted, like if they weren’t invited to a party or received a gift that they felt was lackluster.
But, ultimately, these are not the causes of chronic anger. These situations are just catalysts for specific spikes in rage. Persistent anger is much more complex.
Social and Economic Problems
Constant anger can have roots in socioeconomic factors. A lack of financial stability is extremely stressful and anger-inducing, especially if a person feels as if they are not being rewarded for their work. Social problems like prejudice are also common triggers for ongoing anger. These issues make it feel as if the world isn’t fair, or—in some cases—actively out to harm people.
These systemic problems don’t even necessarily need to directly affect a person for them to feel angry. Developing chronic anger at these grand problems on behalf of others is quite common.
For many people, anger is an accessible emotion that acts as an outlet for other active, unresolved, or compounded emotions. One of the most common is grief. There often isn’t enough time or space in our schedules to properly grieve when something happens. Without a break to process major events, people tend to turn to anger as a form of release.
Past Traumas, A Need for Justice, and Other Deep-Seated Issues
Problems in a person’s past can continue to affect their life for many years. Childhood trauma is a source of significant mental health struggles for millions of people around the world. Anger is simply one of many ways in which these traumas may influence someone. Sometimes, such as in cases of abuse, this stems from a desire for justice or revenge. It can also be an expression of jealousy if other people discuss having happier pasts. Ultimately, the specifics depend on the individual and their unique circumstances.
People often tend to think of depression as a type of sadness. While there’s a hint of truth to this, it’s a very inaccurate idea. Among many other symptoms, depression involves feelings of low mood with a loss of interest in activities, flat affect, feelings of hopelessness, or thoughts of self-harm. Studies show that the same chemical imbalances in the brain that influence depression—serotonergic dysfunction—could also be partially responsible for chronic anger. In some cases, a person may feel anger as a symptom of their depression or have both issues at once.
Healthy Strategies for Managing Anger
How does someone actually begin coping with anger issues? As with many mental health, emotional, and behavioral problems, the answer depends on the individual. We all feel anger differently and our rage all comes from different sources.
One method is to consciously realize that you’re angry when the feelings flare up. People often don’t realize the signs of anger until after the triggering incident has passed. Learning to notice the signs that you are becoming irritated or angry is a big step in learning to address persistent anger.
Think Before Acting
Once you consciously address that you’re angry, take time to formulate your thoughts, words, and actions. The stress response and anger directly inhibit the ability to see things analytically and actively increase risky or dangerous behaviors. This includes saying or doing something you might regret. Take a few moments to collect yourself and allow others the same courtesy.
Stick With Personal Statements
Anger and blame are delicately intertwined and often create loops of negative emotion. To avoid this, stick to personal statements and thoughts when describing the problem. Rather than “You never do the dishes,” consider something like “I am upset that I had to do the dishes today after work.” This will start to break that loop by avoiding blame and focusing on the truth of the anger.
Though this might not help in those immediate, rage-inducing moments, one of the best things you can do for persistent anger is to reduce your stress. At its core, anger is a response to stress. Exercising can help lower stress levels, especially if it’s an activity you enjoy. Consider stress-releasing skills like mindfulness or meditation. Even deep-breathing exercises can help lower stress a bit.
Know When to Seek Help
Controlling anger is difficult, whether it’s the same temporary anger that everyone feels or the persistent pressure of chronic anger. There is no shame or embarrassment in asking a professional for help when things feel out of control.
When to Seek Professional Help for Anger Issues
To put it simply, you should visit a professional at any point that you feel your anger is a problem. While it’s important to seek help when your anger is harming others in some way, it doesn’t need to affect anyone for your anger to be something a professional can help you with.
Our professionals at Restore Mental Health have extensive experience helping people just like you. From anger problems with violent outbursts to individuals who internalize their emotions, we’ve seen it all. Just reach out today to learn how we can help you.