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Identifying Causes of Anger, Coping with Anger, and Managing Anger

Anger is a normal human emotion we all experience at times. It can be motivational, help us move towards positive change, and assist us in meeting short and long-term goals. Anger can also be destructive and devastating, destroying relationships, careers, and lives. Individuals must take responsibility. Being aware of the causes of anger, learning effective skills for coping with anger, and all times managing anger is important to ensure it is constructive rather than destructive.

Becoming aware of the causes of anger may seem easy because it is one of the easiest emotions to express. Because destructive anger tends to progress so rapidly, however, individuals must be intentional and practice in order achieve awareness before damage is done. Awareness starts by paying attention to physical changes. Anger causes an increase in heart rate; tightness in areas of the body such as the chest, jaw, and neck; color changes to the skin especially on the face; and feeling as if the temperature has gotten hotter.

Once an individual recognizes her own physical responses to anger-provoking situations, she can be taught techniques that are effective for coping with anger. Relaxation techniques can assist in deescalating the anger and the situation.  For example, slowing and deepening breathing allows the body to re-oxygenate and diffuse the ‘fight or flight’ response. Once the body has returned to a ‘low-stress’ state, the mind is able to identify external and internal triggers and formulate alternative responses.

When anger is experienced too frequently, is too intense, or is expressed inappropriately, it becomes a problem. Effectively managing anger requires one to become aware of body changes before anger escalates. Employing strategies to mitigate the fight or flight response can help individuals identify and diffuse internal and external triggers. Sometimes these strategies alone, however, are not enough. If that is the case, a licensed professional counselor can walk individuals through the steps of mitigating their anger, and modifying their angry behavior.

Tia Parsley is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor in Texas and Arkansas. She has over ten years of counseling individuals and families, improving relationships, working with parents, and helping individuals with emotional issues such as anger management and bereavement.

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