HealthyLife® Students' Self-Care Guide

 Section V - Mental Health Topics

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Angry womanAnger

Anger is a natural reaction to frustrating and/or painful events in our lives. Most of us express our anger in harmless ways such as yelling, crying, slamming doors and hanging up the telephone. After a while, the anger goes away. When anger hangs on, though, it can make us enraged over little things or be expressed through violent acts.

Excessive anger can make us sick, not only mentally, but physically. In fact, millions of Americans experience the side effects of chronic anger in the form of illnesses, drug and alcohol addiction, headaches, domestic violence and depression just to name a few. Anger can also be a symptom of depression. (See “Depression”.) Angry outbursts can prevent us from having good relationships with others and feeling good about ourselves. On the other hand, learning to manage our anger can enhance our emotional well being and lead to a healthier, happier life.

Questions to Ask

Did your anger become problematic after a stroke, head injury, or head surgery?

Yes. See Physician.

No

 

Do outbursts of anger come with any of the following symptoms?

  • Memory loss or confusion
  • Less ability to figure things out or remain attentive
  • Inability to perform routine tasks
Yes. See Physician.

No

 
Does your anger result in physical or emotional harm to someone else or to yourself or does the anger result in destruction of property?
Yes. See Physician or See Counselor.

No

 
Do you have uncontrollable outbursts of anger when you drink or take any kind of drugs?
Yes. See Physician or See Counselor.

No

 
Is your anger the result of long term, excessive stress or a feeling of being powerless?
Yes. See Physician or See Counselor.

No

 

Do you get irritable and have sudden fits of anger when you don’t eat for several hours, especially if you are a diabetic?

Yes. Call Physician.

No

 
For females, do you experience anger, especially if it leads to aggression, 10-14 days before your menstrual period?
Yes. Call Physician.

No

 

Use Self Help.

 

Self-Help

bullet Don’t ignore anger. Express it in a healthy and appropriate way:
  • Share your angry feelings with a person you trust and feel safe with, such as a friend, spouse, teacher, etc.
  • Get the anger “off your chest.” Do this calmly and without violence or cruelty. Tell the person or persons you feel angry with how they have upset you. You will likely start to feel better.
    (Note: This is not always possible. It may not be appropriate or could make things worse to express anger to a boss or other authority figure especially if you can’t do it calmly and rationally. Tell someone else, though, so you can constructively diffuse your anger.)
bullet Be assertive. Express your wants, needs and feelings in ways that do not offend others. Doing so can keep you from getting into situations in which you feel taken advantage of and get angry as a result. Use “I” rather than “you” statements. For example, say “I get angry when I feel put down by your comments in front of our friends.” Don’t say, “You make me angry when you put me down in front of our friends.” This allows you to take responsibility for your feelings.
bullet Make a list of the situations in which you feel excessive anger. This may include work, social and personal situations/relationships. See if there are any patterns to your anger and if they can be changed.
bullet Channel the energy anger brings into doing something positive or creative. Understand that we have more control over anger than we realize.
  • Clean out drawers.
  • Go to a driving range and practice your golf swing.
  • Take a short walk or do other exercises.
  • Paint, write poems, etc.
bullet Write out your anger, but keep it to yourself if expressing it out loud could bring unwanted consequences.
bullet Distract yourself. If you’re stuck in traffic, for example, try to accept the delay and recognize that it’s beyond your control. Instead of clenching the steering wheel, play pleasant music on the radio or listen to an interesting program. If you have a cassette or CD player in your car, buy and play tapes or CDs that are soothing for such situations.
bullet To lessen anger outbursts, think of what will happen as a result of your anger.
bullet Find humor in situations that result in anger.
bullet Practice learning to lighten up.
bullet Use stress management techniques on a routine basis. (See “Stress - Self-Help”.)
bullet Think before acting or speaking. Try to understand your anger and plan how you want to react or respond.
bullet Eat healthy foods. Eat at regular times.

Copyright 2004, 5th Edition, American Institute for Preventive Medicine. All rights reserved.

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March 16, 2007