Anger can be brought on by any number of things. It’s almost impossible to never feel angry. This is why we should know that it’s normal to feel angry.
Anger is a huge part of our mental health. It can often get out of control or feel like it’s too hard to cope. That's why it’s important to know not just when to get help, but also why we're feeling like this and how we can deal with it in our own way as well as when to seek help from others around us.
Why do we feel angry?
Our anger may be caused by something happening to us now or something that happened to us in the past. We also may not understand where our anger is coming from which can make it more difficult to address (as well as harder to ignore).
It’s impossible to narrow anger down to 1 thing as it’s different for everybody. However, biologically we are quite similar.
What's happening inside us:
- Some trigger for anger (whatever it might be)
- Brain causes body to release stress hormones
- These chemicals cause an increased heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate as our body prepares us for physical exertion
- This could leave us feeling hot and sweaty
Whilst it is easy to explain what happens when we get angry biologically it isn’t always easy to pinpoint what triggers this response in us. It might be teachers at school, a certain place we have to go, a certain time of day or it may seem like it comes from nowhere and is just a feeling. Everyone’s different. That’s why it’s important for us to know that it’s normal to get angry.
Some triggers for anger include:
- Feeling helpless or frustrated about something we can’t change
- School may leave us feeling stressed
- Our family or friends may be putting pressure on us
- Other mental health issues like anxiety or depression
- We may just be feeling overwhelmed
Good ways to deal with it
Are people telling you to calm down all the time? Sometimes when dealing with anger problems, people trying to help can feel patronising and frustrating.
Nobody deals with anger in exactly the same way. There is no one right way for anyone. However, it can be useful to get help from people we know and trust or even from a professional (which often seems daunting).
You may already have ways to deal with your anger. Here are some things to do if you're feeling angry now:
- First of all, take a breath
- Remove yourself from the situation
- Listen to your favourite music
- Talk to a trusted friend
- Do an activity that helps you to feel different, like walking your dog
Dealing with anger in the long term:
- Talk about how you are feeling with someone you trust
- Recognise when you are angry
- Try to listen to others and explain your feelings
- Start to recognise patterns behind what is causing anger
- Regular exercise can help to get built up frustration out of your system
Frequently asked questions
How normal is anger?
Anger is normal for everyone. We all feel angry sometimes even if it seems there is no reason for us to feel that way. Both adults, teens and kids all feel angry and it’s alright to feel angry. If you think your anger is overwhelming or is a long term issue, it is useful to seek help.
What are the most common anger issues?
Disorders or illnesses caused purely by anger are quite rare (for example intermittent explosive disorder) and aren't often diagnosed by doctors. However, there are many other mental health problems which may either be the cause of our anger or may be adding to and magnifying our anger such as stress, frustration with home or school life. You can get more insight into these using the link at the bottom of the page.
Can anger be linked to alcohol or drug use?
Drugs and alcohol both alter the chemical balance in our brain. They can make us feel angry at the time which is often natural. If you are using drugs and alcohol regularly then this can make us more angry. Drug and alcohol use can result in a higher chance of developing many mental illnesses. It can also cause a reliance on them to feel normal.
Talk to Frank gives honest information about drugs and alcohol.
Drink aware has advice about young people and alcohol. They also have advice on how to recognise alcohol poisoning.
Drinkline is a confidential helpline for anyone concerned about drinking. You can call them for free from Monday to Friday from 9am to 11pm on 0300 123 1110.
Can anger be linked to obesity, sleep and exercise?
- Obesity does not cause anger. However, sometimes people who struggle with their weight can feel frustrated. They may be affected by pressures to look certain ways. We all feel this way sometimes but it is important to understand that you should feel comfortable whatever you look like. There is no direct biological link to obesity and anger.
Exercise is a great way for us to deal with our anger. Exercise allows us to get away from the world we often feel stressed or overwhelmed in. It also has many health benefits linked to reducing stress. So when we are feeling angry it’s good to get out and do some exercise that we can enjoy.
Sleep is vital for us to function well. If we don’t sleep properly we become irritable and much more prone to feeling angry. Often a lack of sleep leads to increased anger.
Where can I go to get a diagnosis?
Sometimes we feel we have a hard time dealing with our anger and there is nothing we can do to help us stop it. This may be a sign of a mental health problem that you need help dealing with.
There are a number of ways to get help. The best places to go are either to a teacher in school you trust, your parents or to your local GP practice. Find out how to contact your GP.
Is my anger connected to issues from my past?
Anger may be caused by any number of things. Sometimes we may have experienced things in our past that lead us to feel angry.
These things may include:
Family. It’s possible to learn unhelpful behaviours from family members around us.
Traumatic events. When and if we experience a traumatic event it may leave us feeling angry and potentially leave us prone to outbursts of anger.
Substance abuse. You may have used alcohol or drugs in the past and they may cause you to feel angry.
Why do we get a physical response to anger?
Anger is both psychological and biological.
Biologically there is a very complex system working inside us when we get angry. The basic idea is that adrenaline (a hormone) is released in large amounts into the blood. This is to prepare the body for great physical exertion (fight or flight). This is what makes us feel hot, have a fast heartbeat and breathe more heavily.
This response is usually brought on by a high stress situation in which we may feel angry, frustrated or as if we are being treated unfairly.
How can we let things go?
Letting things go is often difficult, especially when we are angry.
The best thing to do when in a situation is to find something to calm ourselves down. For example using breathing techniques or meditation.
Letting things go in the longterm is often more difficult as it may be hard wired into our brains. Often the best thing to do is either seek help from those around us (friends, family, teachers, doctors, nurses) or find a good outlet such as going to the gym or running.
Is anger related to hormones?
Anger is related to our hormones. It is most strongly linked to adrenaline which causes the physical response in us.
Sometimes it can feel like we are being told our anger is because we are a teenager. We are told that we are going through puberty, that it is normal to feel this way. This is true but it doesn’t fully answer the question or help us deal with it.
In both men and women during puberty there is an increase in cortisol levels. This is associated with mood swings as well as the physical changes of anger (rapid heartbeat, feeling hot, etc). This is just one of many changes that may lead to us feeling more angry.
Also, a big question often asked is whether or not the menstrual cycle plays a role in anger. The short answer is yes. Changes in hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone often increase irritability and anger.
We shouldn’t assume our anger is just hormones. We might have others reasons for feeling angry which need exploring.
Our anger may feel more serious than we can cope with ourselves. If this is the case we may need to address it with professional help. We can seek help from others and the resources on offer for us.
When and where to get help
If you need help now visit our 'Help I'm in Crisis' page.
West Yorkshire Night OWLS is available 8pm to 8am every day for young people across West Yorkshire. Call free on 0800 1488 244 or text on 07984 392700. Visit the website to use the online chat function www.wynightowls.org.uk
Kooth is a free, safe, and anonymous online wellbeing community for young people. You can sign up without being referred by anyone and you don’t need to download any apps.
Visit Leeds MindMate for self help and wellbeing tips. Relax with their 2 or 3 minute meditations
Young minds has a good range of advice on anger and how to deal with it, amongst other mental health issues.
Whether you want a quick chat or more focused help, the team is here to help young people with mental health, relationships, work life, school life, depression and any other issues all year round. Call 0808 808 4994 between 4pm and 11pm every day, email them, chat one to one online, sign up for free counselling or text THEMIX on 85258 for free 24 hours a day crisis support.
Whatever you're going through, call free any time, from any phone, on 116 123. They're there for you, whatever your age. You can talk to them about whatever is on your mind, they'll listen. This might include how you look, problems at school or college, how people are treating you, and worries about exams or money.
NHS inform has a great page to help you deal, understand and prevent your anger.
NHS Anger page
This page was written by Sam (age 17 from Leeds)