Anger is a normal and healthy reaction in certain contexts and can in fact be a positive productive force under the right circumstances. However in many cases in today’s society it is also often destructive and inappropriate, and in many cases of anger disorders such as intermittent explosive disorder (IED) it can be chronic and damaging. If anger is causing you grief then it’s important to try to understand the cause of anger and see if there are ways it can be controlled. Apart from anything else, misunderstanding the source of your anger can serve to exacerbate matters and increase it.
The cause of anger varies greatly depending on the situation and can be worsened by a selection of other factors too. The cause of anger that is most healthy, and the one most people think of, is that caused by finite external factors such as interpersonal interactions. For example an argument or an insult may leave you feeling angry and here the anger is motivated by a desire for ‘justice’ or retribution or as a way to restore pride (attacks on one’s reputation often result in anger). Similarly events outside of your control commonly result in anger too. These may include your computer refusing to boot up or getting stuck in a traffic jam and here the anger comes from the fact that you feel ‘powerless’ to affect the situation and so lash out with a few choice words. To cope with these external causes of anger it is recommended that where possible you simply remove yourself from the offending material (which is why it’s so important to be able to identify what that is…). In other cases, such as the traffic jam, you should just try to control your breathing and remind yourself that getting angry won’t solve anything.
While these examples describe fleeting bursts of rage, it is also often the case that you experience more underlying and long-term conditions as a cause of anger. For example you may be unhappy at work, or be in chronic pain. Often anger can occur if you find you compare yourself unfavourably to the situations of others. In these scenarios the anger becomes constant and can place stress on the immune system. Furthermore it then only takes a mild annoyance or external cause of anger to lead for a full blown outburst. In these scenarios it is again important to identify these long term causes of anger and attempt to either eradicate them (perhaps by changing job) or come to terms with them.
In other situations however the cause of anger is internal. For example you may be angry at yourself for failing a task or for being ‘shy’ or forgetful. Whether you attribute the cause of anger to internal or external factors plays a large role in how you cope with it. Internal causes of anger however can often become repressed leading to the individual taking out their anger on other people or situations. In these scenarios it’s important to get to the route of your anger again and to confront your own shortcomings. Talking to a therapist can be a great way to identify causes of anger directed at the self and to overcome them as a result.