Anger is a completely natural emotion that we all experience. Despite this fact however it can still be unpleasant and lead to irrational behaviour and impaired judgement, potentially resulting in emotional or physical pain. While some forms of anger are perfectly healthy and normal then, other pose more of a serious problem. Knowing about how anger can manifest itself differently and understanding the different types of anger as well as the different ways individuals can react to them can help you to control your own and understand the reactions in others.
Psychologists have attempted to categorise and label the different forms of anger as they do many different abstract concepts. However there is no real agreement on how many types of anger there are and experts vary in their estimates from at least eight to twelve. The problem here is the fact that anger is actually completely unique in every incarnation and highly effected by the context, the causes and the individual; if only for the fact that you’ve experienced anger before it will be different when it later occurs. Thus any resource that claims there are definitely ‘8 types of anger’ are misleading. Categorisation attempts continue however as they still have their uses. Below are eight forms of anger that are fairly widely agreed upon.
Chronic anger describes an ongoing ‘underlying’ form of anger, often caused by a generalised resentment of life and of other people. Alternatively this can be caused by anger directed at the self. Such prolonged anger is highly unhealthy and puts stress on the immune system and is closely linked to depression and other mood disorders.
Volatile anger comes and goes and can be explosive and intense when it does. This is often triggered by a perceived wrong or a personal annoyance and is one of the more dangerous forms of anger leading potentially towards physical or verbal outbursts. Anger management techniques are particularly affective against volatile anger, and those who experience it commonly should learn to identify the signs and symptoms then calm themselves down by concentrating on their breathing or removing themselves from the situation.
This is anger caused by unfavourable judgements made about other individuals or situations and is again a form of resentment or loathing. This can then be expressed as critical, scathing or hurtful comments directed at the source of the anger.
Passive anger is anger that is either cleverly hidden by the individual that comes out in non-obvious ways. In some cases the individual may even be unaware themselves that they are expressing a repressed form of anger. This can make it one of the most difficult types of anger to control or even identify. Passive anger may be expressed through sarcasm, avoidance or by purposefully performing sub par or arriving late. For example a dissatisfied employee may begin to work less productively as a way to ‘get back’ at their employer, and may even be unaware that they are doing so until confronted.
Overwhelmed anger is caused when circumstances become to great for an individual to cope with. This anger is closely related to frustration and is an alternative response to the ‘learned helplessness’ reaction where an individual simply gives up on a situation. Overwhelmed anger can be caused either by a situation – for example having a tight deadline and a lot of important things to do, or by life in general – for example finding a job too demanding or struggling to raise children.
This is anger that is directed at an individual or organisation in order to ‘get back at them’ for a perceived wrong on their behalf. For example this type of anger might be caused by an insult, or by a company refusing to refund faulty goods. This is another of the most dangerous types of anger and is essentially the motivation for actions of revenge.
This is anger that is directed towards the self, annoyance for failing on a task for example or for being generally ‘weak’ or ‘incompetent’ in one’s own eyes. This can then result in self harm either emotionally or physically, or can manifest itself more subtly as an eating disorder, self deprecation, or self sabotage.
This is distinct from the other types of anger in that it can actually be a positive thing. Constructive anger describes anger that motivates positive reform or action such as protesting. It’s possible to use this type of anger yourself to get things done and create drive and motivation. For example before going to the gym you may wish to get yourself worked up and then ‘take it out’ on the opposition or the weights. This way your activity becomes a form of catharsis for anger you have purposefully created. Similarly if you feel you have been wronged or suffered an injustice at the hands of an individual or organisation but would normally be too shy or insecure to stand up for yourself, by getting more angry you can use it as a way to overcome that fear (anger can be used to overcome fear in all manner of situations). All our emotions have survival value which is why we evolved to have them in the first place.
However it is still important to remember that these eight types of anger in no way describe every possible variation, and everyone’s experiences will be different and unique. It’s also possible that one form of anger could fall under more than one of these descriptions – for example it may be retaliatory in that it’s revenge motivated yet passive in the way it’s expressed. These types of anger should only be used as a rough guideline and to identify potential causes and instances of anger that you may otherwise have been oblivious too.