Anger is a common emotion that you may experience from time to time.
While anger itself isn’t necessarily harmful — and as a response to many situations is understandable — chronic (ongoing) and uncontrolled anger can interfere with your overall health.
In severe cases, it may even harm your interpersonal relationships and career.
In some cases, you may be dealing with someone in your life who is frequently angry. You may want to help your loved one with their uncontrollable anger, while also helping yourself navigate your own emotions.
Therapy is considered an important part of an anger treatment plan. The overall goal of therapy is to help you learn strategies to help change your behaviors toward your triggers and manage anger in better ways when it comes up.
Therapy can also help you if you have a family member or other loved one whose anger issues are affecting you.
Anger can be a result of pent-up or unresolved issues over time, trauma, or even a symptom of seemingly unrelated issues like depression. Anger may be a symptom in some mental health conditions, including:
- antisocial personality disorder
- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- bipolar disorder
- dissociative disorders, such as from trauma
- intermittent explosive disorder
- oppositional defiant disorder
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- sleep disorders
Treatment can help if you’re struggling with anger management. Depending on the underlying cause and severity of your anger, a mental health professional may recommend specific therapies. Sometimes these are combined with medications.
While not a cure for any mental health condition, therapy can improve quality of life by improving symptoms. You may also benefit from improved interpersonal relationships and communication with those your anger might affect.
While it’s normal for young children to have occasional temper tantrums and for teens to be irritable from time to time, frequent angry outbursts may indicate an underlying issue.
If you feel that your child has uncontrolled anger, talk to their pediatrician as a first step. Depending on the situation, they may recommend a mental health evaluation before referring you to a therapist.
For young children, parent management techniques (PMT) may help. PMT focuses on positive reinforcement by rewarding good behavior, rather than punishing children for angry outbursts.
Anger is a normal emotion in children and teens who might be experiencing life changes. If you’re the child in this situation and find yourself feeling angry and overwhelmed, speak to a trusted adult. This may be a parent, a teacher, or a school counselor.
Therapy is a key component to treating chronic anger issues. Rather than suppressing your anger, the overall goal of therapy is to help you work through it so you can have a healthier, more balanced relationship with your emotions.
A mental health professional can make specific therapy recommendations based on both the severity of your anger as well as its underlying cause(s). You may also benefit from therapy if a loved one’s anger is affecting you.
Below are some of the most effective forms of therapy used to treat anger.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
CBT is a psychotherapy technique used in a variety of mental health treatment programs. It works by helping you recognize what triggers your anger and identifying how you normally respond to such triggers.
Then, with the help of a therapist, you learn new ways to respond to anger. This type of therapy may also be helpful in treating anger that’s caused by emotional trauma.
If you have a loved one with anger issues, CBT may also help you learn how to cope with these types of situations. In such cases, your therapist will guide you through healthy responses to another person’s anger.
Your therapist will help you identify personal goals and outcomes so you can gradually change your thoughts and behaviors — and stick with the changes.
If you feel like your anger is taking over your life and affecting others around you, a therapist might recommend a technique called psychodynamic therapy.
This type of therapy is more focused on self-reflection. It works to reveal your unconscious motivations to alleviate inner tension.
You may also learn how to express anger in ways that don’t affect your friends, family, and co-workers.
Chronic anger may affect your self-esteem and leave you feeling guilty and isolated. In such cases, group therapy can help. Led by a professional, these sessions allow for participants to get together on a regular basis, such as weekly or monthly.
The advantage of group therapy is that you’ll likely feel less alone throughout your treatment. It can also be helpful to hear about others’ coping strategies. Depending on your needs, some types of group therapies are family-based.
Group therapy is often a supplement to other types of therapy. You’ll likely need to see a therapist for individual sessions to gain the most benefits.
Play therapy is a form of psychotherapy designed specifically for young children. During these sessions, a licensed therapist will use creative forms of play to help children express their feelings and thoughts. Play may include using puppets, sand boxes, art, music, and more.
The goal of play therapy is to help children learn how to cope with challenges while also increasing self-esteem. In considering the treatment of anger, play therapy can help children navigate their emotions in a more constructive way.
Finding a licensed and experienced therapist is crucial to figuring out the right treatment program suited to your needs. Here’s who can help:
- Psychotherapist. This is the most common type of mental health professional. Also called “talk therapists,” these types of counselors work collaboratively with you to address underlying anger issues and their causes, while also helping you reach healthy behavioral goals.
- Psychiatrist. Like psychotherapists, psychiatrists can help administer therapies for mental health treatment. These professionals are also doctors, so they have the ability to administer medications, if needed.
- Play therapist. Younger children may benefit from psychotherapy done in the form of play therapy.
- School counselor. These licensed mental health professionals are good starting points for children, teens, and college students. They may also help you work through school-related triggers of your anger.
- Ask friends. If possible, you might ask friends or family members for help with recommendations, or with setting up an initial consultation.
- Talk to a healthcare provider. Your family doctor, nurse, pediatrician, or other healthcare provider is another possible source for recommendations.
- Ask your child’s school counselor. Additionally, they may be able to provide a list of local therapists.
- Search online. The American Psychological Association has a free locator tool for licensed psychologists in your area.
Be sure to check any recommendations against your insurance company’s list of mental health providers, if applicable.
You may also consider checking with a prospective therapist about the insurance carriers they take, the possibility to pay on a sliding scale, and other questions of cost.