Anger is a complex and nuanced emotion. It is an emotion that is shared by everyone. After all, it is normal to feel irritated or outraged on occasion. But why do so many of us think of anger disorders when someone is shouting or acts violently?
Did you know anger can either be channeled in a helpful way or acted out in a way that makes things deteriorate? The way individuals reveal anger is learned through growing up or by being taught what not to do.
Professor Ephrem Fernandez’s research has led him to categorize anger in line with six spectrums. These six dimensions of anger each have a spectrum that they operate along, indicated in brackets:
- The directions of anger (reflection vs deflection)
- The locus of anger (internal vs external)
- The anger reaction (retaliatory vs resistant)
- The mode of anger (physical vs verbal)
- Anger impulsivity (controlled vs uncontrolled)
- The objective of anger (restorative vs punitive)
We all experience emotions as part of being human, they help us to remain alert to our surroundings and direct us to respond to them, so it can be healthy to feel anger. Conversely, anger can also be sinful if it is experienced for the wrong reasons, when directed at the wrong things, inordinate, or out of control.
We feel that our anger is relevant and justified when we experience situations that are threatening, such as the economic lockdowns that were experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic, when our movement is restricted, or when we see civil and human rights violations. We can also feel angry because of loneliness, financial changes, or when experiencing disrespect.
Feeling angry often helps us to change the circumstances that brought us to that point. It can help catalyze action and motivation. Anger does not have to involve aggression or violent outbursts, but can be healthy. Acting aggressively or violently is a choice to intimidate, undermine, and hurt another person.
A person’s behavior when angry and their reaction to their anger can also make it either a force for good or bad. Is your anger a driver of positive change or are there always consequences of an angry outburst to mop up, indicative of anger disorders?
5 Types of Anger Disorders
Read these ways that anger disorders are expressed and characterized and compare them to how you most often react. Examine the core beliefs that are foundational to the way you understand emotions. Being clear about what you believe about emotions, and the pattern in which you express anger can help you learn appropriate strategies for managing anger disorders that you may display.
This is critical to expressing your emotions in a healthy way that meets your needs while not running roughshod over the needs of others. For anger to be channeled in a helpful way we must treat others in the way we would have them treat us in similar situations and that means giving them the benefit of the doubt.
1. Assertive anger
We start with assertive anger. It is an exceptionally constructive way to express anger and one I encourage you to practice. People who feel this type of anger use their frustration and anger as strong motivators for positive change. Instead of avoiding a showdown and internalizing feelings of anger, or else giving in to shouting and physical outbursts, you can express your feelings in a way that helps you meet your needs and wants without causing yourself or others distress.
2. Behavioral anger
This type of aggression is seen when you or others choose to physically act out the feeling of anger in an aggressive, or even violent way. The Oxford Dictionary defines aggression as feelings of anger or antipathy resulting in hostile or violent behavior; readiness to attack or confront.
This is intended to hurt someone and includes such actions as breaking or throwing things or physically attacking or intimidating someone. This very unpredictable behavior is also often impulsive and so undermines your current relationships as well as your ability to create and establish future trusting and respectful relationships.
How do you manage behavioral anger?
Be aware that aggression or violence is not an automatic result of being angry. If you display these reactions, then it will be important to properly understand the underlying motivation for why you choose to act out when you feel anger.
Next time, when you feel anger bubbling to the surface take yourself away from the situation and talk to yourself. We self-soothe at every life stage: we rub our toe when we stub it; when we were babies, we sucked our thumbs. Why not talk yourself down from the edge or practice deep breathing when you are about to become extremely angry?
Take control of your emotions by putting in place habits that calm the storm inside. When you feel that you are physically calm enough to reconsider what is happening, you will access a much wider choice of alternate behaviors that are far less damaging. Some people feel the need to let out their frustration in a physical manner. If that is you, then make sure you are regularly getting to the gym or going for a run.
3. Chronic anger
If you feel like you are always angry, and it takes very little to set you off, then it may work for you to look into dealing with chronic anger. It is often identified with an overall sense of resentment toward others, frustration toward circumstances, and anger directed at yourself. A sense of nagging and irritation accompanies you and if left unchecked it can cause damage to your health and mental wellbeing.
How do you manage chronic anger?
Take some time out and consider what causes your anger. There may be justification for it, but does it benefit you to keep your anger burning over the long term? Once you have properly understood and identified the source of your resentment, repent of any sinful attitudes you may have and forgive whoever has offended you.
Forgiveness is an established and recognized process that benefits the person undertaking it, it empowers them and is a key first step toward resolution and healing. Go back to the first entry and read about assertive anger. Adopting this behavior will help you set a healthy habit to deal with anger going forward.
4. Judgmental anger
This type of anger often dresses up as righteous indignation as a reaction toward a seeming injustice or someone else’s error. The key to this type of anger is that the holder believes they are better than, or less than, others. Taking the moral high ground to legitimize your rage to invalidate differences of opinion of those who disagree with you can also backfire when it invalidates those of potential allies as well.
How do you manage judgmental anger?
If you find yourself acting in this manner you need to step back and change from holding black and white views of sometimes quite complex situations, to looking at the various shades of gray between the two extremes.
By confidently challenging your assumptions by listening to the perspective of other people you will find that you can still disagree with them while benefiting from new insight. Wrestling with different points of view without belittling others, you will find it easier to stop yourself from being a condescending know-it-all, and begin to show consideration for others.
5. Overwhelmed anger
When faced with a situation beyond our control we sometimes feel that we are not able to control our anger either. Feelings of hopelessness and frustration overwhelm us. The anger we feel is sometimes our body alerting us to the fact that we need help if we are to cope.
When we are worn down by too much self-imposed responsibility, and unexpected life events deflate our capacity to cope with stress, our body and mind tell us that we cannot handle the stress coming our way on our own.
How do you manage overwhelmed anger?
The first step is to ask for help. Look at different areas of your life and look for help from family, friends, to work colleagues. Consider areas in which you would really benefit from help and ask for it directly. Request a time each week where you can get coaching in an area you want to develop, take a rain-check on a social engagement, or ask for understanding to get some rest. It may be asking for someone to babysit so you can recharge by enjoying a night out.
The whole point is to restrict the flow of stress into your life to increase your capacity to regain control of your actions and feelings.
Christian counseling to help overcome anger disorders
If you’re looking for additional help beyond this article to overcome anger disorders and the problems they create, or perhaps if someone you love is unable or unwilling to recognize their anger and the challenges they face, then why not browse our online counselor directory, or contact our office to find out how we can help you. We would be honored to walk with you on this journey.
“Pink Roses”, Courtesy of Jason Sung, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “White Roses”, Courtesy of Evie Fjord, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Pink Rose”, Courtesy of Jason Sung, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Yellow, Orange, and Red Flowers”, Courtesy of Samantha Fortney, Unsplash.com, CC0 License