Anger is an emotion characterized by antagonism toward someone or something you feel has deliberately done you wrong.
Anger can be a good thing. It can give you a way to express negative feelings, for example, or motivate you to find solutions to problems.
But excessive anger can cause problems. Increased blood pressure and other physical changes associated with anger make it difficult to think straight and harm your physical and mental health.
Therapy can help. Therapists use three basic strategies to treat anger:
- Relaxation. Psychologists train patients in a technique called “progressive relaxation” until they’re able to relax simply by thinking of a particular word or image.
Psychologists then ask patients to spend a minute or two thinking intensely about a situation that makes them excessively angry, such as other drivers going too slow. Psychologists then help patients relax.
Psychologists and patients practice this sequence over and over again. After about eight sessions, patients are typically able to relax on their own.
- Cognitive therapy. Often the way people think when they’re angry makes situations worse. When another driver cuts you off, for instance, you might think, “You idiot! Everyone’s trying to make me late today!”
In cognitive therapy, psychologists help patients find alternative ways of thinking about and reacting to anger. Instead of thinking bad thoughts about the other driver, for example, you could think instead, “Whoa! That was an accident waiting to happen.”
- Skill development. Learning new behaviors can also help. Parents might need to find better ways of communicating with their children, for instance. Angry drivers might benefit from learning safe driving skills.