Breaking the Silence

Website for the American Mental Health Counselors Association's Breaking the Silence initiative to address mental health stigma.

Anger Issues

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By contributing author Dr. Betty Hughes.

“I am not going to take it anymore!” How many times have you heard that phrase or even have said it? And what does it mean, really? The problem is one of interpretation. That phrase could mean anything from a simple release of tension all the way to a decision to hurt someone.

It is very common for psychotherapy clients to have anger issues. These can manifest from one extreme such as rage toward another person to depression in the self which is sometimes referred to as anger turned inward, and everything in between.

Anger is an important emotion. It lets us know when our boundaries have been crossed. What we do with that information is what makes the difference. The purpose of this article is to briefly introduce the subject of anger and to suggest references for further research.

The emotion of anger is normal and universal, with positive aspects as well as negative ones. For example, Karla McLaren writes, “…healthy anger acts as the honorable sentry or boundary-holder of the psyche, but most information about anger focuses on the unhealthy expressive states of rage and fury, or the repressive states of resentment, apathy, and depression.” (Loc. 119)

As mental health practitioners, it is important that we understand all the various aspects of anger, including causes, as well as management techniques. The feeling of anger can also be viewed as part of an inner guidance system that lets us know that something needs to be done in order to return to a feeling of inner peace. We can teach the difference between simple angry feelings and rage feelings. We can work with clients to develop an action plan required to resolve a particular issue. We can also explore with clients the need to understand how the past can influence present decisions.

Anger has been the subject of many books and articles. For example, Tafrate and Kassinove (2009, p. 6) define anger as “… something that happens inside your body. It’s an emotional response you consciously feel. At its core, anger is an internal awareness of specific thoughts, feelings, and desires.”

Under Spectrum of Feelings, Sid Cormier, Ph.D. (1993, p. 23) lists anger as an emotion: “A feeling of strong displeasure turned against anyone or anything that has hurt or wronged you or someone else.” The purpose is “to prevent you or someone else from being hurt in the future.” For example: “Honking your horn at someone who cut you off in traffic, or shouting at your son for hitting your daughter.”
Leon Seltzer has published a chart that lists feelings related to anger: For brevity, following are a few: 0 = calm, 2 = annoyed, 4 = irritable. 6 = resentful, 8 = indignant, 10 = bitter, 12 = infuriated

For a complete list, go to his full article at: Seltzer, Leon F. (2014). The anger thermostat: What’s the temperature of your upset?

The American Psychological Association has published an on-line brochure called “Controlling anger before it controls you.” It is an excellent brief presentation of anger, anger management, strategies to keep anger at bay, and how to decide whether counseling should be considered. For more information, go to

Finally, I highly recommend a book by Tafrate and Kassinove. The title is Anger Management for Everyone: Seven Proven Ways to Control Anger and Live a Happier Life. It details ways to analyze anger problems and various ways to approach a resolution. It includes a variety of things to consider such as forgiveness, relaxation techniques, and changing the way you think.

In conclusion, most people feel anger from time to time. Learning what anger means when it is happening and having sufficient coping skills to return to inner peace can make all the difference.


Sid Cormier, Ph.D. (1993). Am I normal: Your personal guide to understanding yourself and others. Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., New York.
Tafrate, Raymond Chip, Ph.D., and Kassinove, Howard, Ph.D., ABPP (2009). Anger management for everyone: Seven proven ways to control anger and live a happier life. New Harbinger Publications, Inc., Oakland, CA.
McLaren, Karla (2010). The Language of emotions. Sounds True.

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