Anger can be a powerful tool. It can alert you to when you’re being treated poorly, when you’re unsafe, or when something is unfair. But anger can be challenging to control. Unmanaged anger can interfere with your personal and professional life and even affect your health. Lashing out may feel good in the moment, but can permanently damage relationships. Sometimes, you can’t help but get mad! You can, however, learn to control how you react to your emotions and how you treat others.
Why do I feel so angry?
Many teens find that they struggle with anger for the first time after hitting puberty. During adolescence, the brain changes in a way that can lead to some emotional turbulence. The prefrontal cortex (the logical center of the brain) doesn’t fully develop until you’re 21-25 years old. This means that the adolescent brain likely relies more on the limbic system, or the emotional center of the brain, to make decisions. This, coupled with hormonal changes, can be a reason why teens tend to feel emotions, like rage, happiness, and sadness, so intensely. This also means that teens are wired to be especially impulsive, which makes it hard to not react right away when you feel angry! These brain changes make controlling overwhelming emotions challenging for teens. However, learning to manage your emotions is an essential part of developing emotional maturity. With practice, you’ll learn to handle your emotions and be a pro by adulthood.
How does anger help me?
Listening to your anger can tell you important information about your situation or emotional state. Trust yourself and the validity of your feelings. Anger can surface as an effect of serious issues like abuse, grief, trauma, anxiety and depression. Sometimes it’s easier to access anger than to face the messy feelings underneath. Dealing with caretaking responsibilities, trauma, challenges in school, or other tough stuff can make you feel frustrated and angry. Seeking help to process these feelings can help you feel better, even if it can’t change your circumstances. In some cases, like when a friend is treating you unfairly, the source of your anger can and should be addressed.
Even then, it’s helpful to take some time before reacting. It’s hard to have tough conversations when you’re still seeing red.
Don’t be ashamed of your anger or try to suppress it. Instead, learn how to understand, process, and harness it. As we’ve seen throughout history, righteous anger in the face of unfairness or discrimination can even drive social change!
How does anger hurt me?
How do you react when you feel angry? Do you lash out, either with your voice or your body? Do you direct your anger inward and react with self-harm or negative self-talk? Anger is normal, but uncontrolled anger can hurt yourself and others. If you’re always feeling angry, or if your anger feels overwhelming when it does arise, check in with a school counselor, medical provider, or another trusted adult.
A counselor or therapist can work with you to develop strategies to cope when angry feelings arise. They can also delve deeper to look at the roots of your anger and recognize patterns that influence your response. For example, if you grew up in a family where angry outbursts were common, you may have absorbed that pattern into your own emotional vocabulary. Noticing these patterns is a step toward breaking them.
You can’t always control your situation or the people around you, but you can control your response. Learning how to manage your emotions and express them in healthy ways is a necessary part of growing up. Sometimes, mastering those skills requires help from a professional. Learning to reach out and ask for that help shows strength and maturity.
How can I manage my anger?
It’s impossible (and unhealthy!) to always avoid feeling angry. It is, however, essential to take a look at the way you react when you get mad. When you’re trying to change a pattern, it can be helpful to observe how this pattern arises in your day-to-day life. Pay attention to what makes you angry, and how you react. How do you feel after the initial heat of the moment has passed? How do you feel about the things you may have said and done? It can even be useful to keep a journal of these observations. When you find yourself getting mad, you can think through the consequences of the last time you let your anger get the better of you, and choose to react differently this time. This isn’t easy! But learning to master your emotions is a skill that will serve you well throughout your life, so it’s worth practicing now.
When you do feel yourself getting angry, try to buy yourself time before you react. Practice sitting with your anger, taking deep breaths, and trying a mindfulness exercise. This is a good exercise to try with any overwhelming emotion—giving yourself time to reflect before acting will allow you to do so in a more measured way. You can’t always stop yourself from getting angry, but you can resist reacting in hurtful ways that can damage your relationships. Our SPEEK Peer educators offer more great tips for coping with anger in the moment here.
This information is not intended to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services, only general information for education purposes only.