Frequent anger: what’s behind it?

Frequent anger is a problem for the person who manifests it and for those around him. Find out what is behind these outbursts.

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Elena Sanz on November 28, 2021.

Last update: November 28, 2021

Anger is one of the most intense emotions that we can manifest. It is a primary, natural emotion that under no circumstances should we repress. However, when you suffer from frequent anger, the power of this emotion can reach worrying limits. It is explained in many ways, although in general it belongs to the intermittent explosive disorder (IED).

It is a behavioral alteration that is distinguished by outbursts of anger in inconsequential situations. It is a disproportionate and unjustified reaction that is also not premeditated. That is, whoever develops this behavior does not control it; so that outbursts are often followed by a sense of shame and regret.

Causes of frequent anger

There are many hypotheses as to why intermittent explosive disorder develops. An article published in Journal of Psychiatric Research in 2010 states that a high percentage of patients with this disorder have a family history.



In this way, frequent anger could have a genetic explanation. No specific genetic traits have been identified for anger outbursts, although researchers think that there is a complex interaction between various genetic components.

Furthermore, it is thought that the different manifestations of aggression (reactive, proactive, direct, indirect) are explained through different neurobiological mechanisms. It is a chronic disorder, although it can have an episodic course (with recurring periods).

Naturally, not all episodes can be explained through the genetic component. Let’s look at some conditions that can be behind frequent anger.



Childhood trauma

Any traumatic experience during the first years of life can have serious future repercussions on behavior.

The evidence seems to indicate a relationship between childhood trauma and intermittent explosive disorder. Traumatic episodes of childhood can generate sequelae that arise during adolescence or adulthood through frequent anger.

They do not need to be major traumatic events, even the smallest can trigger outbursts of this type. Bullying, losing a pet, moving to another city, and lack of parental affection can all translate into anger disorder.

Personality disorders

Personality disorders are a group of conditions characterized by quite marked patterns of thinking, performance, and behavior. Antisocial Personality Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, or Narcissistic Personality Disorder are just a few examples.

Researchers have shown that there is a relationship between these conditions and recurring anger. In fact, it is very common for comorbidities to occur between the two. The evidence indicates that frequent anger precedes the appearance of these disorders.

Generalized anxiety disorder

Experts have also found a link between generalized anxiety disorder and frequent anger. Up to half of patients develop anxiety along with intermittent explosive disorder, so comorbidity is very common.

It is common for both conditions to be associated with the adolescent stage. The truth is that they can appear at any age, so adults should also be attentive to the signs that indicate that they are not isolated cases.

Post-traumatic stress disorder

Finally, researchers have listed post-traumatic stress disorder among the causes of frequent anger outbursts. Comorbidity leads to depression, anxiety, impulsivity, and even suicidal thoughts. As in the previous case, it can develop at any age.

Bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, panic disorder, social phobia, and other similar conditions can also be hidden behind intermittent explosive disorder. Sometimes there is no relationship with any of these diagnoses, but is explained through structural or chemical differences in the brain.

Subtypes of frequent anger

Not all manifestations of frequent anger are the same. In general, the episodes usually last a maximum of 30 minutes and are very intermittent. That is, a situation that triggered a fit of anger today may not do so tomorrow, and vice versa. Experts classify the following subtypes:

  • The one who only destroys property.
  • In which only people are threatened.
  • Intermittent explosive disorder in which only the person is hurt (with and without threat).
  • One in which property is destroyed and people are threatened.
  • In which property is destroyed and people are hurt.

It is rare for this disorder to manifest itself for life, although it can of course occur. The percentage of cases of this type increases in the presence of comorbidity. That is, when the patient has developed some of the conditions that we have already presented.

Diagnosis and treatment of frequent anger

A mental therapist can help manage frequent anger.

As you can imagine, the diagnosis of frequent anger goes through a series of complications. It is often confused with other disorders, such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder or Disruptive Dysregulation Disorder. It is also possible that it is considered a symptom of a condition and not as an isolated disorder.

In general, the diagnosis of intermittent explosive disorder consists of a medical evaluation of the history, examinations that account for the mental and physical state of the patient, and the ruling out of differential diagnoses. Once this condition has been cataloged, it can be treated.

Although the treatment is different according to the characteristics of the diagnosis, in general the cognitive behavioral therapy and medication intake. Among others, antidepressants, anxiolytics, anticonvulsants and mood regulators will be used.

It is very important for patients to initiate a diagnosis when their frequent anger gets out of control. As the evidence indicates, you can never foresee the legal, material and physical consequences that this condition can generate. The disorder is a danger both for others and for the patient himself.

Due to this, we urge you to consult a specialist in the event of compatible symptoms to access a safe diagnosis and thus initiate treatment. It is a condition that can be controlled, so that you can return to a normative lifestyle in which you have the autonomy of your emotions.

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