Why do anger attacks arise and how to manage them?

Anger attacks are the most visible expression of anger and frustration. These can be a real problem of coexistence, since they generate suffering both in the people who experience them and in their closest environment.

All people can experience anger. It is an innate universal emotion and, as cataloged by psychologist Paul Ekman, it is one of the six basic emotions.

The problem appears when people feel anger in a very intense way and the way they channel it is through loss of control. Let's take a look at what exactly anger outbursts consist of and some strategies to better manage them.

What are outbursts of anger?

Anger attacks are episodes of anger in which people react disproportionately to the emotion of rage experienced. They are characterized by their sudden onset, loss of impulse control, and violent expression of emotions.

This violence can be expressed verbally, by shouting and insults, although in many cases it is also manifested by hitting objects, breaking them or attacking the physique of an animal or person.

Anger attacks are classified in the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illnesses" (DSM-V) as intermittent explosive disorder. To meet the diagnostic criteria, the following symptoms must occur:

  • Recurrent outbursts of behavior that manifest a lack of control of aggressive impulses. This includes both verbal and physical attacks on objects, animals or people.
  • The reaction is quite disproportionate.
  • Attacks of anger they are not premeditated.
  • Outbursts cause significant discomfort in the person and affect their work performance, their relationships with others or there is some type of legal or economic consequence.
  • The person is older than six years.
  • Recurrent outbursts of anger are not the result of another mental disorder, cannot be attributed to another medical condition, and are not the result of substance use.

Anger is one of the basic emotions, but if it gets out of control it has serious consequences.

Read also: How to control anger?

Causes of anger attacks

According to the DSM-V, people who have experienced emotional trauma in their childhood or adolescence are at higher risk of having outbursts of anger.

Intermittent explosive disorder is also more common among first-degree relatives of people with anger attacks. In fact, a marked influence of genetics has been shown in twin studies in the appearance of the painting.

Nor can we forget that the disproportionate expression of anger is present in many mental disorders, such as schizophrenia or depression (Muscatello and Scudellari 2000 cited in Painuly et al 2005). Likewise, can appear in different types of dementia, such as Alzheimer's, certain personality disorders or in situations related to substance use, such as withdrawal syndrome.

Why are there people who react explosively?

In addition to the causes cited, the common denominator of all anger attacks is that the person experiencing them perceives the situation as a humiliating offense. You really feel an attack towards your person or towards yours and therefore reacts disproportionately.

The triggering stressor may be something that offends your ideology, your values, your way of acting, your job, your family, or even your soccer team. If the person perceives it as offensive and is going through a time when their management of emotions is inadequate, the attack of anger can appear at any time.

Strategies for Managing Outbursts of Anger

People with intermittent explosive disorder are not condemned to live it permanently. Psychology offers many tools that can be useful when it comes to controlling impulses. Some of the most common are the following:

  • Meditation and mindfulness: Practicing these techniques can help you distance yourself from the most distorted thoughts.
  • Relaxation techniques: tools such as Jacobson's progressive relaxation can be effective techniques for the person to learn to better manage all the physiological part that is activated in an attack of anger.
  • Physical exercise: physical activity helps in a very significant way to release stress. In addition, it increases the level of transmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, which promote emotional well-being.
  • Social skills training: improving assertiveness is one of the most effective strategies. This will allow you to communicate more appropriately in situations in which attacks of anger appear.
  • Cognitive restructuring: the distorted thoughts are, in many cases, the great trigger that generates the explosive reaction. Learning to detect them and replace them with more functional thoughts can be a great change in life.
  • Emotional intelligence: People with angry outbursts don't manage their emotions well. Therefore, another of the fundamental keys to increase your well-being will be to carry out a process of self-knowledge. In this, the person will learn to recognize their emotions, accept them and let them go.

Outbursts of anger in the work environment are difficult for employees and bosses to handle as well.

Discover: 6 easy techniques to control anger

If you don't know how to manage your anger, ask for help

Outbursts of anger are not easy to manage at first. People feel that this is the only way they can express their anger. As much as they try to control themselves, they explode like a pressure cooker.

This causes a lot of frustration in the person and, in most cases, deep regret later. Nobody likes to lose control.

If you or someone around you is suffering, don't hesitate to consult with a mental health specialist. As we have told you throughout the text, it is possible to learn to manage anger in a much more appropriate way.