- Definition of Anger
- Constructs associated with Anger
- Linking Anger to Depression and Anxiety
The most common costs of anger are the destruction it causes to
personal relationships. We make ourselves angry at the ones we love
more often than being angry with other people.
A lot of frustration arises in the workplace, we have deadlines
to meet, difficult bosses, problems with staff, unfairness, and
all these things can test your patience. Your anger about frustrations
can frustrate you more. Getting along with work colleagues is important
to be able to succeed in the workplace. Anger can effect these relationships
DiGuiseppe & Tafrate in a 2007 publication (Understanding anger
disorders) propose the following definition for anger:
"Anger is a subjectively experienced emotional state with high
sympathetic automatic arousal. It is initially elicited by a perception
of a threat (to one's physical well-being, property, present or
future recourses, self-image, social status or projected image to
one's group, maintenance of social rules that regulate daily life,
or comfort), although it may persist even after the threat has passed.
Anger is associated with attributional, informational, and evaluative
cognitions that emphasise the misdeeds of others and motivate a
response of antagonism to thwart, drive of, retaliate against, or
attack the source of the perceived threat. Anger is communicated
through facial or postural gestures or vocal inflections, aversive
verbalizations, and aggressive behaviour. One's choice of strategies
to communicate anger varies with social roles, learning history,
and environmental contingies."
Constructs associated with Anger
When understanding anger it is important to define constructs that
are used to describe anger, aggression, hostility, hate and irritability.
DiGuiseppe & Tafrate provides working definitions for these
Anger is defined above.
Aggression is defined as overt motor behaviour enacted with
the intent to do harm or injury to a person or object, with the
expectation that harm will occur.
Hostility refers to a semi permanent set of attitudes that
can be either general or situational in nature. Such attitudes are
related to both affective and behavioural characteristics.
Hate refers to an enduring negative affect of antagonism
with a strong desire to effect revenge or hurt an opponent, without
the physiological arousal normally associated with anger. Hate can
turn to anger if the person actually confronts the object of his
or her hate.
Irritability is defined as a complex construct that involves
increased sensitivity to environmental stimulation that causes physiological
arousal and tension, without cognitive mediation, and that results
in a lowered threshold to experience anger, and/or impulsive, but
not premeditated, aggression.
Linking Anger to Depression and Anxiety
A belief exists in psychology that anger is closely associated with
depression and anxiety. Recent research suggests that anger is an
emotion separate from negative affectivity. Anxiety and depression
are probably more closely related to each other than to anger.
ANGER AND AGGRESSION
- Considering anger as mediator of violence
a. Murder and Anger
b. Rape, Sexual assault, and Anger
c. Domestic Violence and Anger
- Diagnosing Anger as a Disorder
To treat anger properly it is important to distinguish between anger
and aggression. Anger can lead to aggression, but aggression is
Others (court, spouse, employer) often refer people who experience
difficulty with managing anger and aggression to psychotherapy.
During psychotherapy, clients are quickly able to control their
aggression, but continue to experience anger. It is a misconception
that all people displaying aggression are actually angry. Studies
show that some spouses showing aggression does not display physiological
arousal associated with anger when they assault their victims, they
rather show the response that predatory animals do when they stalking
their prey (Jacobson & Gottman(1998)).
It is thus important for treatment purposes to distinguish between
anger and aggression.
Considering anger as a mediator of violence
Instrumental aggression is not having anger present and lacking
an intention to harm others. The motive of instrumental aggression
is to coerce others into giving recources to the aggressor.
Affective aggression (also called hostile or reactive aggression,
or rage) is defined as having anger present, being motivated by
causing harm to others, and is characterised by a cognitive style
of impulsivity or lack of planning.
Research shows that the dichotomy of Instrumental vs. Affective
aggression does not account for people who are for example suicide
bombers. To commit such an act they have to experience intense anger/hate
but they do not act impulsively. It would be safer to say that multiple
variations drive aggression.
Murder and anger
Murder can be seen as a form of disturbed behaviour as murderers
rarely achieve their desired ends, and they usually regret their
actions and it usually leads to harm for the perpetrator. Pincus
(2001) uncovered three variables common to most murderers. Most
of them suffered from some neurological dysfunction that resulted
in impaired impulse control. They suffered from some psychiatric
disorder such as Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, or Schizoaffective
Disorder. Lastly, the perpetrator experienced severe abuse during
childhood. It seems that long-term, intense resentment about being
abused and shamed, and an inability to control impulses is key variables
that may lead to anger in and an angry and aggressive episode.
The murder victim may not be the person who caused the most pain,
but could rather be the last one in a long list of people who are
perceived to have insulted the murderer.
Rape, Sexual Assault, and Anger
Anger may motivate rape. Sex offenders have frequently suffered
harsh treatment, neglect and rejection at the hands of family members
and others. Rapists may therefore be particularly sensitive to perceived
rejection, leading to shame and anger. Sexual offending may be a
behaviour pattern that is used to restore a sense of worth and perceived
Domestic violence and Anger
Anger may play a significant role in domestic violence. Spousal
abuse is a rampant problem word wide. Studies in the USA suggest
that 12-18% of all murders are spousal assaults. Forty percent of
woman murdered each year die at the hands of their husbands (Sigler,
1989). Research suggests that not all perpetrators of partner violence
Diagnosing Anger as a disorder
DiGiuseppe and Tafrate (Understanding anger disorders,2007) suggest
a new diagnosis in an attempt to describe anger that is disordered.
Their proposed Anger Regulation-Expression Disorder (ARED) is as
Diagnostic Criteria for Anger Regulation-Expression
A. Either (1) or (2)
1. Significant angry affect as indicated by frequent,
intense, or enduring anger episodes that have persisted for at
Two or more of the following characteristics are present during
or immediately following anger experiences:
(a) Physical activation (e.g. increased heart rate, rapid breathing,
muscle tension, stomach related symptoms, headaches)
(b) Rumination that interferes with concentration, task performance,
problem-solving, or decision-making
(c) Cognitive distortions (e.g. biased attributions regarding
the intentions of others; inflexible demanding view of others'
unwanted behaviours, code of conduct, or typical inconveniences;
low tolerance for discordant events; condemnation of global
rating of others who engage in perceived transgressions)
(d) Ineffective communication
(e) Brooding or withdrawal
(f) Subjective distress (e.g., awareness of negative consequences
associated with anger episodes, anger experiences perceived
as negative additional negative feelings such as guilt, shame,
or regret follow anger episodes)
2. A marked pattern of aggressive/expressive behaviors
associated with anger episodes. Expressive patterns are out of
proportion to the triggering event. However, anger experiences
need not be frequent, of high intensity, or of long duration.
At least one of the following expressive patterns is consistently
related to anger experiences:
(a) Aversive verbalizations (e.g., yelling, screaming, arguing
nosily, criticizing using sarcasm insulting)
(b) Physical aggression toward people (e.g., pushing, shoving,
hitting, kicking, throwing objects)
(c) Destruction of property
(d) Provocative bodily expression (negative gesticulation, menacing
or threatening movements, physical obstruction of others)
(e) Intentionally failing to meet obligations or live up to
(f) Covertly sabotaging (e.g., secretly destroying property,
interfering with task completion, creating problems for others)
(g) Disrupting or negatively influencing others' social network
(e.g., spreading rumors, gossiping, defamation, excluding others
from important activities).
B. There is evidence of regular damage to social or vocational
relationships due to
the anger episodes or expressive patterns.
C. The angry or expressive symptoms are not better accounted
for by another
mental disorder (e.g., Substance Use disorder, Bipolar Disorder,
or a personality disorder) or medical condition.
Code based on type:
Anger Disorder, Predominately Subjective Type
Anger Disorder, Predominately Expressive Type
Anger Disorder, Combined Types
TREATMENT OF ANGER PROBLEMS
- Attitudes likely to interfere with Treatment
a. Accurately assessing
b. Up to
- Using CBT to treat Anger
Attitudes likely to interfere with treatment
Angry people tend to focus on the unwanted behaviour of others.
An angry client's attitudes might include the following:
Accurately assessing the intensity of
Angry people tend not to evaluate their anger as excessive due to
not being socialised to react with alternative emotions. Their family,
cultural or peer context may have not modelled alternative emotional
reactions. They thus assess their anger to be appropriate. When
the therapist attempts to discus the client's behaviour they would
find it difficult to convince the client that their anger is extreme.
Taking emotional responsibility
Angry people tend to blame others for their anger. They see the
reason for their anger, as outside themselves, thus others must
change not me. The client will find it hard to accept that he is
responsible for his own anger.
Angry people usually view the recipient of their anger as a worthless
human being worthy of being condemned and needing to pay for their
transgression. They client will again find it hard to accept responsibility.
Angry people believe they have been wronged or treated unfairly;
they would rarely be prepared to investigate their role in a conflict.
A general belief exist that people must express their anger, otherwise
it will build up and they may explode. This is of course an incorrect
Angry people are reinforced by the compliance of significant others
secondary to their anger. This is contrasted with the long-term
negative effects that are not considered.
The person who is viewed as the source of anger should act
differently. A demand is placed on this person to have absolutely
needing to have acted differently and that they are condemnable
as a terrible person for not adhering to the angry persons demand.
The rules made are usually moral in nature, such as people should
not cut in front of me when I am driving.
Using CBT (specifically REBT) to treat
We will use Road Rage as an example to demonstrate the principles.
We will start with the C (Consequence)
Unhealthy negative feeling (C)
- Anger, rage.
B (Belief) Destructive or Irrational Belief
(iB) - You could be telling yourself, how can this person
dare to just cut in front of me, he should not be allowed to do
such a thing, it is damn terrible. He is such an idiot for driving
like this. I cannot stand people driving like this.
- Someone cuts in front of me while driving.
Lets put it together:
I drive, someone cuts in front of me (A), I think/perceive (B);
"How can this person dare to just cut in front of me, he should
not be allowed to do such a thing, it is damn terrible. He is such
an idiot for driving like this. I cannot stand people driving like
this". This leads to (C), Anger /rage and behaviours like shouting,
swearing and hand signs.
The four main iB's that people subscribe to are:
- How awful for people to treat me so inconsiderately and unfairly.
- I can't stand their treating me that way.
- They absolutely should not, must not behave so badly.
- Because they are acting so terribly, they are terrible people,
who don't deserve a good life, and who should be punished.
If we go back to the problem of angering yourself when driving,
you can see that the unhealthy Consequence (C) stems from your correctly
connecting the driver and his irresponsible action and from your
incorrectly damning him - his entire personhood for this action.
To remain rational you can evaluate the drivers unjust behaviour
while refusing to put him down as a horrible person.
REBT helps you to identify the mindsets (B's) associated with A's
that leads to the C's that disturb you (anger, rage) and gets you
You will notice that you-like many other people- make yourself disturbed,
when you subscribe to the iB's mentioned above.
Lets review Demandingness in a bit more detail:
Musts or demands
Irrational achievement and approval
"I must do well, win the approval of others, and never get
rejected or else I am a rotten, inadequate person."
If you believe this idea, as many do, then you would to a degree
come to a logical conclusion (based on this assumption) that "I
am a rotten or inferior person, I will rarely succeed, so what is
the use trying?"
This cause you to withdraw, avoid and to feelings of self-hatred
Irrational musts about others
"Others must treat me considerately and kindly and in precise
the way I want them to treat me. If they don't they are bad people
and should be damned for their awful behaviour." This irrational
must leads to anger, as in our driver example.
Irrational musts about life conditions
"The world (and the people in it) must be arranged so that
I get practically everything that I really want when I want it.
Further to that, conditions must be arranged so that I don't get
what I don't want.
Insights into self-angering beliefs
Other people may try to get you angry, but you choose to make yourself
angry. You do so by creating iB's about others 'unfair' and 'unjust'
Try and achieve the following insights from REBT with regards to
You are angered by your belief based on the current Adversity (someone
cutting in front of you). It is not your past, not how your father
drove or what other drivers did to you, it is about your response
to the current situation. The view you hold now. Your past can play
a role in the beliefs you prefer, but you still choose to think
Secondly, no matter how you iB's came about you choose to keep them
alive by continually practising them. Whenever someone cut in front
of you, you choose to think the same thoughts about the situation
over and over again.
Thirdly, in order to change your disturbed feelings and behaviour
and the thoughts that lead to them, you will have to do a great
amount of work and practice.
Disputing your iB's
- Rational Belief: "I dislike it if people
cut in front of me when I am driving and I would strongly prefer
people not cutting in front of me." Irrational Belief: "You
absolutely must not cut in front of me, you should never act in
that way towards me."
- Rational Belief: "Because you are treating
me unfairly by cutting in front of me, your behaviour is wrong
and poor, and you preferably should correct it." Irrational
belief: "Because you are treating me unfairly by cutting
in front of me, you absolutely must not; you are a rotten person
who should be damned and severely punished."
- Rational Belief: "It is highly unpleasant
when you cut in front of me, and I would prefer that you do not
do it." Irrational belief: "It is awful and terrible
when you cut in front of me, and you must not. Nothing can be
worse than this."
Each of the statements starts with a rational preference and ends
up with an irrational command that the driver should not cut in
front of you.
You can Dispute these irrational beliefs by asking yourself
the following questions:
Disputing: Is it true that people can absolutely not cut
in front of me? Do I have the power to decide for other people that
they cannot cut in front of me? Will other people not cut in front
of me because I say they may not? Is their any reason that the driver
absolutely should not treat me as badly as he treated me? Can nothing
be worse than the way this driver treated me? Is the driver condemnable
as a person for cutting in front of me?
This information on anger is only a small peep into CBT and it's
Should you struggle with anger and it leads to difficulties in your
close relationships, work functioning and social relationships don't
hesitate to contact a psychotherapist. We would believe a CBT therapist
would be able to help you.
My thanks to the work of Albert Ellis, Raymond Chip Tarate and Raymond
The following books inspired the information on Anger;
How to Control your Anger before it Controls you, Albert Ellis
and Raymond C. Tafrate, 1997.
Understanding Anger Disorders, Raymond DiGuiseppe and Raymond C.