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Understanding feelings of anger

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Everyone gets angry from time to time. Your feelings of anger could vary from mild irritation or frustration with day-to-day hassles, to more intense moments of rage. When you’re angry, you might feel tense or shaky, your heart will likely beat faster, and you may want to say or do things you wouldn’t normally do. These are all normal things to experience and aren’t a problem if you can manage them effectively.

Like all your emotions, anger has an important role in your life. It can help you to stand up for yourself and the things you care about, often motivating and energising you to take action. Being aware of when you’re angry and understanding what’s causing it will help you to act on it in a productive way.

On this page, you'll find services that can help you with what you're going through, plus helpful information around understanding and managing anger.

Is anger putting you or someone else in danger?

If you or someone around you is at risk of harm, try to leave the situation safely and seek help immediately. Below are free, confidential counselling and support lines available 24/7.

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Services that can help

If you need some support, or aren't sure where to start, there are a few options available:

  • Try the Head to Health quiz. It can help you understand what you're experiencing and point you to suitable services and resources.
  • Call Head to Health for free on 1800 595 212 for mental health guidance and advice.
  • Try one of the services listed below. There is a wide range of options, no matter the kind of support you’re looking for. You can pick what suits you best.
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What causes anger

Anger is a natural response to when you feel certain expectations, desires or values aren’t being met. These could be expectations of how you think something should work, how someone should behave, or even how you see yourself.

Often, anger is just the outward expression of other emotions, including:

  • anxiety or fear
  • tiredness 
  • stress due to school, work, family, health or money
  • feeling like you have no control
  • feeling misunderstood or blamed
  • feelings of rejection, embarrassment, shame or guilt.

Over time, emotions and minor annoyances can build up and reach a breaking point. When you feel threatened or powerless, anger can help you feel strong and protected in the moment.

When does anger become a problem?

Experiencing anger isn’t something to be concerned about; it can even be a motivating force to solve problems and achieve your goals. When you express your anger in unsafe ways that hurt you, or people around you, it starts to become a problem. If not managed effectively, anger can cause problems in your friendships and family, or work, legal troubles, and other long-term mental and physical health issues.

You should consider taking extra steps if you

  • feel more irritable or angry than usual
  • have trouble controlling your anger
  • find yourself often yelling or screaming
  • hurt yourself or someone else out of anger
  • react to situations with more anger than you expect.

Is it anger, anger issues, or something else? 

If your anger feels constant, unpredictable or overwhelming, it may be related to a more serious underlying condition. Increased anger, for example, can often be related to stress, anxiety or depression. At more intense levels, it can be a sign of a more complex mental health disorder or personality disorder. Physical health issues such as chronic pain and illness can also impact your mood and mental health.

Learn more about mental health conditions and disorders.

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Reaching out for help 

If you're concerned that your anger might be a sign of something more serious, or you’re finding it hard to manage, talk to your GP. If you don’t have one, you can use our Find a GP tool

How to manage anger

Finding ways to manage and express anger in a way that doesn’t harm yourself or others is a key part of maintaining your wellbeing and keeping others safe.

Reducing stress, taking time out to do things you enjoy, and looking after your wellbeing can help you gain more control over your anger in the long term. But there are also things you can do whenever you feel yourself getting angry.

Spotting the early signs of anger can help you take action to manage it before it gets out of control. Try and notice the physical signs you are getting angry. For example, you might clench your fists, start breathing more quickly or feel your muscles tense up.  

When you’re angry, understanding what might be causing it can help you to address the problems appropriately. This can also help you communicate to someone else why you are upset.

Some questions you might ask yourself include:

  • What has upset me?
  • Why is it making me angry?
  • Do my feelings of anger match the situation that caused it?
  • Is there something else going on that is making it hard for me to manage my emotions?

Anger is an emotion that can flare up quickly and unexpectedly. Taking a moment to breathe or removing yourself from the situation that made you angry can help you calm down and better decide on how to act.  

When you get angry, your body becomes filled with adrenaline to give you the energy to take action. Sometimes, this energy needs a different outlet so that you don’t take it out in an unhelpful way. Taking a minute to stretch, walk or go for a run can be a great way to release the tension that comes with anger. There are many different ways to stay active.

Talking to someone can be a great way to put things into perspective. If you’re not thinking straight, explaining the situation and your feelings to someone else can help you process it logically. We have helpful tips on how to start the conversation.

You can't control everything that happens in your life, but there are things you can do to get through tough times. Learn more about coping with unexpected life events.

Supporting someone else  

It can be hard seeing someone you care about going through a tough time. If you're worried that anger is beginning to cause problems in their life, it's important to check in and see how they're doing. If you're not sure how to do that, we have useful tips on practical things you can do to support someone.

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Helping children with their anger

Younger children don’t have the skills to manage their anger yet. Tantrums and meltdowns are normal (and more likely) when they are tired, hungry, or overwhelmed by new situations. At these times, children need the comfort and support of warm and loving adults to help them calm down. 

Try to validate their feelings while remaining calm, and provide guidance on what steps they can take. Displaying effective anger management skills in your relationships with children also helps them as they develop their own skills.

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Looking for more information and services?

You can browse a wider range of resources on Head to Health with our search tool.