Lifelong Anger Problems

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. When I was younger my aunt passed away and since then I’ve been a very negative person. My stepdad and mom have noticed I have a bunch of anger.

I moved away from my family and am now a stay at home mom. I often feel I need a reason to yell and throw stuff, so I start pointless arguments with my boyfriend. I’ve noticed since I was about 8 I get really upset when people annoy me or hurt me emotionally. To the point I take little things to heart. I have held much anger inside that I do feel I will just crack.

I have cut myself and when I was younger had many thoughts of suicide, and still do from time to time. I need help of how to control my anger. I don’t know what to do when I have a lot on my mind.

A. What are you so angry about? Have you ever tried to think through your anger to try and determine the source? Maybe it has to do with the death of your aunt. You didn’t mention how connected you were with her at the time of her death or how it affected you but since you noted it in your letter, I assume that it had a significant impact on you. It is likely that part of your anger is grief and may be in some way connected to your aunt’s passing.

When a loved one dies, it is not uncommon for anger to emerge. It seems unfair and for some people they react negatively to the loss. Their anger usually is a sign of grief or sadness related to the profound loss they feel when their loved one died. And some people get “stuck” in that anger and have difficultly moving on and reconciling their feelings. This may be what happened to you. Without more information, it is difficult to know.

While you may never truly know the source of your anger it is clear that it is negatively impacting your life. It’s not only harmful to you but it’s straining your relationships and others are noticing it. If your stepfather and mother notice it you, then you can also be sure that your children are aware of it and are affected by it. Anger is never healthy. This leads to the answer to your question concerning what you can do about it.

In the short term, you can try different anger management techniques. For instance, if you feel your anger brewing and you are about to start a fight with your boyfriend, you can force yourself to step away from the situation for at least 10 minutes until your anger diminishes. Anger does tend to diminish because it is difficult to sustain highly intense emotions for a long length of time.

Is there anyone you could talk to when you are angry that knows how to calm you? If you have such a person available to you, then you could contact this person when you feel angry. When you’re angry you are not thinking clearly or logically and having a person to contact in these situations might help you to decrease your anger outbursts.

When you feel the anger begin to emerge try to calm yourself down. Try to gain control over yourself. You could ask yourself questions such as: “What am I so angry about?” “What good is acting out like this?” “What am I achieving by throwing a tantrum?” “What kind of example am I setting for my children?”

If you were in my office, I would be inquiring about how you react to your children when they become angry. It’s unlikely that you encourage their anger. You probably have methods that you use to calm them down. If that were the case, then I would ask you to try those methods on yourself.

I would encourage self analysis but if you are having difficulty I’d also recommend seeking therapy to help learn ways to control your anger. It’s been affecting your life since you were eight years old. It’s time to deal with whatever is at the root of it and find ways to correct it. It is a very correctable problem but only if you are willing to make the effort to either help yourself or find a good therapist. I wish you well.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 10 Nov 2008

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2008). Lifelong Anger Problems. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/11/10/lifelong-anger-problems/