Does my boyfriend have anger issues?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

My boyfriend of just over a year, who is 33 years old, may have anger issues. I thought he had an issue even before he told me that his ex-girlfriend thought he had an anger issue and should see a therapist (which he did). The therapist told him his anger levels are normal. However, I disagree. He gets incredibly angry over the smallest thing, like a paper falling on the floor, or traffic congestion, or if he forgets where he put something, etc. One time he thought he forgot that he left a tool outside when we left his house, and he slammed on the brakes so hard that my forehead almost went through the front windsheld! He also punched the steering wheel in the car one time because he had the hiccups. I find that his actions in most cases are at a much higher degree of anger than the average person, but I would like to get a professional opinion. I would very much appreciate hearing your thoughts on this. Thank you! *Note: He’s never once directed his anger at me, only at inanimate objects.

A: It sounds to me like your boyfriend either has a very low tolerance for frustration or he lets frustration build up to the point that the slightest little thing makes it all spill out at once. He doesn’t have anger issues so much as insufficient coping skills. To his credit, he doesn’t take his frustration out on the people around him, only at objects. That means that he does have some control. People with genuine anger issues usually don’t. But he is controlling his feelings rather than dealing with them.

A therapist only has what the client presents to work with. My guess is that the therapist was correct in assessing your boyfriend as not having issues with anger. What the therapist didn’t understand was how anxious your boyfriend gets when things don’t go his way.

If your boyfriend will accept your help, you could go with him to a therapy appointment and explain what you see. Your boyfriend could use some help learning new and more effective ways to cope with mistakes, with unexpected disappointments, and with a buildup of pressures. Life without adequate coping skills is hard on the person and hard on the people around him. You both deserve better.

I wish you both well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 16 Oct 2011

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2011). Does my boyfriend have anger issues?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/10/16/does-my-boyfriend-have-anger-issues/

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