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Helping My Very Angry and Stressed Sister

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My sister is 33, married and has a 7, 4yr old and an 8th month-old recently diagnosed with a rare genetic condition. She has struggled with anger issue always but never acknowledges it. She always has dealt with stress or being mad at one person by shutting off and being angry with everyone. We as a family have just adapted to tip-toeing around her when she’s having a mood but has never addressed it properly by she will not talk about it and will stop speaking to you until you drop it. She is in a particularly bad episode at the moment and she is understandably stressed about her son’s condition and medical issues. She is angry at all of us and always pretty abrupt with the other children. Time has come to get her to acknowledge and cope with the way she deals with stress. She might need therapy but I don’t think shed even listen to this suggestion. How can we help her, giving her space but we don’t want her isolated ( she doesn’t have relationships outside the family), confronting her will push her farther away, talking to her won’t work she will just refuse to listen and we can’t keep ignoring it. (From Ireland)

Helping My Very Angry and Stressed Sister

Answered by on -


I deeply appreciate the love and care you are trying to bring to your sister. Anger comes from a need that hasn’t been met and it sounds as if your sister may be feeling that many of her needs in life aren’t being met. If the anger isn’t the result of drug or alcohol abuse (as it often is) and she is resistant to therapy (which would be a good idea), then you are left with the option of helping her self-regulate her emotions.

I have three recommendations. All three involve you being part of the process of engaging your sister in some healthy emotional habits. The first is for the two of you to take a meditation class together. They are everywhere and finding the most convenient one that has a decent reputation in the way to start.

Secondly, particularly with anger issues, I’d highly recommend a yoga class as this is almost a direct way to begin the process of emotional self-regulation.

Finally, if drugs or alcohol are involved, an offer to go with her to an Alcoholics Anonymous or AlAnon open meeting would be helpful. The culled wisdom of these groups for helping people regulate their emotions is tough to beat.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

Helping My Very Angry and Stressed Sister

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2019). Helping My Very Angry and Stressed Sister. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 13 May 2019 (Originally: 14 May 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 13 May 2019
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