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Healthy and Unhealthy Anger

You know the feeling: that raw emotion that ebbs up when things aren’t going your way. It could be anywhere from a momentary annoyance with another (or with yourself) to uncontrollable rage.

Typically, anger is stirred up by frustration. You’re not getting what you want or deserve. Frustration may stem from healthy, legitimate needs (such as the need to be treated respectfully); from depression, which may be an outward expression of anger (such as realizing that you’ve taken all the blame but now realize that it’s not all you); or from narcissistic, false entitlement needs (feeling that you should be able to spend as much as you want regardless of your income).

Healthy Anger: Mandy’s Story

Mandy is self-employed. She is a writer who helps companies create brochures and copy for their promotional projects. She likes working on her own time so that she can be home with her preschoolers. This arrangement works out well except for one company that consistently promises payment at the completion of the project and then doesn’t pay. Mandy has become aware that she puts in almost as much time groveling for payment as she does doing the work. She is legitimately angry.

Mandy’s anger has allowed her to make an important decision. She will demand payment up front for her projects or she will seek work elsewhere. Even if that decision leaves her in a temporarily vulnerable position, she will feel relieved that she doesn’t need to work so hard to get the payment she’s owed.

From Depression to Anger: Arianna’s Story

For years, Arianna was depressed. Now she’s angry. She has been living with a demanding, demeaning husband who has treated her shabbily. Is it good that she’s chronically angry? Not if she stays that way. But if her anger is a stepping stone out of depression, it is a well-founded journey.

Now that Arianna’s consciousness has been raised, she is trying to decide what to do. She’s struggling with questions such as “Can this marriage be saved? Is he open to changing his ways? In what ways do I need to change?”

She is often angry with herself for too easily accepting her husband’s domineering demands for decades; she is often angry with her husband for his treatment of her. Her anger is healthy because it is an essential element of her struggle to move from blame and shame to blossoming and blooming.

Narcissistic Anger: Barry’s Story

Barry was an only child, doted on by his parents. Whatever Barry wanted, Barry got. Now 35 years old, he has not been able to hold onto a job for longer than a year. Every job is beneath him so he doesn’t see why he has to work hard at it. He’s angry because “nobody is giving him a break.” A few of his friends went into their fathers’ businesses and Barry feels deprived that his dad didn’t have a business to hand over to him.

He believes that having a college degree should entitle him to a position where he can make a lot of money. His anger is directed at his parents (“Why can’t my parents subsidize me?”), his college (“Why didn’t they prepare me better?”) and the economy (“With the economy in the dumps, I can’t get anywhere.”) Barry has a habit of blaming others for his problems rather than searching for solutions. Unless he alters his thinking and behavior, he will continue to be frustrated and angry.

Now what about you? Are you blaming others for your anger rather than searching for solutions? Is your anger more frequent or intense than you would like it to be? If your answer is yes, then in your heart of hearts, you know you must stop blaming others and start doing some inner work to bring your anger to a healthier state.


Angry woman photo available from Shutterstock

Healthy and Unhealthy Anger

Linda Sapadin, Ph.D

Dr. Linda Sapadin, psychologist, success coach and author is proud to announce the publication of her new book, Overcoming Your Procrastination: College Student Edition – Advice for 6 Personality Styles available on Amazon. Now more than ever with remote learning, this book is a must-have. If you’re a perfectionist, dreamer, worrier, crisis-maker, defier or please, grab your copy. No longer a student? Get my book How to Beat Procrastination in the Digital Age – 6 Change Programs for 6 Personality Styles. Visit to subscribe to my free e-newsletter. Contact her at

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APA Reference
Sapadin, L. (2018). Healthy and Unhealthy Anger. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 4, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 19 Nov 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.