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Ribston Hall High School

Ribston HallHigh School

The Cycle of Anger: How anger is caused and maintained

Anger and how to regulate it


  • Anger is a natural emotion that can sometimes make you feel uncomfortable or even out of control.
  • If anger begins to take control over you, it's important to do something to keep yourself and others around you safe.
  • Managing your anger lowers stress and improves your health.

Do you know that learning to manage anger is good for your health? People who manage their anger get sick less often, and feel better emotionally. Anger is a natural emotion but sometimes anger can lead to behaviour that is uncomfortable or out of control. It may even feel like the anger is controlling you. Have you ever had this happen to you? If so, you're not alone. Many teens have trouble managing their anger. This guide was created to help you understand and learn to manage your anger, and offer you productive ways to manage your behaviour.


Why do I have trouble controlling my anger?

There are many reasons why people have trouble managing their anger and angry behaviours these reasons are different for everybody and may be a combination of different factors. Perhaps you have been taught that it is “not nice” or “inappropriate” to express anger. Maybe you have witnessed extreme anger and/or violence at home, in your neighbourhood or at school, making it harder to know when your own anger is out of control. It could also be hard for you to control your anger because you haven't yet learned how to deal with the emotions you feel inside. Whatever the reason, the next step is to work on ways of understanding what triggers your anger and how to manage your behaviour even when the angry feeling is justified.


Why should I control my anger?

Even at a young age, having difficulty understanding and managing anger makes you more likely to have physical problems that can occur now or in the future. This happens because your mind and your body are connected. Not dealing with angry feelings can actually put stress on your body which can lead to medical problems such as:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Chronic lower back pain
  • Stomach problems

Having problems managing your anger can also increase your risk for developing mental health concerns such as:

  • Depression
  • Eating problems
  • Substance abuse
  • Drug, alcohol or other addictions
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Relationship problems

Teenagers who have trouble managing their anger often have fewer friends, behave in more negative ways, and receive lower grades in school. This is often because teens who have difficulty with anger are often unhappy and feel isolated, even if they get a lot of attention for angry behaviours.


How can I tell if I'm getting too angry?

Your body has several ways of letting you know when you are getting too angry. Some common feelings may include:

  • Your heart feels like it is racing—it beats very fast and may even feel like it's pounding in your chest, or pounding in you head
  • You breathe faster—it may feel like you can't catch your breath
  • Your muscles tighten—your body feels tense and on edge
  • Your body temperature increases—you feel hot and may sweat a lot


Are there some situations that make you feel particularly angry?

Think about the last few times you became really angry. Do you know exactly what it was that made you angry? Was it justified or did you feel you had a right to be angry? How did you feel? By becoming more aware of what upsets you, and how you feel when you are angry, you can take control of it before it takes control of you. Keep in mind that your thoughts, feelings and behaviours are all connected. Your thoughts affect your feelings, which then affect your behaviours. Your behaviour can also affect your thoughts, which can affect how you feel. Since they are all related, making one change—to thoughts, feeling or behaviours—will make a big difference.


What are some ways I can learn to control my temper?

The best way to control your temper depends on you. There is no quick fix. Every person needs to take time to think about what works for him or her.

Here are some helpful ideas:

  • Improve your problem solving skills. When faced with a difficult situation or conflict, learn as much as you can about it and think about what happened and identify all the feeling you are experiencing. Are you angry? Disappointed? Embarrassed? This will prevent you from making quick judgments that may be wrong. Remember, there are many ways to look at the same situation.
  • Take responsibility for your actions. You actually have the power to decide how you will behave in certain situations ahead of time if you find a way to "keep a cool head".
  • Think about the consequences of your behaviour. Realize that how you behave affects not only you but also those you love and others around you.
  • Pay attention to what upsets you. When you are able to figure out what triggers angry feelings, you can make decisions about how to manage these triggers. Sometimes they are avoidable and other times not; it's up to you to be prepared with strategies that will help you stay in better control.
  • Pay attention to how your body feels when you are angry. Sometimes people are first aware of experiencing anger through their bodies rather than their thoughts or feelings. When you notice your body beginning to react, it's time to slow down and identify the feeing before reacting.

You may feel anxious when you first try to take control of your temper. This is normal. Take time beforehand to plan ways to handle these feelings. The earlier you notice yourself becoming angry the more chance you have to stop your anger from getting out of control.


Is there anything I can do to relax when I'm feeling so angry?

Yes! Every one of us can find effective ways to calm down. Relaxation techniques work by helping calm us. When we are calm, our bodies relax, and physical problems brought on by anger such as a headache, usually disappear. Try the following techniques to help you relax:

  • Take slow deep breaths. Breathe in and slowly breathe out—this works especially well when you feel like your breathing is speeding up.
  • Repeat a calming word or sentence to yourself, such as “I am in control of my feelings”.
  • Tighten your muscles then relax them. Notice the difference.
  • Close your eyes and think about a person, place, or thing that makes you feel calm.


What if my anger feels out of control?

Take quick action! If angry feelings begin to take control over you it's important to do something to keep yourself and others around you keep safe.


Here are some helpful tips:

  • Leave the scene—Take yourself away from the person and/or place where you became angry. A change of scenery can help you “cool off” your angry feelings.
  • Walk away (safely and tell someone where you are going)—walking is a great way to get your anger out.
  • Choose safe ways to deal with anger—Take deep breaths, repeat a calming word, relax your muscles, imagine a calm place to decrease your anger.


What do I do with all the anger inside?

Find a safe way to express it. There are many safe ways to express your anger.


Here are a few ideas:

  • Talk to someone you trust—Call or meet with someone you trust. This can be a friend, a relative, a teacher or anyone whom you know to be a thoughtful and good listener. You also can see a counsellor to help you work on understanding your feelings and develop strategies to deal with them.
  • Exercise—Get that anger out by taking a long walk or run, work out at the gym or play a sport. Exercise stimulates the release of a chemical in the brain called “endorphins” that make us feel more relaxed and calm. You can also try a relaxing exercise to calm yourself, such as yoga or Tai Chi.
  • Write in a journal—Let your feelings out by writing about them in a journal or create poetry or song lyrics. You can use your journal to write a letter to someone you are really mad at. You can read it again later, edit it, and send it, if you are still upset.
  • Listen to or play music—Music has a way of calming the soul whether it is listening to your IPod, singing along with the radio (even if you sing off key), or playing an instrument.
  • Draw, paint, or do other creative art projects—for some people, being creative is an outlet for anger and helps them manage their feelings.
  • Rest—Anger often takes our energy away and makes us feel exhausted. Its fine to take a break, nap, or go to bed early. Sleep helps us focus so we can deal with our feelings better.