Anger is a commonly experienced emotion which can range in intensity from mild annoyance to rage. Anger is triggered when a person believes they have been wronged by someone, that something unfair or unjust has happened, or that their wellbeing and social status are either not being respected or are under threat. No person can make us angry, rather anger is influenced by people’s thoughts, their interpretations of events and their coping skills and available supports.

Key Points

Although anger is often seen as a harmful emotion, it can be a healthy emotional response when expressed assertively and respectfully. Sometimes anger can be helpful; it can motivate a person to take positive action to change a situation for the better or to achieve his or her goals.

Frequent experiences of anger, however, should not be ignored. Angry outbursts can cause fear, regret and/or work, relationship, and health problems, not only to oneself but also to others. When anger prompts someone to use violence, physical injury and even loss of life can occur. Angry people often report regretting their outbursts and wishing they could have expressed themselves another way.


Problem anger is frequent, intense, and enduring. Problem anger is associated with a range of negative behaviours, particularly aggression and violence, which cause further difficulties for the person and their relationships, including family violence, workplace violence, bullying and harassment. Also, road rage, assault and substance abuse have all been associated with problem anger.

The experience of anger involves thoughts, emotions, physical responses and behaviours.

Thoughts can be irrational or exaggerated. When angry, people are more likely to blame others, and not see themselves as playing a role in the situation. Thoughts might also focus on putting the other person down, or wanting to get revenge.

Anger also involves an emotional response, related to the person’s thoughts and beliefs about a situation. It can range from mild annoyance or irritation to more extreme feelings of rage or fury.

Physical Responses
The sympathetic nervous system is activated during anger, raising the heart rate, increasing muscle tension, and sometimes creating the sensation of feeling hot. Chemicals in the brain which help control mood, sleep, appetite, learning, and memory, are also thought to be involved in our expressions and experience of anger and, as a result, these aspects of our behaviour can be negatively affected.

Seeking Help

If anger is affecting your ability to thrive in your daily life, a psychologist can help. Anger will be explored as a normal emotion that has become dysfunctional and harmful when expressed. Psychologists are highly trained and qualified professionals, skilled in diagnosing and treating a range of concerns, including problem anger and other conditions that affect your anger such as anxiety, depression or substance use. A psychologist can help you to identify and address factors that are contributing to your anger and provide practical strategies that give you the skills to notice anger early, self-soothe and express yourself functionally.