What is anger?

Read this section to find out more about anger and why you might feel this way...

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What is anger?
What is anger?

What is anger?

Anger is a universal human emotion, which means that everyone feels angry from time to time. Anger is an important emotion; it helps us to notice when we think something isn’t right or fair, and it can motivate us to make changes. For example, many civil rights activists are motivated by anger, and they use this emotion to bring about positive social change.

It is important to distinguish between anger as an emotion and what we do in response to feeling angry.

There are four main types of Anger Responses which are outlined below:

Am I an angry person?

Am I an angry person?

Everyone feels angry from time to time, as it is a universal human emotion. If you didn’t ever experience anger, that would be unusual!

We can’t choose whether or not we feel angry; anger is an emotion that we naturally and automatically feel when we think something is unfair or unjust. Feeling angry does not make us an angry person.

Whilst we are unable to choose not to feel anger, we can choose how we respond. It is important to distinguish between angry feelings (which we can’t choose) and what we do when we feel angry (which we can choose).

By understanding how we respond to angry feelings, we are better able to change what we do and choose to respond in way that is calm, clear, and assertive.

Take a look at the image below and see which response(s) you can relate to:

What causes anger?

Read on to learn more about what may be causing you to experience anger, and what can help you manage this.

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What causes anger?
Causes of Anger

Causes of Anger

Anger occurs when we think something unfair or unjust has happened. There are many reasons why we feel angry, and this will be different for everyone; what makes one person angry may not bother someone else at all.

You may not be aware of why you feel angry; it could be due to stress, feeling out of control, or because you have been affected by an event in your past. Trauma can be a source for anger, and this can impact us beyond the event or injury that occurred.

Sometimes we feel angry because we are being abused, treatly badly, or neglected by someone or a group of people. In this case, our anger is important because it is informing us that this behaviour is unacceptable.

If you are concerned about aggressive responding, particularly if you are violent towards yourself or other people, it is important to ask for help to make sure you, and the people around you, are safe. If you or another person needs urgent help, Get Help Now.

You can find other services offering support in your local area here.

If you, or someone you know, is being abused...

If you feel you or someone you know is being abused or neglected, there are many types of support available. You may want to consider speaking to someone you trust, or you can find further information and support here. If you’re not sure who to talk to, here are some services that may be helpful:


Sussex Services:

Survivors Network – Sussex

Supporting survivors of sexual violence and abuse.

Change Grow Live (CGL) – East Sussex

Supporting anyone aged 16+ who has been affected by domestic abuse.

Victim Support – Sussex

0808 1689 111 (free 24-hour Supportline or online chat)


National Services:

National Domestic Abuse Helpline

0808 2000 247 (free 24-hour helpline)

Galop – National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline

0800 999 5428 (weekdays only)

NAPAC (National Associaton for People Abused in Childhood)

0808 801 0331 (weekdays only)

What if I am assertive and things don’t change?

Sometimes we can respond assertively to angry feelings, but the thing we want to change doesn’t change. Perhaps the person we are angry at will not or cannot make the change we want them to make.

If this happens, it can be helpful to decide what we can do to make a change, and accept that we can’t force other people to make changes.

We might feel angry because we have experienced abuse or neglect. In this case, we might respond assertively but the person may not be willing to change their abusive or neglectful behaviour. If this happens, it is important to ask ourselves what we can do to change the situation, or speak to someone we trust about what can be done.

This could involve making steps to leave the abusive or neglectful relationship, such as seeking support from a specialist service, a professional such as a counsellor or your GP, or reporting the person to the police or social services.

What if I am assertive and things don’t change?

Am I feeling angry?

Sometimes we find it difficult to know when we are feeling angry. If this is true for you, it may be helpful to monitor your angry feelings in a similar way to how you might monitor your temperature. Consider the following options and tick which usually applies to you.

Remember: anger can change from day-to-day because we are faced with different things at different times. If you find this temperature method helpful, you might want to try using this regularly to monitor your angry feelings and responses.

We all experience anger, but it sounds like you may be finding it difficult to cope with your feelings. It may be helpful to consider seeking further support, and you can find local support on our 'Speak to someone' page. You can also scroll down for tips on how to manage angry feelings more effectively.
This can be a good place to be as ‘warm’ feelings of anger can help to motivate us to take assertive action, and change whatever is causing our anger. Scroll down for some tips that may be helpful if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by your anger, or if you have difficulty choosing to respond assertively in future.
It sounds like you are feeling calm at the moment. It may be helpful to check if you might be suppressing any angry feelings (and responding submissively) – has anything happened recently that you feel is unfair or unjust? If so, you might find it useful to read the previous section on Types of Angry Responding, and scroll down to find tips for managing angry feelings.

How can I manage my anger?

Learn more about how to recognise your angry feelings and ways to manage your anger more effectively.

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How can I manage my anger?

Step 1. Notice your anger triggers

It can be difficult to identify what is making us angry, and sometimes it may seem to come out of nowhere. You might want to keep a record of times you have felt angry, perhaps by writing these down in your phone or in a diary, to help you identify what might have led to the angry feelings.

Let yourself to pause for a few moments, take a few breaths that are deeper than usual, and try asking yourself the following questions:

  • What happened just before you felt angry?
  • How strong were the angry feelings from 1-10?
  • What thoughts did you have when you felt angry?
  • What bodily sensations did you notice?
  • How did you respond to the situation?
  • Do you think this response was Aggressive, Passive-Aggressive, or Submissive?
  • What happened after you responded in this way?

Taking time to reflect in this way allows space for us to be more aware of how we are feeling, what we are thinking, what is happening in our body, and what response choices we have. Once we are aware of these, we are better able to respond differently or avoid situations that can trigger our anger.

Swipe left to find Step 2.

Step 1. Notice your anger triggers
Step 2. Plan an assertive response

Step 2. Plan an assertive response

Once we are aware of our triggers, we can make a plan for how to respond assertively to situations that can cause us to feel angry in future.

Try to plan how you might approach the person(s) who have made you feel angry, and how you could calmly and clearly explain the following:

  • How you are feeling (e.g. angry, frustrated, not listened to)
  • What specifically has led to you feeling this way (e.g. your colleague spoke badly about you to other members of staff)
  • What you want to change (e.g. your colleague speaks to you directly about concerns)
  • What you acknowledge about the other person’s perspective (e.g. you understand their point of view and will listen to their concerns when they raise them in future)

It can be helpful to make an assertive response plan, especially if this isn’t your usual way of responding. As with any skill, the more you practise responding assertively, the easier it will become. In time, it may even become your automatic way of responding!

Swipe left for Step 3.

Step 3. Put your assertive response in practice, then review the outcome

Step 3. Put your assertive response in practice, then review the outcome

Now that you have your assertive response plan, you can put it into action!

You may feel nervous about doing this, particularly if it isn’t your usual response to anger. It’s OK to feel unsure – it takes time to move away from our automatic responses and change to a different way of responding.

Once you have starting using your assertive response plan, it can be helpful to reflect on how you experienced this. You could ask yourself the following questions:

  • What happened when you responded assertively?
  • How was it different to your previous way of responding?
  • If you didn’t feel able to respond assertively, how did you respond instead?
  • What have you learned about your angry feelings (e.g. what are your triggers)?
  • What else would help you to respond assertively in future?

Remember: while responding assertively is the most effective way to bring about change, we can’t force other people to change. We can only choose to make changes in ourselves, so if our assertive responses don’t have the outcome we hoped for, it is more helpful to focus on what changes we can make.

Swipe left for the next tip.

Make space for self-care

Make space for self-care

Self-care is important for everyone, and regularly practising this can make it easier for us to respond calmly to situations that make us angry.

Think about things you enjoy or that help you to relax – these could be something you do at any time, or as a way of calming your angry feelings when you notice them. We all enjoy different things; while one activity might be helpful for someone, you may find something else more effective for helping you feel better.

Here are just a few ideas of what could help you find your calm:

  • Going for a walk or run
  • Listening to music or a podcast
  • Spending time with loved ones
  • Cooking or baking
  • Exercising or playing sports
  • Limiting news or social media intake
  • Reading a book or doing something creative
  • Practising meditation or mindfulness techniques

Swipe left for the next tip.

Reach out for support

Reach out for support

You may find that after trying the previous suggestions, you still feel overwhelmed by your anger. You may find that your response to angry feelings still tends to be aggressive, passive-aggressive, or submissive, and you may feel frustrated that it has not changed. This is very common; learning to respond assertively can take a lot of practise, especially if we are not used to it.

If you are struggling with your anger, seeking further support can make a big difference.

Try speaking to a close friend or partner, or someone else that you trust. It may feel difficult to talk about, so try to find a place (e.g. in a quiet room or outside while going for a walk) where you feel comfortable having an open conversation.

Alternatively, your GP can provide you with information about professional support that may be helpful for you. For example, you could find a local support group where you can talk to others who share experiences and concerns around managing anger.

If you’re not sure who to talk to, you can search for services offering support in your local area here.

Get Help

Get Help

If you feel that your anger is getting in the way of your day-to-day life, it may be a good idea to get some help. Click here to find mental health support services in your area.

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