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Understanding anger – for young people

Anger is a normal human emotion, like happiness or sadness. It’s one of many feelings that people can have about things happening in their lives.

Anger can be useful. It can tell you when to protect yourself or when stand up for yourself and your rights. So, getting angry can be ok but make sure you think about how you express your anger.

Why do we get angry?

Reasons for getting angry can include:

  • feeling threatened
  • feeling that you, or someone you care about, has been unfairly treated
  • being embarrassed or humiliated
  • being fearful
  • feeling unable to control a situation
  • feeling misunderstood or not listened to


 What is anger?

When you are angry you have choices

Anger can lead to people being aggressive or violent but they are not the same. Anger is a feeling, but aggression and violence are actions. Anger can sometimes be intense and overwhelming, but it doesn't mean that you will become violent or aggressive.

When you are angry you have choices about how to deal with it:

  • You can listen to your anger and work out what it means. This is a much better solution than acting without thinking.
  • You can use the anger to motivate yourself to find a solution.
  • You can talk with someone about how you feel, and help them understand your position.
  • If you are angry because of something you fear, you can get help to deal with your fears.

Steps to making positive choices

Step one: Recognise that you are getting angry

  • Know your 'angry signs' like clenched fists or teeth, a tight feeling in the stomach, or your heart beating faster.
  • Remind yourself that it is okay to be angry, but slow down and think about what to do and say before you act.
  • Walk away from the situation if you think you might act in a way that hurts you or someone else.
  • Think about how your body feels. If you are tense then relax by taking a few deep breaths, or tense and release some of your muscles. Try to slow down your breathing. Dealing with your body's reactions to anger can help to calm your emotions and find a better solution.
  • Count to ten (slowly!). It gives you time to think, and might stop you saying or doing something you will regret.

Step two: Work out why you are feeling angry

  • What has made you feel angry?
  • Did someone do or say something that upset you?
  • Do you have other feelings that might affect the way you are coping? For example, are you sad, or embarrassed?
  • Is the situation something that you can change, or is it something you need to live with?
  • Does the situation bring up bad memories? Is this the real reason you are angry?

Step three: What will I do to manage this situation?

  • How can you deal with this?
  • What are your options?
  • Do you need to look at it from the other person's point of view?
  • Can you explain how you feel about the situation?
  • What do you want to happen now?
  • Is this reasonable, or do you need to think about a compromise?
  • Can you deal with this while being respectful to yourself as well as the other person?

Step four: Do I need help with this?

  • Parents, teachers or friends might have ideas about how to manage your anger. Talking with them can be a great place to start.
  • If you are being harassed, bullied or discriminated against, there are people who can help. A counsellor, a welfare officer at your school or your doctor could help you manage what is going on.
  • If you are getting angry more often than in the past, or if it is starting to be a problem, then talking to a counsellor or a doctor could help.

When anger starts to be a problem

  • If you are getting angry more often, then you might need to do something different. Here are some hints:
  • Ask someone else to help you talk with the person who is causing problems.
  • Take some 'time out'.
  • Walk away, and come back when you are more in control.
  • Clearly explain how you feel about the situation, and why, but stay calm.
  • Remember that you are in control of your feelings. Other people can affect how you feel, but only you can control how you feel.
  • Accept that there are some things that you cannot change. Getting angry won't make any difference, so you'll need to look for other answers.
  • Remember that you have choices about how to manage difficult times. Step back and think about your options before you act.
  • Try using humour to break the tension - but don't be hurtful or sarcastic.

 For more information, to find your nearest headspace centre or for online and telephone support, visit eheadspace.org.au.