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Understanding anger – for young people

Anger related problems are prevalent among young people, with 1 in 5 having trouble controlling their anger. Problematic anger is not a mental health diagnosis, it is, however commonly part of other mental health difficulties. Anger becomes a problem when it occurs frequently, at high intensity, and leads to aggressive or violent behaviour.

It’s also problematic when it leads to secondary problems such as self-harm, overt risk-taking, high levels of stress and psychological distress. It can be difficult to tell if someone experiencing problematic anger. Some people who experience intense anger, or who feel anger frequently, supress or bottle-up the emotion meaning it is not obvious to those around them. These people may be less likely to seek help for their anger, as it’s not apparent to those around them that they have an anger problem.

What is anger?

  • Anger is a normal, healthy emotion both the expression and experience of anger are part of healthy emotional functioning.
  • Anger is a common sign of distress which may be masking sadness or depression.
  • Learning to be aware of our emotions and express them appropriately is a part of good mental health.
  • Anger is not a problem in itself. If you feel angry a lot or have trouble controlling our anger it may be helpful to seek support.
  • Anger may become problematic when it occurs frequently, at high intensity, and leads to aggressive or violent behaviour.
  • Individuals who experience chronic or intense anger or have problems expressing anger can experience significant psychological distress.
  • Anger related problems are prevalent among young people, with 1 in 5 having trouble controlling their anger.
  • Problematic anger is not a mental health diagnosis, it is, however commonly part of other mental health difficulties.
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How can we help young people struggling with anger?

It’s important for parents, teachers and friends to talk to young people about their anger. Opening up the lines of communication can lead to ideas about how the anger can be better managed or treated.
If you are feeling anger, what is the best way to express it?
It’s important that people listen to their anger and think about what to do before acting. Working out what anger means is a much better solution than acting without thinking. People should try different ways to recognise and express their anger. Talking with someone can be a great place to start. If people are angry because of something they fear, they can get help to directly deal with that fear.
Can problematic anger be treated?
Yes. When people become angry they have choices about how to deal with it. For young people, a good starting point can be talking with parents, teachers or friends about how the anger can be managed. If the anger is a result of bullying or harassment, counsellors or welfare officers can help to manage the situation. If someone gets angry frequently and it is starting to become a problem, talking to a counsellor or doctor could help.
Myth Buster #1 - Anger is a bad emotion
Fact - Anger is a perfectly normal and healthy emotion that all people experience. Confusing anger with aggression can lead people to believe that anger is bad. Anger is a feeling, aggression is a behaviour.
Myth Buster #2 - Anger is the same as aggression
Anger is a normal feeling that we all experience, while aggression is a behavioural response that can stem from anger, or other emotions such as anxiety. Additionally, aggressive behaviour is not always a sign that someone is angry – it can stem from other strong emotions.
Myth Buster #3 - Only men get angry

Research does not support the idea that men experience anger more than women. Recent research actually suggests that women feel angry more often than men, and they may also experience more intense and enduring anger. The main differences seem to be how men and women express anger.

If you or someone you know is struggling with anger, visit headspace.org.au to find your local centre or call or contact eheadspace on 1800 650 890 or eheadspace.org.au

headspace Clinical Reference Group oversee and approve clinical resources made available on this website.

Last Reviewed 17 October 2016