Understanding the Underlying Psychology of Anger

Angry Couple

Understanding the Underlying Psychology of Anger

When it comes to how we understand our emotions, anger often puzzles us the most. As a fact of life, we grow up with anger right from the beginning. It is an emotion that often works to protect us from perceived threats, aggressive behaviors and often works to protect ourselves from the vulnerabilities and weaknesses that come with being human. But how does anger truly work? Psychologists can only come up with theories about how infant development and past experiences reflect our tendencies for this emotion, but ultimately, understanding anger comes down to looking at how we as individuals look at our relationship with the world and ourselves.

What’s Behind The Feeling of Anger?

Anger acts as a secondary emotion related to the “fight, flight, or freeze” response throughout our nervous system. However, how people respond to this emotion is an entirely personal experience. Some may shrug off annoyances that can lead to anger, while others burst into a rage just as quickly. Determining how and why people get mad often comes down to the triggers that cause these levels of frustration, pain, and suffering to occur internally. As a core emotion intricate to our human nature, anger can result from specific needs both internally and externally, including:

  • Damaged Confidence: Most often, some models of anger come from experiences that lead to emotional pain, resulting in fragile egos, hyperfocused blaming, and disproportionate outbursts.
  • Unfulfilled Needs: In other cases, when actions are performed without any recognition or reward for those actions, then experiencing a lack of fulfillment from those actions can increase frustration and anger.
  • Exercising Control: In many ways, anger is used as an external way of maintaining control over situations. Anger can arise from the awareness of powerlessness in certain situations and thus lead to anger becoming a reaction towards that helplessness.
  • Low Tolerance: As a side effect of anger, people who suffer from chronic anger often have a low tolerance for other people’s opinions and actions in relation to the individuals’ wants and needs.
  • Moral Outrage: In rarer cases, anger can also be used to justify actions that are deemed morally correct in cases of human rights and abuse.

According to some studies, anger in a reactive state often correlates with the neural systems such as the amygdala, periaqueductal gray, and hypothalamus areas of the brain, or the basic threat system. The basic threat system, when exposed to extreme threats, often has an increase in anger response, and when presented in situations considered unfavorable, such as not receiving an award for an action, then anger is quick to increase.

Managing Anger Through Awareness and Self-Love

Anger often distracts us from the way we feel internally and is often used as a shield for vulnerability. Anger, however, can be used in the right circumstances for drastic, positive change. For those who suffer from chronic anger, it takes awareness and management of those emotions internally to help guide us towards better relationships with ourselves and others. Healthy methods of managing anger are possible, and the best way to begin that journey is by reaching out to your mental health provider today.

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April is the founder of Prestige Mental Health and is a board certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP-BC) who is qualified to practice primary care and psychiatry. She is passionate about providing quality, compassionate, and comprehensive mental health services to children, adolescents, and adults. April specializes in psychiatric illnesses including but not limited to depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, PTSD/trauma, bipolar, and schizophrenia.