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Understanding and Coping with Anger

Anger is an emotion that everyone experiences at some time. Often, our anger is justified and can be healthy. For example, responding with anger to an unjust situation can motivate us to take steps to correct it. At other times, we can loose control of our anger, which can create problems for us in our significant relationships, in the residence halls, on the court or on the playing field, and in the classroom.

In this section we will help you distinguish between healthy and unhealthy anger and offer specific strategies for controlling your unhealthy anger.

Anger, Aggression and Hostility

Anger is an emotional reaction to frustration or injury. In some instances, angry emotions are beneficial. For example, if we are being taken advantage of, anger can spur us on to take action (not necessarily aggressive) to correct the situation.

Aggression is an action we take when we become angry and/or frustrated. Aggression is intended to harm someone. It can be a verbal attack - insults, threats, sarcasm, or attributing nasty motives to others - or a physical punishment or restriction.

Hostility is a state of chronic anger that can lead to aggression against others. It can also have negative consequences for the hostile individual, including physical illness. Anger, aggression and hostility can get out of control and can lead to negative consequences that are physiological, emotional and social.

Physiological, emotional and Social Consequences of Anger

  • Physiological- illnesses such as hypertension, stroke, heart disease, gastrointestinal problems, muscle aches, skin problems, chronic headaches, etc.
  • Emotional- depression, anxiety, difficulties with intimacy, alcohol/substance abuse, etc.
  • Social-loss of friendships, isolation, suspension from college, legal consequences.

The Goals of Anger Management

  • To make a commitment to recognize and express anger in a way that does not hurt you or others.
  • To clearly recognize your own early warning signs that you are becoming angry.
  • To express your anger clearly and directly without hurting others or yourself or the relationship between you.
  • To respond to the signals that something is wrong and to make changes in a relationship that can make it more fulfilling.

Early Warning Signs of Anger

  • Muscle tension, sweating, nervousness, racing heartbeat, physical pain or other physical symptoms.
  • Restlessness, anxiety, irritability, poor memory, excessive preoccupation with the angering situation, confusion, racing thoughts.
  • Outbursts of emotions, feeling on edge or hypervigilant, feeling guilty or fearful.

Ways of Coping with Anger

  • Realize that intense anger can be dangerous. If you are close to losing control of your anger, get help right away.
  • Express your emotions with words to a friend or counselor to help you change your view and interpretation of the situation. This can help you feel less preoccupied by anger, and you'll be less likely to act in ways that you might later regret.
  • Expressing an emotion, such as anger, in a healthy way can result in finding ways to change the irritating situation. Once the released emotion is discussed with a friend or counselor you are in a better position to make plans for coping with the feelings and the circumstances.

Not all Anger is bad.

Anger (not violence) is often justified. If properly controlled, anger is a reasonable and effective reaction to an unfair situation. Anger communicates that we are upset, that we can and will express ourselves, and that we are determined to correct a bad situation. Anger can over-ride our fears that keep us withdrawn and compliant. Anger, properly expressed, gives us a sense of pride when we exert some control and improve a bad situation.

Getting Professional Help for Yourself or a Friend

If you (or a friend of yours) are concerned about angry feelings, or worry about losing control get help right away. There are resources on campus that can help you understand your angry feelings. You don't have to deal with anger alone.

Resources at Iona College:

Counseling Center (914) 633-2038
Health Services (914) 633-2548
Office of Student Success (914) 633-2270
Office of Student Development (914) 633-2360
Office of Residential Life (914) 633-2336
Office of Mission and Ministry (914) 633-2772
Resident Assistants/Campus Ministers