There Are 9 Types of Anger: Which One Is Yours?
Fed Up. Frustrated. Irate. Whatever you call it, we’ve all felt it. But being aware of how you handle your anger—and why—can help you get it under control and express it in a healthy way.
You avoid anger
When you’re mad, but say nothing about it; when you’re feeling all kinds of agitated but don’t dare show it—that’s resistant or passive anger, the kind you bottle up inside you, explains Peter Andrew Sacco Phd, psychologist in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Our way of dealing with anger is often learned at an early age, so if this is your anger style, you may have been raised by people who avoided conflict at all costs; maybe they instilled the idea that anger is wrong or expressing it is bad. Or perhaps you saw so much arguing growing up that you made a conscious choice to never get mad or disagree with anyone to evade fighting. But anger is a very normal human emotion, says Sacco, author of What’s Your Anger Type? Suppress it, and it can hurt both your mental and physical health. “When anger is turned inward, it can lead to depression,” he explains. Plus, research suggests that internalizing anger may lead to heart problems and weaken your immune system. Instead of squashing it, own what you’re feeling, suggests Sacco. Recognize and acknowledge your anger so you can move forward. Here are some of the healthiest ways to manage anger.
You hold a grudge
If you can’t let go of your anger and refuse to forgive, you may have what Sacco calls petrified anger: “It’s kind of like keeping a vendetta against someone who you believe wronged you,” he explains, “and that anger is all based on being right.” The target of your hostility has more than likely moved on and couldn’t care less about what happened, but for you—letting go is like admitting you’re wrong. “Your ego and being correct becomes more important than keeping a friend,” says Sacco. To help overcome petrified anger, ask yourself what staying angry is accomplishing for you. Shift the focus of the forgiveness and do it for yourself, suggests Sacco: It’s not about me being right or wrong; forgiving you means I’m able to let go and stop feeling angry. Here are 14 things science has taught us about forgiveness.
You give an enthusiastic “sure, no problem!” when a colleague asks for a favor, but then oops, forget to do it—or do it late and not well. You say “it’s fine” when it’s really not or ‘whatever’ when you really mean no. These are all classic passive-aggressive behaviors—or patterns of indirectly expressing negative feelings instead of openly addressing them. “Passive-aggressive people get sneaky with their anger,” explains Sacco. They say one thing, but do another; they don’t show they’re mad, they just get even. In the moment, passive-aggressive behaviors can be more convenient than confrontation and easier than being assertive, says social worker Signe Whitson in Psychology Today. But over time, the relationship can become destructive and dysfunctional. Here are more signs you’re being passive aggressive—without even realizing it.
You’re tormented by texting
And why that can happen makes sense: Words are being communicated in shortcuts, abbreviations, and icons, says Sacco; intended messages are often incomplete, and the receiver is often left to his or her own devices to decipher and interpret–which is probably enough said. But in case it’s not: You send a friend a long text, one you took time to formulate and effort to type. He responds with one word answer, which sends you reeling. You think your time doesn’t matter to him, that he doesn’t respect or prioritize your friendship enough to text back appropriately. What doesn’t cross your mind: Maybe he was driving or walking into a doctor appointment and couldn’t stop to text. For the sake of your friendships, relationships, and career, here’s when your thumbs should not do the talking. (And here’s when texting is better than calling.)
You rage online
For those who frequent Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites, prepare to not be shocked: A study from Beihang University in China found that anger is the most viral of emotions—friends and followers are much more likely to share angry thoughts than messages containing sadness or joy, according to researchers. “People get caught up in social media, and it can become a cesspool for anger,” says Sacco, who believes anonymity and instant gratification are, in part, to blame. Because online interaction is not face-to-face, people feel more free to say or do things they otherwise wouldn’t. And your comment or response can be immediate—with no filter, thought, or regard for its consequences. “Plus, you’re speaking in sound-bites—short sentences, bullets, feeds—which leaves so much room for miscommunication,” he adds. Before you unleash your discontent online, read these etiquette rules for complaining on social media. And you might want to consider what your social media profile is saying about you.
Anger is your every day
If that’s what you’re feeling morning to night, and most of the time in between, your anger may be habitual, or chronic, says Sacco. Growing up in a family where anger is the norm, it becomes your way of life because it’s what you’ve always known. “Habitual anger is much like an addiction,” says Sacco; and breaking the cycle requires counseling, therapy, and support groups. Just as an alcoholic can’t be his own sponsor, a chronically angry person can’t teach himself to not be so angry. And the toughest part is admitting there’s a problem: Those with habitual anger believe they are right to feel how they feel because they really believe people are purposely out to make them miserable, says Sacco.
You make mountains out of molehills
You find the fault in every situation, and approach each conversation as an argument you have to win. Those are traits of a person who with conflictual anger, says Sacco. “It stems from very low self-esteem,” he explains. Maybe you were made to look or feel inferior growing up or were picked on as a kid; to compensate, you become more aggressive. Instead of feeling victimized, you learn to be the “rejecter,” explains Sacco in his book. You put down or reject others first before it can be done to you. And you create conflict or deliver the first blow in an argument so it gives you the chance to be heard, to prove you are smarter, and to show you’re right.
Your fuse is short and you fly off the handle
If emotion overwhelms rational thought and behavior, that’s when anger can get you in trouble, says Sacco. And that’s the case with compressive anger—one of the most serious types. When you lose the ability to rationalize or control a situation, it may set off aggression, violent behavior or explosive outbursts that are out of proportion to the situation. Getting stuck in traffic, for example, may lead you to pound the steering wheel and swear at other drivers; or a perpetually overflowing trash bin in the kitchen might set off a screaming tirade. This type of anger can also put people at risk for harm, so it’s important to seek professional help. People with compressive anger need anger management counseling to help identify their triggers and learn to respond differently. When you’re ready to blow your top, these anger control tips can help you calm down fast.
Your morals fuel your anger
When it comes to your religious, political or other beliefs—yours are right, the others are wrong; yours are good, the others are bad; yours are superior, period. In your mind, anything in between is noncommittal and any form of compromise means you’re wrong, explains Sacco. Moralistic anger can be traced to extreme fundamentalism, or an all-or-nothing mentality. So when others go against your beliefs, you’re on the offensive because your beliefs are correct, and therefore your anger is justified. Even if your intentions are good, anger gets you in trouble when you allow it get out of control, and you feel entitled to do whatever you want because you think your ideology backs the behavior, says Sacco. Anger itself is not a bad emotion—it’s how you use your anger that makes it good or bad. When used constructively, moralistic anger has the potential for a lot of good; it should not, however, be rooted in aggression and violence.