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A guide for young people Anger

We all feel angry sometimes, often when there’s a good reason. Uncontrolled anger can be harmful, but you can learn to manage it.

What is anger?

Artwork that reads 'Outward Aggression, Inward Aggression, and Passive Aggression'. There are three cartoon clouds above each aggression showing the emotion for each type of aggression.

Three animated clouds are next to each other, the first cloud has lots of punching fists coming out if it with the words underneath highlighted in yellow: 'outward aggression'. The second cloud has marks on its cheeks, aiming punches towards itself with the words highlighted in yellow underneath 'inward aggression', the third cloud looks fed up and has thunderbolts around it, the words underneath highlighted in yellow read: 'passive aggression'.

Anger is one of a range of emotions that we all experience. It’s ok and perfectly normal to feel angry about things that you have experienced. 

Anger can start to become a problem when you express it through unhelpful or destructive behaviour – either towards yourself or other people. It can also contribute to you developing mental health problems, like depression and anxiety, or make existing problems worse.

If you find yourself doing these sorts of things, it might be a sign that you need some support:

  • hitting or physically hurting other people
  • shouting at people
  • breaking things
  • losing control
  • spending time with people who get you into trouble 
  • constantly ending relationships or getting in trouble at school or work 

Types of aggression

  • Outward aggression

    Do you often find yourself being aggressive towards other people? 

    Are you frightening or worrying yourself, or those around you with your behaviour?

  • Inward aggression

    Do you tell yourself that you hate yourself, that you're useless, that you don't deserve things?

    Do you shut yourself off from the world, deny yourself things that make you happy or self-harm? 

  • Passive aggression

    Do you behave passive-aggressively towards other people? Do you ignore people, refuse to speak to them, or are you often sarcastic or sulky?

Why do I feel angry?

Everyone feels angry sometimes - and we all have different triggers. You may experience anger in situations where you feel powerless, or frustrated. This could be because of problems at home or school, or if you've fallen out with a friend, or had a break-up with a partner. You might start to feel angry if you feel misunderstood by people around you, like your parents, or if you are confused about your sexuality.

But sometimes, you can feel angry and not know why. This could be the result of lots of stress and different pressures building up around you. Or it could be because of something that happened to you in the past, like neglect or abuse. Recognising the types of situations which trigger your anger is the first step to figuring out what is causing it, and finding a way to make things better.       

What happened the last time you were angry? We asked several people what anger feels like for them, and how they manage it. 

How can anger affect me?

Three people hold up a large placard which has cartoon images of clouds on showing the emotions of outward aggression, inward aggression and passive aggression. The person on the left is wearing a black t-shirt looking at the camera with a neutral expression. The person in the middle is wearing a grey jumper looking neutral at the camera. The person on the right is wearing a yellow jumper and grinning at the camera.

When we get angry, it can be hard to think things through – especially if that anger seems overwhelming or uncontrollable. And if we feel angry a lot of the time – in other words, if we get into constant patterns of thinking angry thoughts about ourselves or others – it’s hard to take a step back and communicate in a healthy and productive way.

We may tense up and clench our teeth. Our hearts might pump faster, our stomachs might churn, and we may clench our fists. These are useful early warning signs that we are getting wound up.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to recognise just how much anger you are feeling, and how it is affecting you. This might be because you have lots of things going on in your life. 

After getting angry about something you might start to feel guilty about it, and this can make you feel worse. 

Three photos of the same person holding up placards. The person is wearing a black t-shirt. The first shot of them is that they are grinning and looking at the camera. In the middle shot, they are smiling while looking at the camera and the third they are looking serious at the camera.

The same young person wearing a black t-shirt holds three signs. The signs read:

Here are things I do when I feel myself getting angry.

1. First of all, take a breath
2. Exercise helps me get some built-up frustration out of my system

In the image the same person is shown three times holding placards with the different words on them. The person is wearing a grey jumper. In the first image, they are smiling, the second one they look more serious with the third image of them smiling again. The placards are things they do when they feel themselves getting angry.

The same young person wearing a grey jumper holds three signs. The signs read:

Here are things I do when I feel myself getting angry

1. I talk about how I am feeling
2. I try and recognise I'm angry and listen to others

In the image the same person is shown three times holding placards with the different words on them. The person is wearing yellow and in each one smiling, and looking at the camera. The placards are things they do when they feel themselves getting angry.

The same young person has long brown hair and wears a yellow jumper, they hold three signs which read:

Here are things I do when I feel myself getting angry

1. Putting on my favourite music really helps
2. Doing an action that helps me feel something different, like walking my dog

Manage your anger

Issues with anger can lead to risky behaviour, refusing to go to school, isolation, eating problems, depression, and self-harm. 

Drinking too much alcohol or taking drugs might be seen as ways of coping with anger issues, but remember they will make you feel worse and are likely to create bigger problems later.

Over time, you’ll learn to manage your anger better yourself. When you feel angry or stressed you can try out different relaxation techniques to help you calm down, such as:

  • going for a walk
  • listening to music
  • taking deep breaths
  • doing some exercise
  • doing something you enjoy - skateboarding, painting, swimming
  • talking to someone about how you are feeling
  • playing computer games to take your mind off it
  • reading a book
  • having a hot bath

If you have a problem with someone, think about what you want to say beforehand and how you want to get your point across. Listen to their point of view and calmly put yours across too.

If you feel your anger levels rising, walk away from a situation to calm down, rather than saying or doing something you might regret later. You can learn to manage your anger and find techniques that work for you.

Our Activists share their anger management tips

  • Think of the bigger picture: will this bother you in a year? Try and say why you're angry, and remember that time alone to calm yourself down is okay. Take some time to think about how your actions are affecting others, and try to remember people are usually trying to help you!
    Tara
  • When you're angry, try some deep breathing techniques or listening to music. You could also do some colouring, running, or any form of exercise.
    Jacob
  • Figure out why you reacted like that so you can recognise it next time before it's too late
    Tara
  • If you harmed someone, apologise. If you hurt yourself, apologise to yourself
    Alex

Get help for anger

If you often feel angry there are things you can do to help yourself. Other people can help too.

Talk about how you are feeling. Parents or carers and other family members, such as grandparents, may be good listeners. Your close friends and other family friends may be able to help.

At school, find a teacher, mentor, counsellor or school nurse who you trust. In the community, social workers, youth workers and leaders will also be able to listen.

You can also see your GP. They may be able to suggest some treatment or recommend a counsellor.

Your GP may refer you to your child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS) where you would talk to a specialist about your feelings and behaviour. The specialist may advise you how to deal with these. They may also suggest counselling if there are problems or things that happened in the past that may be causing your anger issues now.

If counselling is your best option, the specialist arranges a series of confidential one-to-one sessions with a counsellor or therapist.

You can talk with them about concerns or problems you might have. The counsellor will help you work through your issues and give you skills and strategies to deal with your anger better.

If you are a parent or carer of a child or young person who has anger issues, take a look at our parents guide to anger advice page. We can also support you through our Parents Helpline. We are here to listen to you, and give you free, confidential advice and information. 

Parents guide to Anger

Write it down

Keep a note of how you're feeling:

  • What happened that made you angry?
  • How did you respond? Did it help? 
  • How did you feel afterwards?
  • What else is on your mind? Is there something making you feel worried, scared or alone?

Talk it out

It helps to talk about how you're feeling. You could try saying:

  • "I've been feeling really wound up recently and I'm starting to think something might be wrong. Can I talk to you about it?"
  • "I want to talk to you about something that's been bothering me."

Get help now

Here are some organisations and helpline services who can support you with what you're going through right now.