Anger and ACT

What is anger?

Anger is a complex and powerful emotion that is experienced by individuals in response to a range of triggering events or situations. It is a normal and natural emotion that can serve as a useful signal, motivating individuals to take action and protect themselves or their values. However, when anger becomes excessive, uncontrollable, or negatively impacts one’s well-being and relationships, it may require additional help and intervention.

Anger can manifest in various ways, such as irritability, frustration, rage, or resentment. It is often accompanied by physiological changes, including increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and tensed muscles. Anger can arise from a variety of sources, such as perceived injustices, unmet needs, or personal frustrations. It can also be triggered by external factors like conflicts, criticism, or stressful situations.

When does anger need intervention?

While anger itself is not inherently problematic, it can become concerning when it is frequent, intense, or prolonged. When anger starts to interfere with daily functioning, relationships, or overall quality of life, seeking additional help may be beneficial. Here are some signs that indicate the need for assistance with anger management:

  • Regular loss of control: If a person finds themselves frequently losing control over their anger, engaging in aggressive behaviour, or experiencing violent outbursts, it is a clear indicator that additional help is necessary. This may involve seeking guidance from a mental health professional who can provide strategies and techniques for managing anger more effectively.
  • Relationship problems: When anger contributes to chronic conflicts within relationships, causing distress, fear, or harm to oneself or others, it is essential to seek assistance. Relationship counselling or anger management programs can offer valuable insights and tools for improving communication, resolving conflicts, and fostering healthier relationships.
  • Legal issues: If anger leads to legal problems, such as physical assault, property damage, or threats, it is crucial to seek professional intervention. Legal consequences can have long-lasting and severe impacts on personal and professional life, and addressing underlying anger issues is vital to prevent further harm.
  • Health consequences: Uncontrolled anger can have detrimental effects on physical and mental health. Chronic anger has been associated with increased risks of cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure, substance abuse, and mental health disorders. Seeking help can provide support in managing anger and mitigating these potential health risks.
  • Impaired functioning: When anger interferes with daily functioning, such as work performance, academic achievement, or social interactions, it is a clear indication that additional help is needed. Difficulty concentrating, increased absenteeism, or social isolation may be signs that anger is significantly impacting one’s ability to function effectively.
  • Emotional distress: If anger is accompanied by persistent feelings of sadness, guilt, shame, or hopelessness, it is crucial to seek assistance. These emotional states may indicate underlying issues, such as depression or unresolved trauma, which can exacerbate anger-related problems.
  • Inability to self-manage: If attempts to manage anger independently are ineffective, seeking professional guidance can provide valuable skills and techniques for anger management. Mental health professionals can help individuals identify triggers, develop coping strategies, enhance emotional regulation skills, and improve overall self-awareness.

It’s important to remember, seeking help for anger-related issues is not a sign of weakness but rather a proactive step towards personal growth and well-being. Mental health professionals, such as psychologists, therapists, or counsellors, are trained to provide support and guidance in managing anger effectively. Through therapy, individuals can gain insight into the underlying causes of their anger, develop healthier coping mechanisms, and cultivate more positive and constructive ways of expressing their emotions.

Understanding how ACT therapy can be used to help people with anger issues

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can be effective in treating people with anger issues as it aims to help people accept their emotions and thoughts while committing to actions aligned with their values.

Here are some examples of how ACT can target specific anger-related problems:

  • Anger triggers: ACT therapy helps individuals identify the specific triggers that provoke their anger. This may involve exploring past experiences, situations, or interpersonal dynamics that consistently lead to anger outbursts. By gaining insight into these triggers, individuals can develop strategies to recognise and manage their anger responses more effectively.
  • Impulsive reactivity: ACT can assist individuals who struggle with impulsive and reactive anger. Through mindfulness practices, individuals learn to observe their anger-related impulses without immediately acting on them. With a greater sense of self-awareness and self-regulation, individuals can create a pause between their anger-triggering events and their responses, allowing for more thoughtful and intentional actions.
  • Rumination and grudges: Some individuals with anger issues may find themselves caught in cycles of rumination, dwelling on past grievances, or holding grudges. ACT therapy can help individuals let go of excessive rumination by practicing acceptance and defusion techniques. By detaching from repetitive negative thoughts and focusing on the present moment, individuals can reduce the intensity and duration of their anger.
  • Anger as an avoidance strategy: In some cases, holding on to anger may serve as a method to avoid other uncomfortable emotions or experiences. ACT therapy can assist individuals in exploring the underlying emotions they may be avoiding, such as sadness, fear, or vulnerability. By developing acceptance and mindfulness skills, individuals can gradually learn to tolerate and manage these emotions, reducing the need for anger as a protective response.
  • Interpersonal conflict: ACT therapy can address anger issues stemming from interpersonal conflicts. By focusing on valued relationships and open communication, individuals can learn to express their needs and boundaries assertively and engage in effective conflict resolution. ACT encourages individuals to approach conflicts with compassion, empathy, and a willingness to find mutually satisfactory solutions.
  • Emotional regulation: ACT helps individuals develop emotional regulation skills to manage anger more effectively. This may involve techniques such as deep breathing, grounding exercises, and self-soothing strategies. By practicing mindfulness and self-compassion, individuals can create a space to observe and accept their anger while choosing more adaptive responses.
  • Anger and values: ACT therapy helps individuals connect their anger issues to their core values. By exploring what truly matters to them, individuals can align their behaviour with these values. This may involve identifying values such as respect, empathy, or integrity, and actively practicing behaviours that reflect those values in anger-provoking situations.

It is important to note that ACT therapy is highly individualised and tailored to each person’s specific needs and circumstances. A skilled therapist will work collaboratively with the individual to address their unique anger issues and develop a personalised treatment plan.

For individuals:

If you need support in managing anger and would like to speak to an ACT trained therapist, please visit our therapy page for further information

For professionals:

If you would like to learn more about how ACT can support people with anger issues take a look at our upcoming live training and on-demand courses. Our blog and resources are also a great place for additional reading and insight.


Upcoming live training

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8 hours (8 CE credits)
Compassion-focused therapy for anger

Russell Kolts

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12 hours (12 CE credits)
Working with chronic pain

Kevin E Vowles, PhD

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Two 3 hour sessions (6 CE credits)
Mastering ACT

Robyn Walser

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