Anger gets a bad rep. Feeling anger doesn’t mean you’re bad or wrong. It means you are human. Everyone on earth, no matter how tranquil or chill, has anger issues sometimes. No amount of transcendental meditation, yoga or Xanax can hold back anger forever. And getting mad isn’t something to be ashamed of. During stress, anger is appropriate. And, since it puts your body on alert and ready to act, anger can even be helpful. But anger’s bad rep didn’t come out of nowhere. And if you’re an angry person as opposed to someone who gets angry all the time, then it’s an issue that you might need some help.
Being around chronically angry people is an exhausting, heartbreaking chore. They’re miserable, volatile, and often wracked by physical discomfort stemming from their always-simmering emotions. Worst of all, angry people often deny they have anger issues until the bitter end.
If you’re asking yourself, Do I have anger issues?, well, congratulations. Asking that question can be the first step in the self-reflection you need to take to deal with your anger. But what are some other signs to keep in mind? We asked therapists and experts for signs that people have anger problems. If you recognize yourself in them, don’t get mad. Get even. By that, we mean even in the sense of equilibrium and bringing your life into balance, not revenge. Breathe. You got this.
You Constantly Judge People
Not all angry people scream all day. Some don’t even seethe. As Ryan Soave, a trauma, anxiety, & mental health therapist at Colorado addiction treatment and trauma therapy center All Points North Lodge, noted, some angry people filter their anger into less obvious but still troubling attitudes and behavior. “Anger can manifest with outward rage and screaming and yelling and throwing things,” Soave says. “It could also be kind of this inward retreat where you’re judging and really kind of righteous about everything.”
You Don’t Yell, But…
Again, anger doesn’t always look the way we expect. Brooklyn, NY clinical psychologist and therapist Nanika Coor says that people with longstanding anger problems may not scream or be outwardly hostile. They may instead be passive aggressive or have a tendency to retreat. “Some people are not explosive with their anger. Some people are withdrawing with their anger.”
You Replay Events And Assure Yourself You Were in the Right
If someone cuts you off while you pull your car into a parking lot, getting angry is fine. But if you can’t let the incident go hours or days later, it’s time to reflect.
“If someone had done something to hurt me or scare my kids, it would be perfectly fine for me to be angry and do what needed to be done,” Soave says. “But if three days later, I’m still thinking about what I should have said or what I did, it’s a sign I’m an angry person.”
Angry people treat these moments like they’re Jim Garrison watching the Zapruder film on a loop. They want to make sense out of what happened and construct a narrative where they’re the good guy who was unfairly mistreated. Often, they enlist people in the event after the fact, sharing the story to garner support of their belief that they were wronged. “I want to be right because that kind of makes sense and makes the emotion I had appropriate if I yelled and screamed and chased him down the highway,” Soave says. “Rather than being ashamed of it, I can feel justified in it. It makes sense of that emotion.
You Feel Victimized All The Time
As holler philosopher Raylan Givens says, “if you run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole. If you run into assholes all day, you’re the asshole.” People with anger problems have trouble taking that advice to heart, though. To maintain a constant state of righteous indignation, they assure themselves they’re being targeted for abuse they don’t deserve and that there’s nothing they can do to stop it. “Angry people can live like life is happening to them,” Soave says. It’s like they’re always the victim of something. It’s always the other person’s fault.”
You Can’t Handle Feeling Vulnerable
Lifelong, problematic anger doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Rage is often the public face of a secret, deep hurt. It’s deeply uncomfortable to probe the underlying issues, as they force you to reflect on your own behavior and acknowledge that you were in the wrong. People with anger problems wall themselves off from that discomfort with the anger they’re accustomed to . Unfortunately, those outbursts and attitudes drive people away and makes self-reflection more difficult, which in turn makes the problem worse. “Underneath it, they’re probably really hurting,” Soave says
You’re Over-Reliant on Coping Mechanisms
Some people with anger issues wind up using healthy outlets for stress in unhealthy ways. “If you have a bunch of stress energy in your body, you go for a run or you work out really hard,” Soave says. “It’s going to feel good because it kind of exhausts you.” But if you treat exercise like an exorcism and you need hours of nightly punishment at the gym to get the demons out, take it as a warning. “That would be a good sign that something underneath is going on,” Soave says.
You’re Constantly Sarcastic
When you exclusively communicate through snide put-downs, there can be more going on than just trying to be funny. “Sarcasm again has a place and can be funny. But if it’s like a constant state of sharp wit, that’s another pretty subtle sign or sometimes not subtle sign of anger,” Soave says. Next time you start in on the sarcastic humor, think what you’re trying to accomplish with your joke. Are you trying to elicit laughs or point out flaws? The latter can be a red flag.
You Can’t Think Rationally Under Stress
Coor says that people with anger problems often find it extremely difficult to access the logical side of their brain when they become emotional. “Once the adrenaline gets going, they just sort of are a runaway train,” Coor says. “And usually they’re not quite aware of that, either. Sometimes people are in the middle of some kind of tirade and they don’t really realize how much that can be damaging our relationship.
Small Things Bother You More Than They Should
Angry people aren’t angry from the time they wake up to when they collapse in a heap at night. As Coor notes, very few people are angry 100 percent of the time, all day long. The difference between healthy and unhealthy anger is how easily angry outbursts are to trigger. “There are people who tend to personality-wise are more irritable or more easily annoyed,” Coor says. “They have really low frustration tolerance and are easily set off.”
You Love to Criticize
Coor says that angry people often project their anger outwards by insulting and belittling people around them. Intentionally or not, this normalizes anger. “Other people end up feeling defensive and annoyed themselves. It’s sort of like putting those feelings inside another person, because nobody likes to feel criticized. Even if you tell yourself you’re being helpful. Generally, the reaction that people will have when you’re critical is defensiveness or shame. Those things are not great things to have in a relationship.”