April 22, 2010 5:56 PM   Subscribe

I'm always angry; what to do?

I'm always on hair trigger and angry at the world. I treat the people around me poorly both at home and at work. I've tried therapy a couple of times and found it generally helpful in my life but never felt that it decreased my baseline anger level.

As far as I can remember I've been easily irritable - the constant anger has developed over the years.

I try to ask myself why I'm angry but there doesn't appear to be a clear reasons for it. Sometimes it does coincide with hormone levels or blood sugar lows, but not all the time.

I'm not physically abusive to those around me but I'll definitely hit walls or kick inanimate objects.

I'm destroying my life piece by piece with this and would like suggestions.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (36 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Talk to your GP about possible non-behavioral causes? Maybe get a neurology referral or an endocrine workup? I knew a young woman some years back who thought she was mentally ill, but turned out to have an adrenal issue that was finally corrected by some smart docs.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 6:00 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Any history of head injury?
posted by janerica at 6:05 PM on April 22, 2010

My best friend's brother was like this for many years after hitting puberty. He never hurt other people but after he put his fist through a wall one day for no particularly good reason he got himself to a doctor who put him on some medication, and now he's much more functional and mellow and kind. Everybody's different and no one type of medication or system of therapy will work for people with the same problem, but there are definitely solutions out there for you. Find a good GP who will point you to a doctor that specializes in this sort of thing, and most importantly, give whatever measures are suggested to you some time to actually work.
posted by Mizu at 6:06 PM on April 22, 2010

Have you tried mediTation? It's not just some hippy thing and can have very positive effects on your life if you stick at it. Assuming there's no physical reason...
posted by rocco at 6:10 PM on April 22, 2010

Get better therapy. Explore not just the physiological approach but also the possibility that this comes from your thoughts and expectations (CBT) or from a more deeply emotional place (some kind of depth work). Basically, start with what helps quickly but then try to address it at deeper and deeper levels.
posted by salvia at 6:12 PM on April 22, 2010

While you're working on getting to the root of your problem, don't forget to do what you can to cut down on the annoyances in your life--remove yourself from triggering places, situations, and people as much as you can.

Hard exercise is a healthy way to burn off anger as well: the next time you feel like you're about to blow, go for a long run or do a ton of Crossfit exercises till you drop.
posted by aquafortis at 6:18 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe you need an outlet of some sort for your anger? Something like kickboxing, running, dancing... it takes lots of trying to find something that will help and some people only find comfort in odd things like paying some lady in leather to beat them (or buy wife paddle and whip and ask her how she really feels about your anger issues).
posted by meepmeow at 6:20 PM on April 22, 2010

Are you getting enough exercise? Cutting out high glycemic index carbs and getting more exercise have really, really, really helped me with my hair trigger, off the charts, screaming at everyone anger. I used to almost black out from anger. That hasn't happened in weeks, the time over which the diet and exercise changes have been implemented.

You don't have to wait to start running - even just trying gentle sitting yoga or stretching or something could be a start. For me, the big change came from stuff as simple as keeping a commitment to walking my dog every day. That 1 mile a day morning walk was the first droplet that became a rainstorm of positive changes.

Biking, maybe?
posted by bunnycup at 6:36 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I second Cognitive Behavior Therapy(CBT). Give this book a try.

Ask yourself how getting angry will help the situation at all. All it does is make you feel worse and harder to think straight. Rather than getting angry, I'd suggest that you stop and try to consider what you could do to correct the situation. Easier said than done, I know, but it really does get a lot easier with practice.

Try to empathize with others as much as you can. Sometimes if I'm feeling cranky in the morning or really hungry or whatever, I'll want to get angry about every little thing a person might do that bothers me; but I stop myself when I consider that they had no intention of bothering me, and were simply going about their business.
posted by Ryogen at 6:37 PM on April 22, 2010

Our local PBS station has been airing lectures by Dr. Daniel Amen. His research and practice has led him to believe that 'mood disorders' (sorry, for lack of a better term) have a physical component. He approaches treatment by addressing physical toxins/stressors and prescribing nutritional supplements in addition to psychiatric therapy, using phamaceuticals only as a last resort when natural supplements do not yield results. Perhaps something in his works could lead you to the breakthrough you seek; best of luck.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 6:38 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

What do you do to "blow off steam?" You, know, those things that you do when you have excess energy and need to get it out?
posted by The Light Fantastic at 7:18 PM on April 22, 2010

Seconding good, vigorous, frequent exercise.

Some have had positive results from St. Johns wort, which might work for you and isn't one of the weapons-grade psychoactive medication you're leery of.

Finally, I would just like to add that I did NOT create a novelty account just to answer this question. Thankyouverymuch.
posted by AngerBoy at 7:57 PM on April 22, 2010

I get frustrated and "snippy" really easily. I've been on SSRIs for a couple of years now. I recently went off of them, thinking to save some money since we have crappy insurance. I tried to control my mood by watching my diet, getting more exercise, etc. But it just wasn't working well enough for me.

My husband doesn't have these issues, so his advice never worked: just change how you react. It's one thing to think angry thoughts about something/someone, and another to act upon those thoughts, true. But it was the hardest thing in the world for me to try to reign myself in. The best I could do was to remove myself from the situation immediately, and go stew in the bedroom for awhile, or whatever. We all know you can't always do that, though, so back to square one.

The thing about being on medication is that you don't even have those feelings to begin with. You simply don't get pissed/frustrated/upset by those things anymore, or at least not nearly as much as you used to. It is so, so, so refreshing to go through life without having stupid little stuff get to you all the time. And I don't suffer any major side effects from the drugs. Maybe it's harder to lose weight? Maybe the sex drive takes a tiny tumble? But it's not as if you feel "high" or jittery or anything else that screams "I AM ON A PRESCRIPTION DRUG!"

Based on your description of yourself, I would highly encourage you to try an SSRI. (I've taken both Welbutrin and Zoloft, and I prefer Welbutrin.) If it turns out that you don't like it or it doesn't work, you can try a different one or stop taking them. It's not as if it has to be a lifetime decision. It will take a couple of weeks for the stuff to really take effect, but you will feel SO much better when it does.
posted by wwartorff at 8:03 PM on April 22, 2010

1. Random shot in the dark: are you taking any hormonal birth control methods? I had huge problems with rage when I was on Depo Provera. It's a listed side effect.

2. If you've been in therapy before, but you haven't gotten any insight as to the source of your anger, then you need to find a different therapist. Be sure to be clear at the outset (both with yourself and your therapist) that you want to focus on The Anger Problem.

Anger is an ugly subject, and it's one we want desperately to avoid. It comes from ugly places deep inside ourselves that we don't really want to tread. But it's there, it's about something, it's blorting out all over the place where it shouldn't be, and it's causing problems in your life.

Medication can be helpful if the anger is due to a chemistry malfunction in your brain. You should be seeing someone who can evaluate whether that's the case (i.e. a PhD or MD, and not just "some person with a psych degree and a business license").
posted by ErikaB at 8:05 PM on April 22, 2010

PMDD? Have you ever tried keeping a diary recording how angry you are day-to-day to see if there's a monthly pattern? I have PMDD and anger management issues is one way it manifests itself.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:41 PM on April 22, 2010

Try quitting coffee for a while.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:02 PM on April 22, 2010

Fuck all of the above. They don't get it, the red haze, the white-hot need to do something...

This is depression. You are feeling shit about yourself, but too rational to admit that you have any reason to feel like shit, so you offload that onto other people. Other people are the cause of you feeling like shit, therefore you must take it out on them. They're too stupid, they're too insensitive, they're too whatever-it-is, and it pisses. you. right. off.

Recognize. You are enraged with yourself, unreasonably angry that you feel so terrible, and so you lash out at easy targets.

You're tough. You can take it. Pick a hard target, someone frighteningly strong, razor-sharp smart and incredibly aggressive... yourself.

Go see your doc, and ask him to recommend a therapist specializing in anger or agression issues. The therapist may recommend some medicine, or they may not... take the fucking pills. Go back to the head-shrinker every goddamn week.

The change will knock you on your ass, guaranteed.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:21 PM on April 22, 2010 [4 favorites]

As a follow up, masochists tend to be aggressive outside the bedroom, and sadists are the most mellow and easy-going people outside of their role. Dating a masochist is about the worst thing you can do with an anger issue, because the lines between fantasy and reality blur... and they really, really need to be pin-sharp. Your partner is indomitable and unyielding when you need them to be pliant, and pliant when you need them to be strong and supportive.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:38 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not strongly religious but I always find saying "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." over and over until I calm down helps. Also, sometimes finding the right word to describe what is angering me (often "injustice") helps.

I really feel for you. I am a pretty mellow person by nature, but once I had to take steriods to help with an allergic reaction. I had never contemplated strangling anyone until that week, and would have many times over if it were legal. As soon and I stopped with the steriods, back to myself immediately. It was frightening, and gave me a glimpse into the daily struggles of people with high aggression levels.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 10:06 PM on April 22, 2010

Contradictorily enough, I find regular meditation and/or yoga and visits to my local shooting range to be an excellent counterbalance to each other in terms of modulating anger. (I am generally a pretty mellow person, but I'm also the kind of person that once I cross a certain anger line, I am the living embodiment of MOTHERFUCKING GRAR.)
posted by scody at 10:11 PM on April 22, 2010

Here's an odd suggestion. Create an anonymous blog and write out your anger. Write out your thoughts. Put it all out there anonymously. As you do, you may find the weight of garbage you've kept inside lifted off of your shoulders. My blog isn't anonymous, but I've written some pretty tough stuff, and let me tell you, it helped me a lot.

And who knows? After writing it all down, you just might find that much of what bugs you day in and day out is petty, stupid and irrelevant. And maybe, when you return to read what you previously wrote, you'll learn to laugh at yourself and get over it.

Best of luck.
posted by 2oh1 at 10:13 PM on April 22, 2010

P.S. Life is too short to waste on anger. I think the fact that you posted this question is awesome. I say Good For You! It's a step in the right direction. Again, best of luck!
posted by 2oh1 at 10:14 PM on April 22, 2010

Shot in the dark- really think about these things:
posted by gjc at 2:13 AM on April 23, 2010

Ever try meditation? Buddhist or otherwise? Maybe Zen? Might drive you totally bonkers, might be perfect.
posted by sully75 at 3:23 AM on April 23, 2010

I don't usually suggest boxing as a self-management method to women, because, frankly, few women will put up with the broken noses and development of cut/scar tissue that comes with a significant boxing career, and yet...

Have you ever boxed? There is a satisfaction that comes with absorbing the physical power of others, in order to better project your own power onto them, to force them to move and think according to your physicality and will, that only boxing really provides. When you learn to slip a punch, you gain a kind of self-mastery you never had, before. When you learn to jab effectively, you have a kind of self-satisfaction you couldn't get, before, or after, any other way.

To give yourself over to a coach, and to feel your instinctive responses broken down, and new, more effective responses layed over those same muscles and nerves by a trainer who knows how boxers think and work, is pretty humbling. But, to feel yourself doing what you're muscles have learned, seemingly without you, when an opponent does something you've been trained to exploit?

posted by paulsc at 3:36 AM on April 23, 2010 [4 favorites]

A few things have really helped me:

Time limits for ranting. I get 15 minutes and after that I need to leave all those issues for when I get to work the next day. 15 minutes is enough time to get it out without winding myself back up.


Doing something engaging and fundamentally different from what's causing stress. For me, a sewing class is currently fulfilling this need. Sometimes I use playing piano or crocheting or exercise. Use your body to get out of your head. Dance! Plant a garden. Be productive with something that makes you concentrate. (I find that computer games are tempting but leave me dissatisfied.)
posted by heatherann at 5:41 AM on April 23, 2010

Something else to think about: How do you feel about your life and the way you're living it? I've always been easily irritable too, but I developed the kind of constant anger you describe during a time when I was dissatisfied with my life and didn't know how to change it. Slap*Happy nailed how I felt at that time: You are enraged with yourself, unreasonably angry that you feel so terrible, and so you lash out at easy targets.

That said, even though I've made changes in my life and am happier/less angry as a result, I still have that tendency toward irritation. Exercise definitely helps. Also, anger feeds on itself, so I try to make my morning as stress-free as possible, to set a good tone for the day.
posted by spinto at 6:56 AM on April 23, 2010

Is your anger tied to anxiety? (do you get angry at the slow drivers becaue you are anxious you wont get to work on time? do you get angry when you hear about other's sucesses because it makes you anxious about failing in life?)

If that's the case you should meet my best friend Xanax (or any other anxiety medication as worked out between yourself and your doctor). It can change your day in about 10 minutes after taking it.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:40 AM on April 23, 2010

Silly but effective: drive out away from people when there is a nice full moon and scream at it for a while.

Violent media can also be used as an outlet for anger - violent TV shows, video games, online games (try wow, be a warlock, do bgs!), violent books etc. Some people think they make it worse though.
posted by meepmeow at 9:49 AM on April 23, 2010

I think what I'm hearing here is:

I just want to say something on a meta-level here, because you've already gotten a ton of great responses and I don't think there's much outside of it that I'd suggest myself. But I have also dealt with having anger issues and feeling like I didn't know how to handle them.

What I'd like to help curtail perhaps just a little is the feeling that you may potentially have (or have already had) in three months or or a year or whatever, where you are all of a sudden supremely pissed off, feel like you don't know what is up, and feel like not only are you pissed off but you have tried new therapy and have been exercising and taking yoga classes and meditating and WHY THE FUCK IS THIS STILL NOT WORKING. And what I want to remind you of is that this is a bit like alcoholism: every day is a new struggle. Every day is different, some days are easier and some are more difficult. There may not seem to be a linear progression but overall if you are working at it that will be happening. Don't give up. Don't assume one thing is going to be the silver bullet. And don't beat yourself up for getting pissed off: more than anything, try to learn to love yourself even when you are pissed.

This (in addition to a lot of the stuff already mentioned in this thread) is what helps me. YMMV, but good luck and stick with it.
posted by dubitable at 2:15 PM on April 23, 2010

I also want to say one thing about this, which you put in your last response:

4. Focus on solving problems rather than getting pissed off by them.

It may be the case that this is the opposite of what you want to do. If you are getting irrationally angry about something, it's probably got nothing to do with the problem that ostensibly needs solving. And if you are getting rationally angry, then it's legitimate and you should feel justified in your anger. But either way, it's OKAY. In fact, by suggesting that you need to just "let go of it and solve the problem," you're implicitly suggesting that there is something invalid about you getting angry. It even sounds that way the way you've phrased it, like you're a little exasperated with yourself.

You know, seriously, you're allowed to get angry. It really is okay. Why don't you focus on--instead of "okay, I gotta chill out, figure this out...I shouldn't be angry..."--focus on the question of, "why am I angry? What is this anger about, right now, that I'm feeling?" Watch yourself. Allow yourself to be angry. BE COOL with it. Don't force it away or deny it or criticize yourself for it. Take a step back and watch it happen, watch the emotion.

Please, give this a shot. You may be surprised by what you learn and what effects come of just trying this with sincere effort.
posted by dubitable at 2:25 PM on April 23, 2010


I wonder how similar your condition is to what I've suffered. Since you say you don't have clear reasons for your anger, would you mind telling some of the more unreasonable things you've gotten angry at? I used to get extremely irritated by things like ugly architecture and such adverts on public transit that were in particularly poor taste. I don't remember ever actually acting out (even at inanimate objects) but I've definitely let such things get me into a sour mood for a good while.

I've been starting to get over this quite recently, in fact, and fairly rapidly as well. I still profoundly dislike the same things I always did, but now I usually don't get that emotional about it.

I think the primary cause of this change is that whenever I come across a source of unreasonable irritation, I have taken the habit of consciously telling myself in various ways to switch from wanting to get rid of X to knowing that I'm above X and that I can act to fix it later if I wish. 'Telling myself' takes various forms; I generally don't articulate the idea in my mind but instead use some kind of visual metaphor that connotes roughly the same thing -- absorb instead of push against.

Maybe that sounds sort of convoluted, and as long as that's the case it probably won't work for you. But it doesn't have to be.
posted by Anything at 5:03 PM on April 23, 2010

Hey - do you work at Microsoft??? If you do then leave like I did and you'll be 10000% happier (and healthier too). Not saying Microsoft is all like that, but there are many teams where it is exactly like that.
posted by meepmeow at 5:37 PM on April 23, 2010

Are you really happy with your job? Do you like where your life is going? If you're getting mad about pens (and I've been there, really I have), then I think you need to look at the bigger picture. You sound uber stressed and it sounds like you're trying to fix yourself while everything else about your life is broken.

I recommend that you take a few days off of work, sit down with yourself and figure out if you are happy with your life as it is. I'm guessing the answer is no. The anger is a reaction to your unhappiness, not the reason for it.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 6:54 PM on April 23, 2010

Yeah, coming back to reiterate getting some SSRIs. I've got the same types of issues as you (add stupid people to that list). My meds help like nothing else could. Your mind will quiet down and you will feel more like who you know you really are.

I used to say that I've got a heart of gold with spikes all over it... if you got to know me, you'd get past the spikes and find it, because I really am a nice person despite being pissy a lot of the time. The meds retract the spikes.
posted by wwartorff at 7:42 PM on April 26, 2010

You wouldn't happen to be a post-doc, would you? If so, I'm afraid there's really no help. Science in the Northeast is a very competitive environment and it's possible the constant pressure has just worn you down. I'd take a vacation and possibly look for a job somewhere else. I hear San Diego is nice this time of year ;-)
posted by Mr. Gunn at 6:54 PM on April 28, 2010

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