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“For every minute you remain angry, you give up 60 seconds of peace of mind.”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson


  • Identify types of expressions of anger

  • Examine the origins of anger and common anger triggers

  • Find out how to prevent patients from expressing anger inappropriately

  • Explore de-escalation techniques for angry patients

Anger is defined as a strong, unpleasant, and uncomfortable emotional response to an unwanted provocation resulting from injury, mistreatment, or opposition (Schiraldi & Kerr, 2002). In our stress-filled culture, anger is everywhere. Television shows, movies, and music are packed with expressions of anger. Indeed, there is so much anger in our world today, future historians may well refer to this era as the “age of anger.”

Anger is a normal human emotion. In fact, it is a self-protective survival instinct. Only when anger goes out of bounds does it become dysfunctional—sometimes destroying families, careers, and communities. Although anger cannot be eliminated from the human experience, it can be managed and controlled (Edwards & Loprinzi, 2018; Maiuro, 1987). Part of anger management is de-escalating anger—in ourselves and in others. That’s the focus of this chapter.


There are two types of expressions of anger: negative and positive. Negative expressions of anger come in various forms. One form is self-destructive anger. Examples of negative self-destructive angry behaviors include (Kassinove & Tafrate, 2002):

  • Negative self-talk—for example, “You are so stupid. No one will ever love you!”

  • Taking everything personally

  • Assuming others are upset with them instead of listening to prevent misunderstandings

  • Excessive alcohol use

  • Taking drugs

  • Reckless driving

  • Looking for fights

  • Feeling outraged for even the most minor slight.


Negative self-talk also includes self-talk meant to escalate your anger, such as, “He hurt me on purpose!” or, “I’ll get her back!” These negative expressions of anger can cause an escalation in aggression or even violence.

Another form of negative anger is uncontrolled rage—the kind that often explodes into violence. This type of out-of-control anger can result in very negative consequences, such as the following:

  • Physical harm to yourself, a loved one, or others

  • Diminished physical or mental health (Nolan et al., 2003)

  • The destruction of property (which may bring with it significant legal and financial repercussions)

  • The loss of relationships with family members or friends

  • A poor reputation

  • The loss of a career

  • The loss of social privileges

  • Jail time (Kassinove & Tafrate, 2002; Morland et al., 2010)

In contrast, positive expressions of anger are constructive. Examples of positive expressions of anger include airing grievances so they can be addressed immediately and problem-solving to address the issue that is causing the anger. Positive expressions of anger can also drive change meant to prevent people from feeling angry in the future. For example, addicts could become so angry ...

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