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ANGER

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A Happier, Healthier You

Anger is an emotion characterized by antagonism toward someone or something you feel has deliberately done you wrong. Anger can be a good thing. It can give you a way to express negative feelings, or motivate you to find solutions to problems. But excessive anger can cause problems. Increased blood pressure and other physical changes associated with anger make it difficult to think straight and harm your physical and mental health.

Anger is a normal emotion we all experience. When anger gets out of hand, it can cause problems at home and at work. There are ways you can get control of your anger, instead of letting it control you. If anger has become a problem, a psychologist can help. Learn more about the three basic strategies psychologists use to help patients bring anger under control.

  1. Relaxation. Psychologists train patients in a technique called “progressive relaxation” until they are able to relax simply by thinking of a particular word or image. Psychologists then ask patients to spend a minute or two thinking intensely about a situation that makes them excessively angry, such as other drivers going too slow. Psychologists then help patients relax. Psychologists and patients practice this sequence repeatedly. After about eight sessions, patients are typically able to relax on their own.

  2. Cognitive therapy. Often the way people think when they are angry makes situations worse. When another driver cuts you off, for instance, you might think, “You idiot! Everyone is trying to make me late today!” In cognitive therapy, psychologists help patients find alternative ways of thinking about and reacting to anger. Instead of thinking bad thoughts about the other driver, for example, you could think instead, “Whoa! That was an accident waiting to happen.”

Adapted from the Encyclopedia of Psychology (http://www.apa.org/pubs/books/4600100.aspx)

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