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Where does anger come from? And how do we manage it?

Emotions, such as anger, appear early in life and it’s important that we learn how to regulate these emotions during childhood so that they don’t become maladaptive [1].

Anger can be the consequence of many internal and external factors, for example, psychological, biological and social. Internal factors can include a lack of problem-solving skills, tension and anxiety. External factors can come from the environment such as loud irritating noises and bad driving from others…I’m sure we are all too familiar with the term ‘road rage’.

Unpleasant situations, such as stress, discomfort or frustration evoke a negative effect. This negative affect is then associated with ‘fight or flight’ motivation [2].

An individual’s prior experiences form associations that then provide them with cues that relate to the present situation. If they have the desire to escape then the ‘flight system’ becomes activated, leading to mostly feelings of fear. If they have the desire to attack then the ‘fight system’ is activated, with the person experiencing mostly anger [3].

Do we need anger?

The short answer is yes, it is essential for our survival. It allows us to grow, adapt and change, when dealt with effectively [4].

Anger does not have to be a negative emotion and it’s perfectly natural to feel anger everyday. It’s when anger is ignored/supressed or expressed in an unhelpful way, it can become problematic.

The many different types of anger have been condensed into eight separate categories. Some of which include ‘Chronic anger’ – an ongoing resentment towards others and life in general, however on the more positive side lies ‘Constructive anger’ – using anger to make a positive difference, becoming involved in a movement for positive change [5].

In adults, hiding feelings of anger has been linked with elevated blood pressure [6], whereas constructive use of anger has been associated with lower blood pressure and better overall health [7].

It was also found during a study on marital conflict that 79% of wives experienced conflict and reported that the expression of anger was actually positive and helpful, in regard to their relationship [8].


How should we express our anger?

Well, first of all, here’s a list of what NOT to do:

  • Blame others
  • Get violent
  • Brood over the anger and negativity
  • Don’t try and solve the problem (if applicable), just sit there and get angry about the situation


Some things that may help us dealing with this emotion are:

  • Allow yourself to feel angry, don’t be ashamed of a perfectly natural emotion


  • Try to analyse the anger and the root cause, this may be achieved by attempting to see things from someone else’s perspective. It could be that the issue is minor and is being conflated with a general dislike towards someone involved


  • Utilise the anger you have into physical activity. It’s been demonstrated that when channelling anger and frustration into exercise leads to a boost in physical performance [9]


  • Take time to cool down, walk away from the situation and take a breather, especially if you think you’ll do something you might regret


Dark Coffee’s Key Tip:

Read up on anger! We strongly recommend Anger Management by Swati Y. Bhave and Sunil Saini. They explain origins of anger in much more detail and explain there is no shame in seeking professional help for anger management.

The book can be found online, completely free as a PDF download.


This article was researched and written by the talented Dark Coffee Content Producer & Researcher, Lucy Williams!

(Including the impressive reference list, of course!)




[1] Izard, C. E. (1977). Human Emotions. New York: Plenum.


[2] Berkowitz, L. (1983). ‘The Experience of Anger as a Parallel Process in the Display of Impulsive, “Angry” Aggression’, in R. G. Geen and E. I. Donnerstein (eds). Aggression: Theoretical and Empirical Reviews, (Vol. 1). New York: Academic Press.


[3] Dollard, J., Doob, L., Miller, N., Mowrer, O. H., and Sears, R. R. (1939). Frustration and Aggression. New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press.


[4] Eastman, M., and Rozen, S. C. (1994). Taming the Dragon in Your Child. New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.


[5] Obstaz, M. (2008). ‘Eight Types of Anger’, Available online at


[6] Helmers, K. F., Baker, B., O’Kelly, B., and Tobe, S. (2000). ‘Anger Expression, Gender, and Ambulatory Blood Pressure in Mild, Unmedicated Adults with Hypertension’, Annals of Behavioural Medicine, 22: 60–64.


[7] Davidson, K., MacGregor, M. W., Stuhr, J., Dixon, K., and MacLean, D. (2000). ‘Constructive Anger: Verbal Behavior Predicts Blood Pressure in a Population Sample’, Health Psychology,19: 55–64.


[8] Jenkins, J. M., Smith, M. A., and Graham, P. (1989). ‘Coping with Parental Quarrels’, Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 28: 182–89.


[9] Rathschlag, M., & Memmert, D. (2013). The Influence of Self-Generated Emotions on Physical Performance: An Investigation of Happiness, Anger, Anxiety, and Sadness.  Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 35(2), 197-210. doi: