Home Psychology Toxic Anger Part 1

Toxic Anger Part 1

by Dr. Barry Lord, Psy.D

Anger is a feeling that makes your mouth faster than your mind.

Definition of Anger

In essence, anger is a subjective feeling often tied to supposed offense and a tendency to counter or redress that wrongdoing in ways that may range from “resistance to retaliation” (Fernandez, 2013).

Similar to sorrow and dread, the emotions of anger can take the form of dread, mood, or temperament” (Fernandez & Kerns, 2008).

The feeling of anger is an emotional component of an instinctive physiological reaction It is also an inner signal that something may be wrong” (Fernandez & Kerns, 2008).

Healthy ways to express anger

Healthy anger is a perfectly normal emotion when it is expressed appropriately for the circumstances. It can enable communication and understanding in a relationship. However, it can be quite the opposite when a person is on the receiving end of someone else’s out of control anger. This can be a very distressing experience that shuts down healthy communication.

Essential to every healthy relationship is a component of trust. When people don’t trust your emotional responses and feel they are always walking around on eggshells in your presence, they will change their behavior as a way to prevent triggering your anger.

People will stop honest communication and will just not tell you things that will upset you. This results in a loss of authenticity in the relationship. In other words, the relationship becomes artificial. The relationship isn’t what it may seem on the surface.

The angry person thinks everything is just okay, the people around him/her see it differently. When you lose genuineness, the value of your relationship declines significantly and you are more likely to be blindsided by the choices that other people make concerning you. (Vilhauer, 2017)

Healthy anger is:

  • Focused on problems, not people.
  • Not arbitrary, rather it has a reason.
  • Aware of how that anger might affect others.
  • Sensitive to a clear and existing need.
  • An essential device that healthy people use to adapt socially and even survive.
  • Something that can serve as an effective function to reach a person’s goals.
  • Sometimes righteous, if it’s sought after and stated in a healthy way.

Anger can even aid folks to think resolutely and is focused on a goal. However, anger becomes dysfunctional when it works against our best interests or our core values.

Reactive or impulsive anger

  • Our inner voice may be telling us to watch out, or to assert ourselves, or even to protect others.
  • For example, we may get angry or express anger if we see someone harming a defenseless child, elder person or animal.
  • Reactive or impulsive anger may also help us during these times to do the right thing automatically.
  • Unfortunately, it usually doesn’t. It often just hurts others and gets us in trouble. It could be that we get into trouble because we haven’t thought things through.

The ability to appropriately redirect our anger is a healthy learned behavior

Channeled anger is an emotion that been redirected from its original source into socially acceptable forms of expression, such as aggressive sports, political blogging, or even chopping wood.

What does an anger control problem look like?

People with problems managing their anger are often the last ones to know how toxic and damaging their anger can be to others around them. When you don’t control your own toxic emotions, the other people around you begin to manage or manipulate you in a struggle to control your emotions for you. (Vilhauer, 2017)

An anger control problem might look like repressed anger — This is when you express anger indirectly or go to great lengths to sublimate it. This is often associated with eventual heart disease according to medical research. Studies have found that people who are prone to anger and develop angry personality characteristics, were 200% more likely to develop coronary heart disease than others who were not characteristically angry. To protect your heart, identify and address your feelings before you lose control.

“Constructive anger is where you speak directly to the person with whom you are angry and deal with the frustration in a problem-solving manner. It is directed at the problem, and according to research, is not associated with heart disease.” Constructive anger is actually a very normal, healthy emotion, according to researchers (Strong. 2018).

Anger control problems, anger disorders, and anger management problems refer to dysfunctional patterns in the way we handle or use anger. “Dysfunctional anger” does not help us to do the right thing. Dysfunctional anger can be destructive, out of proportion, and inappropriate to the circumstances. Often, it is unnecessary and harmful to others. An anger management problem also arises when we get angry too often, even if we only upset ourselves.

Just having angry feelings and aggressive behaviors do not necessarily indicate an angry control problem.

However, there is a problem if anger is too intense or powerful, lasts too long, or occurs too often, or is inappropriate for the circumstances.

When a pattern of anger or aggressive behavior interferes with our lives or harms others, we are dealing with an anger disorder or an anger management problem.


Bible, New International Version. (2018)Retrieved March 19, 2019. From www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=James+1:19-20&version

Fader, Sarah. (December 5, 2018). What to do when you have anger issues. Retrieved from https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/anger/what-to-do-when-you-have-anger-issues/

Fernandez, Ephrem. (November 20, 2018). What is “toxic” about anger? OUP Blog. Retrieved March 4, 2019. From https://blog.oup.com/2018/11/toxic-about-anger/

Fraum, Robert M. Ph.D. (n.d.). Do you have difficulties coping with anger? Retrieved from March 4, 2019 from https://www.angermanagementnyc.com/types-of-anger

Mayo Clinic Staff. (September 19, 2018). Intermittent explosive disorder. Retrieved n 3/14/2019 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/intermittent-explosive-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20373921

Lyness, D’Arcy, Ph.D. (2019). Dealing with anger. Kid’s Health. Retrieved 3/15/2019 from https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/deal-with-anger.html

Strong, Debbie. (May 29, 2018).7 ways anger is ruining your health Retrieved March 11 2019 from https://www.everydayhealth.com/news/ways-anger-ruining-your-health/

Vilhauer, Jennice, Ph.D. (June 11, 2017) Do you have toxic anger issues and not know it? Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/living-forward/201706/do-you-have-toxic-anger-issues-and-not-know-it

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AffiliateLabz February 15, 2020 - 7:22 pm

Great content! Super high-quality! Keep it up! 🙂

Dr. Barry Lord, Psy.D May 31, 2020 - 6:33 pm

Thank you.
Dr. Lord

Dr. Barry Lord, Psy.D May 31, 2020 - 6:38 pm

Thank you for your comment.
I just added a new article on the “Absent Father”
Dr. Lord


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