How do people behave when they are angry?

“When someone physically threatened my daughter when she was a newborn I exploded. I got a real physical sense of something being different that I haven’t experienced before or since.”

Anger isn’t always negative. It can be a force for good. Moral outrage can drive people to campaign for change, right wrongs and enforce the rules that govern our society.

People often think of anger and aggression as the same thing, but they aren’t. Anger is an emotional state and aggression is just one of the ways that people behave when they are angry. Aggression often takes over when people act on their instinct to protect themselves or others. Alcohol can make some people act more aggressively and drug use can similarly lower our inhibitions.

People often express their anger verbally. They may:

  • shout
  • threaten
  • use dramatic words
  • bombard someone with hostile questions
  • exaggerate the impact on them of someone else’s action.

Some people who are angry get their own back indirectly by making other people feel guilty and playing on that guilt. Others develop a cynical attitude and constantly criticise everything, but never address problems constructively.

Some people internalise their anger. They may be seething inside and may physically shake, but they don’t show their anger in the way they behave when they are around other people.

People who internalise their anger may self harm when they are angry as a way of coping with intense feelings they can’t express another way. This may give temporary relief from the angry feelings, but it doesn’t solve the problems in the long-term

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