Identifying a problem

‘Diagnosing’ young people with an ‘anger problem’ is all too common and often not necessarily the best way of understanding of what is happening for them.  Whilst they may be getting angry a lot, there may be other things contributing to this such as substance use, mental health or other factors.  For some, however, anger is the problem.  These young people may in fact become dependent on anger as the main way to communicate or express themselves and their needs. 

Signs that anger is the problem:

  • Verbal, emotional, physical or psychological abuse associated with feeling angry
  • Feeling angry a lot of the time
  • Anger lasts for a long time - often well after the event that triggered these feelings has passed.
  • Anger is impacting negatively on relationships
  • The young person thinks they have to get angry to get what they want
  • Anger affects other situations not related to the original event
  • The young person uses alcohol or other drugs specifically to manage their anger
  • When the young person uses aggression as a way of frightening people to get what they want
  • The young person is getting depressed or anxious about their anger

These young people may end up harming themselves or someone else; experience significant negative impacts on their relationships, mental and physical health and possibly end up with legal consequences.  Supporting them to understand their anger and strategies to find more effective ways to manage it will be crucial.

What is Anger Management?

Anger management doesn’t mean ignoring what you’re feeling and waiting for the feelings to pass.  Young people can sometimes feel like they are at mercy of an unpredictable and powerful emotion.  Allowing them to gain even the smallest amount of insight or control over this emotion can be very empowering and provide them with a sense of self-efficacy and improved self-esteem.  Effective anger management can enable young people to recognise and accept their anger and have more control over what they do about it.

While sometimes a young person will need professional assistance, there are lots of things you can do as a carer to support a young person who struggles to deal with anger in a constructive way. Within a residential setting carers often have the advantage of directly observing young people day-to-day.  They are able to notice what happens for the young person when they experience anger and are also there at the prime time for reflection, to provide clear, predictable and respectful feedback as soon as these behaviours are observed.  Have a look at these aspects of anger management and see the influential role you can play.

Further Resources