Warning Signs of Anger

Knowing your anger signs can help you to notice and interrupt it sooner

You might notice changes in your body when you get angry – this is normal, and in fact can be helpful, as these changes provide useful cues for better regulating our anger responses.

“When I start to feel tension in my hands and my face gets hot- that’s when I know I need to take a step back. I can even see it when I look in the mirror. It’s crazy how long it took my to realise my body was literally screaming at me to do something before it explodes”
– Jake, 31

Anger can trigger the body’s fight or flight response, an automatic biological reaction we have in response to situations we perceive as threatening. This reaction involves the adrenal glands flooding the body with hormones, like adrenaline, which quickly affects many other parts of our body (muscles, heart, and lungs). This causes various physical sensations, and makes us ‘ready’ to face danger – all in a matter of seconds.

We can use these physical sensations as warning signs that remind us to pause, reflect, and respond appropriately/adaptively rather than acting out.

These warning signs include:

  • Breathing faster, or more shallowly
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Feeling like your heart is pounding or your chest is tight
  • Feeling sweaty or flushed
  • Clenching your hands or jaw
  • Feeling physically agitated
    • Your muscles or hands are trembling
    • You need to pace/walk around
    • You’re carrying tension in your shoulders, neck, or head
  • Having trouble concentrating or having racing thoughts
  • Feeling like there are knots in your stomach

It can take some practice to notice our warning signs, but once we do, we can get better at stopping ourselves before we lose control and do something we may later regret.

Part 2. Our Anger: Warning Signs: Workbench Exercise

Think about the following common anger warning signs - which of them do you notice when you get angry?

As you go through your days, try to watch for the warning signs above to better interrupt your anger.