Anger Management

Top 3 Causes of Anger

I am Ryan Fuller. I am a clinical psychologist. I have done anger research and I treat a lot of angry clients in New York City. I’ll talk to you a little bit about the top causes of anger. So oftentimes when we’re talking about the causes of anger, we refer to them as anger triggers. And frequently, triggers are the external events, usually other people that, in fact, precede an anger episode.

So usually this revolves around a perceived injustice, or a violation of our standard, or when we have a particular goal that is being blocked by another person. Now, what’s quite interesting about the people who, in fact, end up angering us, is that most likely they’re the people that are closest to us. So oftentimes, I think when we imagine anger scenarios, we’re really thinking about the stranger on the street, some anonymous person. But really, it’s our closest loved ones that seem to cause the highest frequencies and intensities of anger. It probably has to do with the fact that we probably have to spend more time with them, but also it has to do with the cognitive component of anger. We have a tendency to expect more from our loved ones. So our expectations might be really unrealistic as to the kind of behavior they’re going to give us. The other issues is, there is a high value placed on those relationships. And so it’s easy for us to become angry in response to being hurt by someone we really care about. And so, the first type of triggers are those external ones, and that’s oftentimes people’s behavior but one of the things that sets up the tendency to become angry is our pre-state. So this biophysical, sort of the background context for anger are things like being overly tired, possibly having low blood sugar, being immune-compromised.

Even things as simple as high temperatures or low temperatures, or being in physical pain lowers our threshold to become angry and aggressive. And so we have this combination of the biophysical factors setting the stage and then these perceived violations of our standards or these threats to our ego or status or something like that. So those are really the two kinds of triggers we want to pay most attention to.