Anger Management Classes: Do they Really Work?

August 17, 2021

How much energy does your anger sap from you daily? If you haven’t already noticed, anger is an exhausting emotion. It forces you to cycle from angry outbursts through a draining emotional recovery. You’ll have little room left for the positive parts of your life. If you are tired of constantly battling the world, it may be time to consider anger management classes.

Why do you need classes to manage your aggressive outbursts? Truth be told, anger management isn’t something we are taught in elementary school or even in college. It’s a heightened emotional intelligence and one which doesn’t always come naturally. Bad habits gleaned from our families, or our social circles tend to stick with us and impact us in ways we might not fully understand.

For example, did you know there are very real emotional, mental, and physical repercussions to spending so much time simmering in anger? Not to mention the effects it can have on our close relationships, academic performance, or career trajectory. 

Anger management may pique your interest, but you’ve got reservations. There is sometimes a stigma around the image we hold of anger management classes, but it’s worth re-envisioning anger management as a tool of self-improvement – and here is how.

What is Anger Management?

A multi-exposure of an emotional woman with anger and rage.

It’s not therapy. Anger management is more accurately described as a class. It’s been called a “psychoeducational” approach to controlling and reducing angry emotional outbursts. Instead of a patient-therapist relationship, anger management often looks like a student-teacher or student-coach interaction. It’s a coach who provides an education and the tools to use that education.

Of course, therapists may also play a role in developing anger management skills. They can help diagnose underlying mental health issues or work through triggers. However, most anger management classes look much different than what you’d expect from conventional therapy.

Anger management is all about skill development, building emotional intelligence, and approaching the world from new perspectives. What is the underlying basis for these angry, emotionally explosive episodes you’ve experienced? Are their other ways to manage the situation instead of relying on anger to get your message across? Anger management is, at its core, a process of developing self-understanding, which leads to personal growth. 

Are Anger Management Classes Effective?

Most scientific literature suggests that anger management is a useful tool for reducing ‘dysfunctional’ emotional responses. According to a systematic review, published in 2015, “Overall, anger management appeared to be effective in reducing the risk of recidivism, especially violent recidivism.” 

There is also quite a bit of analysis of the success of anger management classes within specific demographics, such as for high school students, high-risk offenders, and in cases of domestic abuse. Success varies between the demographics, depending on how that success is measured. In most studies, anger management leads to moderate behavioral changes even months after the class wraps up. Spouses and family members of participants also tend to report improvements following their attendance. 

An earlier 2006 study found that there were measurable improvements in anger and aggression from people who had participated in anger management classes compared to those who had not. The authors of this study also found measurable improvements between pre-class to post-classes anger scores. As per the analysis, anger management classes produced, “reductions in the affect of anger, reductions in aggressive behaviors, and increases in positive behaviors.”

If there are other mental health concerns, alongside issues of anger management, it may be helpful to seek treatment for these other issues. Anger is often only the most visible sign of a deeper problem. 

Anger, aggression, and irritability are common symptoms of many mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and more. The identification of the root causes behind dysfunctional emotional responses and the treatment of these issues can help improve the outcomes of anger management. 

What Does a Typically Anger Management Class Look Like?

Anger management classes are almost always conducted within a group setting. Likely, you’ll find yourself in a gender-specific group, like a men’s or women’s only anger management class. The judiciary system or social services may also require anger management classes as part of probation, criminal sentence, or other court-mandated programs. 

A typical class will consist of learning, sharing, and role-playing. The coach (or group leader) will first help attendees develop a broader understanding of anger as an emotional response. This includes learning the correct definition, root causes, as well as the mental, physical, and psychological impacts anger can have on your life.

For example, you may learn that anger is technically half of the fight or flight response. Over the long term, it can impact your relationships, career prospects, and mental health. The angrier we become, the more we feel isolated. More profound isolation may spiral into more considerable anger and feelings of rejection. Anger often becomes a vicious cycle, which is why it’s so important to understand it. Understanding the mechanism of anger is one of the first steps to managing it. 

You’ll very likely also be asked to share some of your experiences. This may include a recent outburst or an event that escalated out of control. These personal stories help contextualize the impacts of anger within your own life. By sharing personal stories and hearing those shared by others, the hope is that you’ll understand the triggers, root causes, and impacts of anger.

Finally, and why the group setting is so important, you’ll probably participate in role-playing activities. These activities take your new anger management skills and apply them to imagined scenarios. Before bringing your new techniques into the real world, you have the space to practice them within a safe setting. Practicing new approaches to familiar situations helps develop better anger management outside of the class.

Should You Go to Anger Management Classes?

Many of you reading this may feel like there is a stigma attached to anger management classes these days. After all, they are often doled out as punishment within the criminal justice system, or used as a tool within social services.

This mandatory assignment and use within corrections services have given anger management classes a bad name. It can make it challenging to overcome this stigma in a bid to address your own aggressive, emotional responses. 

The stigma surrounding anger management is an inaccurate and unfounded one. It is often part of social interventions, but this is because it has a high rate of success. It is such a successful option for reducing aggression, violence, and domestic abuse, it’s often given away for free through local organizations. 

From high-level executives to stay at home parents to highschool students – people from all walks of life benefit from developing a more profound emotional intelligence. It doesn’t matter your demographic – you can use anger management classes as a stepping stone to better relationships, career success, and family life.

If you’ve ever wondered if you could benefit from anger management classes – ask yourself how much time you waste every day feeling angry at those around you. Yes, everyone has bad days, but do you often feel like every day is hard? 

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