Common Causes of Anger

Common Causes of Anger

Why Am So I Angry?

We all experience anger. It’s a normal emotion, and “good” anger is meant to warn us that something is wrong.  Most people, however, view anger negatively; perhaps because we don’t like ourselves when we’re angry, and don’t like to be around others who are angry either. Although some anger is beneficial, it should never affect the quality of your life, or in extreme cases, reach the point of destroying it. Out of control anger has many possible causes, detailed below. Do any of these scenarios ring a bell with you?


Fear of looming disaster is a common cause of anger. Possible examples include fear of losing a job, relationship, reputation, money, health and freedom. Fear is usually linked to a sense of powerlessness:  Somehow everything you have tried or planned to resolve your source of fear is not working.


The feeling of powerlessness is one of frustration, experienced perhaps as the inability to change one’s behavior, or the inability to change the way someone is hurting you. Some find themselves trapped in a job, relationship, or life situation. It might be the inability to affect change professionally, politically, personally, or the inability to fix a relationship in order to stop having the same fights over the same things. This type of prolonged irresolution can develop into an anxiety condition or turn into hopelessness, which can then develop into depression, obsessive compulsiveness, paranoia or a number of other psychological conditions.

Emotional wounding

Have you been hurt, assaulted or abused emotionally, physically, sexually, spiritually? Do you have an unresolved sense of anger to men (or women) because someone of that gender hurt you? This often comes from family, but could be from someone outside the family.


Is someone else’s success, relationship, possessions, life situation, abilities, or recognition causing your negative anger?


Perhaps you’re experiencing the sense that what is right is not being recognized, and probably never will be. A sense of injustice is often related to abusive experiences where people in positions of power hurt you repeatedly. Somehow there should be some retribution, or payment or at least accountability for all the pain and damage that they have caused you; yet there is not. The sense of injustice is related to powerlessness, fear (nobody will ever recognize) and emotional wounding. Carrying a sense of injustice can lead to powerful anger.

Poor boundaries

Can’t say no, can’t make plans, can’t sit down and rest; there is always someone asking for something more, that somehow only you can provide. This is closely related to feeling powerless and overwhelmed, and if left unresolved, can lead to a real sense of hopelessness. Poor boundaries are often learned within the context of an abusive relationship. Every living organism needs to have a way to say yes to good and no to harmful. If you cannot limit what others can take, you will become depleted. The inability to limit others and/or yourself will almost always cause significant anger.

Mood altering substances and addiction

Mood-altering substances are often taken when someone does not feel very good. They may be tired, depressed, angry, filled with shame, or grief. When using a mood-altering substance becomes routine, including caffeine and nicotine, brain chemistry is affected. When the substance wears off the brain (that didn’t feel good originally), the user is left in an even greater state of depletion. From the outside, this can look like rapid (daily) mood swings, turning a nice guy into a rage monster.

Need for external approval

Do you do everything to please someone and they still disapprove? Do you have a sense of never measuring up, or not quite making it? Continually missing that performance or action that will bring approval can be profoundly frustrating and will almost always have a deeply corrosive effect on one’s self esteem. This type of cycle will always leave you filled with a sense of somehow not being worthy or good enough and when your sense of low worth or the “hamster wheel” of performance is triggered by someone’s disapproval you may experience a very strong overwhelming sense of anger.


Do you have too many responsibilities, commitments or deadlines, financial obligations, job, client or family demands, etc.? Feeling overextended can leave you exhausted, burnt out and drained. In many people’s thinking it’s a very short step to injustice, powerlessness and anger.

Feeling lost

Being confused about an important decision; not knowing what you should do, or even worse, who you are or what you want in life can create a sense of powerlessness and anger.

Chronic depression

Many of the reasons for anger discussed in this article can result in a sense of hopelessness and powerlessness, if the individual is unable to effectively resolve them. Although depression and anger are not the same thing, they can amplify and enlarge each other. Prolonged powerlessness, jealousy, a sense of injustice, the inability to measure up, the ongoing anxiety of being overwhelmed, or fear of losing something important can all lead to depression. Once the depression is in place, the anger doesn’t go away, it just continues to cycle, recycle and brew. Chronic depression increases one’s sense of powerlessness and can increase feelings of jealousy, injustice, comparison, shame, and fear of the depression getting worse or never ending. All this negativity turning over in the brain increases anger levels.


If you have suffered a moderate to significant loss recently, anger is a part of the natural adjustment process your brain goes through. In some sense, losing anything familiar will set the brain chemistry on edge. The greater the loss, the more adjustment required. More adjustment means a longer period of time to adjust with more emotional volatility. If you are grieving, you may also feel a sense of irrational bargaining, denial, sadness and depression.


Do you somehow feel defective, deficient, unworthy, insignificant, unlovable, untrustworthy? This is called shame, or a shame-based personality. It is a very painful way to live. It’s often easier to be angry than to face the truth that you feel this way. When situations arise that remind you of how you feel, you often experience anger. Anger, even intense anger, is easier to experience and it has a defensive effect of keeping you from feeling the other feelings mentioned above. Shame usually underlies or is connected with powerlessness, wounding, or the need for external approval. If you believe you should not experience a negative emotion such as anger or fear or jealousy the shame can be linked to any negative emotion. Each time you experience a negative emotion that you believe you should not experience the belief that you are somehow failing as a emotional being is reinforced. This hopeless, powerless and self condemning combination builds and maintains a powerful sense of anger.

Anger issues can be resolved

Recognizing and acknowledging the underlying cause of your anger is the first step toward resolution. Learning to accept our imperfection, our flaws — that it’s okay, it’s real, perhaps even beautiful, to be flawed is a fundamental ingredient of anger management. This self acceptance translates into peace and into better behavior and emotional control.