Anger is a normal emotion that everyone experiences from time to time. Anger becomes problematic when it manifests in destructive or self-harming ways. The final determination as to whether you need medication for anger should be made by a psychiatrist, or at the very least, your general practitioner; however, there are some early warning signs that you can detect on your own that may indicate that you need to have an evaluation for anger issues by a professional.
Be aware of your behavior. Watch for explosive, uncontrollable anger episodes that occur without provocation. Signs of an anger problem that requires medication can include attacking others or possessions without warrant and having extreme fits of rage. This can be a symptom of Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED), which the National Institute of Mental Health outlines as a mental disorder characterized by at least three episodes of impulsive aggressiveness and a complete loss of control, involving the attempt to hit someone or the threat to hit or injure someone. Having explosive anger does not necessarily mean that you will meet the criteria for IED, but it does indicate that you may have a problem that potentially requires professional intervention or medication.
Notice hostile behavior. Pay attention to how often you exhibit hostile behavior toward others or things. Hostile behavior on a consistent basis can be a sign that your anger is out of control and may require medication or counseling for anger management. Yelling at others with the intention to provoke, throwing temper tantrums when you don't get your way or kicking the dog when you have a bad day are all signs of inappropriate anger. Dr. George Kelly, a pre-eminent psychologist, describes hostility as stemming from not accepting unchangeable aspects of reality. If you identify with this statement, you may benefit from medication and/or anger management counseling on a regular basis.
Observe your reactions. Notice how difficult it is for you to not overreact in situations that generally push your buttons. Losing control or becoming hot-headed in situations with your spouse or children or at work, which might aggravate the average person but which cause you to fly off the handle, can indicate that you have some anger issues. Ask trusted loved ones, during a calm moment, if they notice whether you have problems with anger. It can be very helpful to have input from others with whom you regularly interact to provide a more objective viewpoint. If you find that people are afraid to tell you their opinion or if they indicate that they think you may have an anger problem, you might want to consider getting a nonbiased opinion from a therapist or counselor, who may then refer you for an anger management evaluation with a psychiatrist.
- "You Can Choose to Be Happy: Rise Above Anxiety, Anger and Depression"; Tom Stevens, Ph.D.; 1998