Every teen gets mad. It’s how you deal with anger that can have a huge impact on your overall happiness.
Celebrity tirades. Political rants. Public outrage. These days, everywhere you look, people are angry.
“Anger often gets a bad rap,” says Christopher Brown, a clinical social worker in Houston, Texas. “What gets us in trouble is not the feeling of anger, but the decisions we make when we are angry.”
In fact, when we are under the influence of anger, our choices and actions can be downright dangerous. For teens, out-of-control anger can result in school suspensions, physical injuries, legal troubles, and even health problems.
Anger is a normal emotion—just like joy, fear, and love. It’s natural to feel anger when someone hurts your feelings or treats you poorly. Life-changing events, such as divorce or a death, can also stir up angry emotions.
Teens can be especially quick to anger because they are often under enormous pressure, says Mary Muscari, author of Not My Kid: 21 Steps to Raising a Nonviolent Child.
“The teenage years are difficult,” Muscari says. “You are not a kid. You are not an adult. You are trying to figure out who you are and where you fit in. There is a lot to deal with. Things can make you angry a lot quicker.”
Young people often end up expressing their anger in destructive ways. When they lose their cool, teens may get into fights, mouth off to teachers, or bully classmates.
When young people are in the grips of anger, they should try to think before lashing out. “It’s important to hit the pause button,” Brown says. “Making a snap decision when we are angry will lead to regret later. After the anger has faded, a person wonders, ‘Why did I do that?’”
While some teens act out, others bottle up their anger, which is also dangerous. Not dealing with angry feelings can lead to health problems over time, including ulcers, depression, headaches, and digestive issues.
Getting a Grip
Teens can take control of their anger. First, they need to identify the feelings or situations that set them off. “For teens, there’s always a trigger—feelings of not being respected, feeling they are not good enough, feeling they are not appreciated,” says Marty Brenner, an anger-management specialist in Beverly Hills, California.
Understanding and avoiding those triggers can help you keep your cool. It is also important to be able to communicate your feelings. Instead of punching a hole in the wall, try talking it out with the person who has made you angry.
When talking isn’t an option, blow off steam by playing sports, going for a walk, or heading to the gym. Or you might write in a journal, listen to music, do yoga, read a book, or paint. The idea is to find an enjoyable activity that calms you down and releases tension in a positive way.
“Anger can be very destructive if it is not managed well,” Brown says. “But if we can learn to channel it through athletics or the arts, it can lead to some very cool things.”