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Anger, Hostility, and Violent Behavior

Top of the pageCheck Your Symptoms

Anger, Hostility, and Violent Behavior

Overview

If you are angry or hostile or if you have violent behavior, it's important to find help. Your area may have help lines you can call. Or maybe you can get help through social organizations. Check online, or ask your doctor. You can learn ways to control your feelings and actions.

Anger

Anger signals your body to prepare for a fight. This reaction is often called "fight or flight." When you get angry, adrenaline and other hormones are released into the bloodstream. Then your blood pressure goes up, your heart beats faster, and you breathe faster.

Many people mistakenly believe that anger is always a bad emotion. They think that expressing anger is not okay. But anger can be a normal response to everyday events. It's the right response to any situation that is a real threat. Anger can be a positive driving force behind our actions. Anger can also be a symptom of something else. It depends on how often a person feels angry and how angry the person feels.

Hostility

Hostility is being ready for a fight all the time. Hostile people are often stubborn, impatient, hotheaded, or have an "attitude." They are often in fights. Or they may say that they feel like hitting something or someone. Hostility isolates you from other people.

Anger and constant hostility keep your blood pressure high. And they increase your chances of having another health problem, such as depression, a heart attack, or a stroke.

Teens who say they often feel angry and hostile also more often feel anxious, stressed, sad, and fatigued. They have more problems with alcohol and drug abuse, smoking, and eating disorders than teens who don't have high levels of anger.

Violent behavior

Violent behavior often starts with verbal threats or fairly minor incidents. But over time, it can involve physical harm. This behavior is very damaging, both physically and emotionally. It can include physical, verbal, or sexual abuse of an intimate partner (domestic violence), a child (child abuse), or an older adult (elder abuse).

Violence causes more injury and death in children, teens, and young adults than infectious disease, cancer, or birth defects. Murder, suicide, and violent injury are the leading causes of death in children. Violence with guns is one of the leading causes of death of children and teens in the United States.

Check Your Symptoms

Are you concerned about anger, hostility, or violent behavior in yourself or someone else?
Yes
Concerned about anger, hostility, or violent behavior
No
Concerned about anger, hostility, or violent behavior
How old are you?
Less than 12 years
Less than 12 years
12 years or older
12 years or older
Are you male or female?
Male
Male
Female
Female

The medical assessment of symptoms is based on the body parts you have.

  • If you are transgender or nonbinary, choose the sex that matches the body parts (such as ovaries, testes, prostate, breasts, penis, or vagina) you now have in the area where you are having symptoms.
  • If your symptoms aren’t related to those organs, you can choose the gender you identify with.
  • If you have some organs of both sexes, you may need to go through this triage tool twice (once as "male" and once as "female"). This will make sure that the tool asks the right questions for you.
Are you thinking seriously of committing suicide or harming someone else right now?
Yes
Thinking seriously of committing suicide or harming someone else
No
Thinking seriously of committing suicide or harming someone else
Have you been thinking about death or suicide a lot?
Yes
Frequent thoughts of death or suicide
No
Frequent thoughts of death or suicide
Does your or another person's anger or hostility cause problems with others?
These could include problems at work or school, problems with strangers, and problems with friends or family.
Yes
Anger or hostility causing problems with other people
No
Anger or hostility causing problems with other people
Are you concerned about self-harm?
It can include acts like cutting, burning, or choking yourself on purpose, or pushing objects under your skin (like pieces of metal, glass, or wood). People doing these acts usually are not trying to kill themselves, but the results can still be dangerous.
Yes
Concerns about self-harm
No
Concerns about self-harm

Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:

  • Your age. Babies and older adults tend to get sicker quicker.
  • Your overall health. If you have a condition such as diabetes, HIV, cancer, or heart disease, you may need to pay closer attention to certain symptoms and seek care sooner.
  • Medicines you take. Certain medicines, such as blood thinners (anticoagulants), medicines that suppress the immune system like steroids or chemotherapy, herbal remedies, or supplements can cause symptoms or make them worse.
  • Recent health events, such as surgery or injury. These kinds of events can cause symptoms afterwards or make them more serious.
  • Your health habits and lifestyle, such as eating and exercise habits, smoking, alcohol or drug use, sexual history, and travel.

Try Home Treatment

You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.

  • Try home treatment to relieve the symptoms.
  • Call your doctor if symptoms get worse or you have any concerns (for example, if symptoms are not getting better as you would expect). You may need care sooner.

The risk of a suicide attempt is highest if:

  • You have the means to kill yourself, such as a weapon or medicines.
  • You have set a time and place to do it.
  • You think there is no other way to solve the problem or end the pain.

Call 911 Now

Based on your answers, you need emergency care.

Call 911 or other emergency services now.

Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.

Seek Care Now

Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.

  • Call your doctor now to discuss the symptoms and arrange for care.
  • If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have one, seek care in the next hour.
  • You do not need to call an ambulance unless:
    • You cannot travel safely either by driving yourself or by having someone else drive you.
    • You are in an area where heavy traffic or other problems may slow you down.

Seek Care Today

Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.

  • Call your doctor today to discuss the symptoms and arrange for care.
  • If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have one, seek care today.
  • If it is evening, watch the symptoms and seek care in the morning.
  • If the symptoms get worse, seek care sooner.

Self-Care

If you are angry, hostile, or violent, it's important to find help. You can learn ways to control your feelings and actions.

There are some things you can do to try to control any feelings of anger or hostility and avoid violence.

  • Think before you act.

    Take time to stop and cool down when you feel yourself getting angry. Count to 10, or practice some other form of mental relaxation.

  • Know what your feelings can do.

    Recognize feelings that often lead to angry outbursts. Anger and hostility may be a symptom of unhappy feelings or depression about your job, your relationship, or other aspects of your personal life.

  • Think about why you're angry.

    Come up with a reasonable explanation of why you are angry. If a person triggers your anger, suggest to yourself that maybe the person is having a bad day.

  • Avoid anger triggers.

    Avoid situations that trigger your anger. For example, do errands at less-busy times if standing in line bothers you.

  • Express anger in a healthy way.
    • Go for a short walk or jog.
    • Draw, paint, or listen to music to release the anger.
    • Write in a daily journal.
    • Use "I" statements, not "you" statements, to discuss your anger. Say "I don't feel valued when my needs aren't being met" instead of "You make me mad when you are so inconsiderate."
  • Take care of yourself.
    • Exercise regularly.
    • Eat a balanced diet. Don't skip meals.
    • Try to get 8 hours of sleep each night.
    • Limit your use of alcohol, and don't use illegal drugs.
    • Practice a relaxation technique such as yoga, meditation, or tai chi.
  • Find where to get help.

    Explore other resources that may be available through your job or your community.

    • Contact your human resources department at work to see if you have services available through an employee assistance program.
    • Contact your local hospital, mental health facility, or health department to see what types of programs or support groups are available in your area.

Managing anger

The first step to managing anger is to be more aware of it. Note the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that you have when you get angry. Practice noticing these signs of anger when you are calm. If you are more aware of the signs of anger, you can take steps to manage it. Here are a few tips:

  • Think before you act. Take time to stop and cool down when you feel yourself getting angry. Count to 10 while you take slow, steady breaths. Practice some other form of mental relaxation.
  • Learn the feelings that lead to angry outbursts. Anger and hostility may be a symptom of unhappy feelings or depression about your job, your relationship, or other aspects of your personal life.
  • Avoid situations that trigger your anger. If standing in line bothers you, do errands at less busy times.
  • Express anger in a healthy way. You might:
    • Go for a short walk or jog.
    • Draw, paint, or listen to music to release the anger.
    • Write in a daily journal.
    • Use "I" statements, not "you" statements, to discuss your anger. Say "I don't feel valued when my needs are not being met" instead of "You make me mad when you are so inconsiderate."
  • Take care of yourself.
    • Exercise regularly.
    • Eat a balanced diet. Don't skip meals.
    • Try to get 8 hours of sleep each night.
    • Limit your use of alcohol, and don't use illegal drugs.
    • Practice yoga, meditation, or tai chi to relax.
  • Explore other resources that may be available through your job or your community.
    • Contact your human resources department at work. You might be able to get services through an employee assistance program.
    • Contact your local hospital, mental health facility, or health department. Ask what types of programs or support groups are available in your area.
  • Do not keep guns in your home. If you must have guns in your home, unload them and lock them up. Lock ammunition in a separate place. Keep guns away from children.

Getting help for anger problems

If you are angry, hostile, or have violent behavior, it is important to find help. You can learn ways to control your feelings and actions.

Use one of the following resources if you are or know of a parent or caregiver having trouble controlling angry feelings. Actions done in moments of anger can be harmful and abusive.

  • Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator. This service from the national Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration can help you find local counselors. Search online at findtreatment.samhsa.gov or call 1-800-662-HELP (4357), or TDD 1-800-487-4889.
  • Parents Anonymous. Self-help groups serving parents under stress, as well as children who have been abused, are available throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. To find a group in your area, search online or in your phone book under Parents Anonymous or call (909) 621-6184.
  • Social service departments. Many social service agencies involved with child abuse investigation also offer services to parents under stress. Agencies are listed in the phone book, usually under the state's Department of Social Services, Protective Services, Social and Rehabilitative Services, or Children and Family Services.

When to call for help during self-care

Call your doctor if feelings of anger, hostility, or violent behavior occur more often or are more severe.

Preparing For Your Appointment

Credits

Current as of: June 16, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
H. Michael O'Connor MD - Emergency Medicine
David Messenger MD - Emergency Medicine, Critical Care Medicine

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