Anger can easily go from mild to aggressive, and when a person finds that their anger is getting out of control, anger management in the form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help. CBT is psychotherapy that is used for many different issues including anger management.

There are signs that your anger may be getting out of control such as:

  • Verbally assaulting others
  • Getting triggered by the smallest things
  • Angry outbursts becoming more frequent
  • Threatening friends and co-workers
  • Sending mean emails as a knee-jerk reaction
  • Physically assaulting others

However, your anger doesn’t have to be at this level for it to have negative effects on you. You may find yourself:

  • Spending most of your day rehashing the past and holding on to resentment
  • Getting easily frustrated while driving to and from work
  • Constantly talking negatively about your job, the people you interact with, etc.

Anger can also have an extremely negative impact on your physical health.

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In this article, you’ll read about:

  • What CBT is
  • CBT techniques for anger management
  • Different types of anger
  • The effectiveness of CBT for anger management

What is CBT?

CBT is a form of therapy that is solution-oriented. Seeing a therapist that uses CBT can help you gain self-awareness by addressing your thinking. When you look at your thinking first, you can see how it affects your emotions and influences your behavior. CBT will help you challenge negative thoughts and replace them with more positive ones.

Here’s an example of how CBT can help you challenge negative thinking:

You give regular presentations at your job. The last 2 presentations you gave you got nervous and forgot what to say. Even though 8 out of the last 10 presentations you gave were great, you focus on these 2 that didn’t go as well as you would have liked.

You get extremely angry at yourself and say, “I’m terrible at doing presentations. I always get nervous and make a fool out of myself. I should just quit my job.”

CBT can help you reframe this situation. A healthier way to think about this would be, “Even though these last 2 presentations didn’t go as well as I wanted them to, I’ve given many good ones. I’m not perfect but I will find and utilize healthy tools to be more relaxed for my next presentation.”

CBT focuses on 2 things; functional analysis and skills training.

Functional analysis is the examination of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It also focuses on your emotional triggers. Skills training teaches you coping skills that you can use in daily life.

A highly-skilled CBT therapist can give you guidance on specific matters or handling situations that are going on in your life. Oftentimes, homework assignments will be given such as keeping a daily log of your moods. This can help you to identify negative thoughts and see how your feelings and actions are influenced by these thoughts.

Replacing negative thought patterns with more positive ones doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and effort. Working with a therapist can help keep you on track.

CBT Techniques for Anger Management

There are different CBT techniques for anger management including breathing exercises, thoughts records, problem-solving, role rehearsal, healthy communication.

Breathing Exercises

Anger can cause serious physical effects such as flushing of the skin, heavy breathing, and increased heart rate. Concentrating on your breathing can help ground you in the present moment. Take a deep breath inhaling through your mouth, then exhale forcefully through your nostrils as if you were forcing yourself to sneeze. Repeats this a few times and you will start to feel the tension in your body dissipate.

You can also breathe slowly through your nostrils, holding for a couple of seconds and then exhaling slowly through your mouth. You can do these breathing exercises sitting or standing up. It’s good to have a set amount of time to do breathing exercises every day. If you find yourself getting angry in public you can take a moment to slow down your breathing, inwardly counting the breaths you take.

Muscle relaxation techniques can also help immensely. While breathing in calmly, roll your kneck and head slowly from shoulder to shoulder. Anger often creates tension in different parts of your body, especially your neck, head, and shoulders. Breathing and muscle relaxation techniques can help keep your body relaxed.

Thought Record

However, you perceive a situation that makes you angry will affect your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Learning to identify what triggers your anger is essential in CBT for anger management.

By identifying these triggers you can catch yourself when something triggers you and try to replace negative thoughts with more positive ones. Keeping a thought record is one of the essential tools of CBT. A thought record can keep track of negative thoughts you have towards yourself and other people. It will also help you keep track of anger triggers as they arise.

This awareness is key to getting the most you can out of CBT for anger management.


CBT focuses on strategies for problem-solving. Instead of ruminating on angry feelings, you can aim at a solution to a problem. This can keep you from taking your anger out on the people around you.

CBT problem solving is about trying to replace angry thoughts about a person, place, or thing with more positive ones. You can also make a pros and cons list of being angry about a specific situation. Ask yourself what the payoff is for remaining angry.

Role Rehearsal

A therapist can help you identify your triggers. It will become clear what types of situations are consistently causing you to be angry. You and the therapist will come up with a scenario that provokes your anger. Each of you will take on the roles of this scenario and act the situation out.

After each role rehearsal exercise, the therapist can give you honest feedback on how you handled the situation. They can give you advice on how you can improve how you express your anger.


Telling yourself to “get over it” is not always an effective way to deal with your anger. However, ruminating about a bad day at the office or a bad date over the weekend can just continue to fuel your anger.

Find something to distract yourself, preferably something that takes a lot of your attention making it hard for angry thoughts to come into your mind. Going to the gym can be extremely helpful. If you are at home, put on a workout video or do a guided routine on a treadmill. Distract yourself by doing something positive like deep-cleaning some rooms in your house.

One of the best ways to distract yourself is to focus on someone that you can help. Doing something nice for another person will get you out of yourself. Ruminating in anger is a form of self-centeredness.

Look into volunteering at a homeless shelter or coaching a sports team for kids. Helping other people will also help you be grateful for everything that you do have.

A CBT therapist can give you advice on many different ways to distract yourself in healthy ways.

Healthy Communication

It’s common that people who have trouble managing stuff their feelings away. If you continuously stuff your feelings, eventually they will come out with a huge explosion of anger. This can cause harmful effects on you and those around you. You may say hateful things, quit your job, fire a good employee, or even get physically violent and hurt someone.

There are ways to communicate things in a healthy manner both verbally and non-verbally. Healthy verbal communication focuses on using “I” statements.

For example:

“ When you didn’t take out the trash when you said you would, I felt unheard.”


“Yesterday when you stormed out of the house because we had a disagreement, I felt like my feelings were invalidated.”

Nonverbal communication focuses on:

  • Posture
  • Eye contact
  • The tone of your voice
  • Speech volume
  • Reflective listening

By focusing on a solution rather than the problem, you can put yourself in the other person’s shoes and validate their feelings.

Different Types of Anger

Anger is a normal emotion and sometimes it can be useful such as motivating you to solve a problem. However, unchecked this anger can cause you to react and behave in an inappropriate way. Negative outbursts can actually lead to more problems rather than solving one.

In different situations, there can be different types of anger.

Different types of anger include:

Pent-Up Anger

Pent-up anger is anger that accumulates over time because you have trouble expressing your anger. You shy away from confrontations and don’t deal with frustrating feelings. Even the idea of expressing your anger may be so uncomfortable that you do your best to avoid it.

Eventually, this anger will come out as either passive-aggressive or a complete outburst. CBT focuses on your angry thoughts about a situation and what it is that triggered them. The goal is assertive communication. A therapist may have you write down what you’re feeling angry about. This can help you to reframe any faulty beliefs you may have about the situation.

You can make good use of the role rehearsal technique by practicing how you communicate your anger. This can prepare you for the next situation you find yourself in that triggers your anger.

Self-Destructive Anger

Self-destructive anger is rooted in shame. When you get angry you feel:

  • Hopeless
  • Helpless
  • Unworthy

Self-destructive behaviors can be a result of pent-up anger. Your anger can’t be suppressed any longer and comes out in the form of:

  • Self-harm
  • Drug addiction
  • Alcoholism
  • Eating disorders
  • Contemplating or attempting suicide

You may also harm yourself by isolating yourself. Anytime a person tries to get close to you, you lash out at them so they will leave you alone. Once again CBT anger management techniques will help you identify your shame so that you can trace it back to its origins.

You can write down your feelings and try to reframe them. Self affirmations are very helpful for self-destructive anger. Stand in front of a mirror every day, look yourself in the eye, and say positive “I” statements such as:

  • I am loveable
  • I am a hard worker
  • I love my family and will express my gratitude today
  • I’m a good parent, son, daughter, etc.

This can help your self-esteem and show you that you are worthy of love and acceptance.

Volatile Anger

Volatile anger comes out as impulsively expressed anger that is easily triggered by annoyances both big and small. Volatile anger can cause a great deal of destruction. Your friends, family, and co-workers may feel like they have to constantly walk on eggshells around you. This makes it hard to have long-term and meaningful relationships.

If volatile anger is not addressed it can eventually lead to violent behavior. Volatile anger can end you up in jail or prison for a long time.

Since volatile anger can sometimes seem to come out of nowhere, it can be hard to address it in the moment. CBT anger management techniques will help you recognize the signs that indicate you are about to have a volatile outburst so that you can practice taking a step back. When you are about to have a volatile outburst you can take a deep breath and count to 10 silently to yourself.

Daily breathing exercises can be used as a preventive measure against volatile anger. A CBT mood log can come in very handy as well.

The Effectiveness of CBT for Anger Management

CBT is extremely effective for managing anger. In addition to anger management, CBT can help with:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Substance abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Gambling addiction

Since CBT focuses on identifying triggers, it will help you see what makes you angry. This can lead you to ask yourself, “Why is this making me angry?” Once you start to identify why things are making you angry, you can address them in CBT sessions. This can help you move out of an angry mindset into a more positive one. CBT for anger management is very effective and can improve your relationships, career, and even your physical health.

If you feel like you could benefit from CBT for anger management, talk to a mental health professional.

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