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Anger Warning Signs

Updated: Jul 14, 2021

In hindsight, there are several things you could've ignored. But, still, for whatever reason, you couldn't, like that time when your friend owed you one hundred dollars and the deadline to repay the loan passed. Yet you both are at the mall, and he is paying cash for a two hundred dollar pair of sneakers. Or that time when you were angry and the person you were mad at asked, "what do you want me to do?" But you knew the person was patronizing.

Anger is not necessarily a negative emotion. In some situations, it's justified, significantly, if you feel your safety is compromised or if someone is trying to take advantage of you. Although they are those who would argue it's poor self-regulation when you express your anger. Anger has to be viewed in the context in which it occurred. What provoked the angry feelings and the underlying emotions (shame, guilt, fear, disgust, … sadness).

But who gets to determine what is a reasonable response to an anger-provoking situation?

You probably contemplated and employed a measured response, but the other person ignored you. As a result, you have a choice in the way you respond or react to the anger-provoking situation. Equally crucial is your awareness of the triggers and warning signs for your anger. Once you discover your triggers and warning signs, you can exercise your choice in the way you respond.

Your anger was triggered after seeing your friend who owed you money spent cash on a pair of sneakers. Your warning signs before getting frustrated may fall in one of four categories, also referred to as cues to anger. The four categories are:

Behavioral Cues

  • Pacing back and forth

  • Sighing loudly

  • muffled growl

  • Breaking valuables

  • Raising your voice (angry tone)

  • Clenching your fists

  • Slamming doors

  • Yelling and screaming

Cognitive Cues

  • Hostile self-talk

  • Thinking of revenge

  • Thoughts of perpetrating violent acts

  • Images of aggression

  • Thoughts of getting and using a weapon

  • ruminating about the angry-provoking situation

Emotional Cues

  • Fear

  • Being taken for granted

  • Feeling threatened

  • Embarrassment

  • Defensiveness

  • Jealousy

  • Disrespect

  • Shame

  • Guilt

Physical Cues

  • Increased heart rate

  • Shaking from a rush of adrenaline

  • Sweating

  • Tightness in the chest

  • Feeling hot or flushed

Which one of the cue categories do you experience that signals you are getting angry? Although the anger cues are not experienced in any order, you may primarily experience warning signs from one category. On the other hand, you may experience warning signs from all categories.

After an episode of anger, there is the opportunity to take inventory:

  • Describe the anger-provoking situation based on facts and not feelings.

  • What did you say to the other person?

  • What was the person's response?

  • What were your thoughts?

  • What did you do as your anger was escalating?

  • What were/are your feelings about what transpired?

  • What could you have done differently?

Anger and what to do about it may seem contradictory to us, and it may be foolhardy to argue against that point. However, suppressing anger is unhealthy, and wantonly expressing anger is harmful.

N. B. The contents of this blog post are not prescriptive. The intent is to share information.

Stay Naturally Curious


Potter-Efron, R. (2001). Stop the anger now. A workbook for the prevention, containment, and resolution of anger. New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

Reilly P. M., & Shopshire M. S. (2002). Anger management for substance abuse and mental health clients: A Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Manual. DHHS Pub. No. (SMA) 02-3661.

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