The 8 Different Types of Anger and Their Unique Characteristics

Identifying the type of anger you experience may help you manage it better.

Updated December 2, 2022
Angry woman tearing paper at home

You feel your face getting hot. Your brows begin to furrow. Your jaw is clenched. When these signs appear, it can only mean one thing-- you're angry.

Anger is a normal human emotion. We all experience it from time to time, and there's no shame in that. However, sometimes anger can become overwhelming and impact relationships or your mental health. So what can you do to prevent it? That might depend on the type of anger you're experiencing. The more you know about your anger, the more you can monitor your emotions and be sure that they don't get the best of you. Explore the list below to learn more about the different types of anger that might be affecting your life

What Is Anger?

We all know what it feels like to be angry, but what does experiencing anger actually mean? According to the American Psychological Association (APA), anger is "an emotion characterized by tension and hostility." It's a basic human emotion that is associated with both positive and negative outcomes.

For example, some researchers believe that anger plays an important role in survival. It can give you the energy boost you need to overcome obstacles and rise to the occasion. On the other hand, anger can also lead to negative behaviors. It's often projected outward and can lead to conflict and disrupted relationships.

The behaviors of anger and aggression are often conflated. However, the two are distinctly different. While aggression includes the intent or desire to harm someone or something, anger does not. A person can become angry without ever becoming aggressive, and vice versa.

Common Causes of Anger

There are different events that can make a person angry. They can be minor, such as stubbing your toe, or significant, like losing your job, or they might fall somewhere in between. In addition, people have different anger triggers. For example, a person might become angry if someone talks over them in a conversation, while a different person in that same situation might become sad instead.

The APA also notes that there are four common causes of anger. These factors can stem from both internal and external stimuli, such as:

  • Frustration: Being stuck in a long line that tests your patience and causes you to question whether you really need what you're waiting for.
  • Perceived injustice: When you've been working especially hard at your job but your company gives the promotion you believe you earned to someone else.
  • Real injury by another: Maybe somebody rear-ends your car in the parking lot or makes an offensive comment.
  • Imagined injury by another: When you believe that somebody cut you off in traffic intentionally, even if there's no proof that the other person had that intent.

These categories are broad and meant to encompass various situations that might cause anger. When you notice that you're upset, take some time to check in. Can you place the cause of your anger into one of these categories? When you know the root cause of your anger, it can increase your understanding and help you make a plan to move forward.

Different Types of Anger

Psychologists don't separate anger into different types or categories. Narrowing anger down to specific causes would make the subject difficult to study in research environments. Instead, anger is typically studied as a whole and its effects are measured.

However, many people separate anger into different categories based on the root cause and the behaviors that are provoked. Although these types of anger aren't science-based, they might give you a better understanding of how anger is influencing you.

Passive-Aggressive Anger

We have all experienced passive-aggressive behavior at one point or another, whether we were on the giving or receiving end of it. When a person displays passive-aggressive anger, they might behave in a way that seems casual or even helpful, but they have unconscious or conscious motives to cause upset.

For instance, imagine that your partner shows up late to a date. When they finally arrive, you hug them, accept their apology, and sit down to have a nice dinner. However, when they ask you about your day, you might say, "It was going well before I sat here alone for 20 minutes." That short response that was intended to punish your partner for being late is an example of passive-aggressive anger.

Paranoid Anger

Paranoid anger stems from a deep sense of suspicion. A person might believe that someone in their life secretly has bad intentions and should not be trusted.

For example, a person experiencing paranoid anger might become upset if the person they distrust invites them to a party. They might have fears that this person intends to embarrass them once they arrive. This can make them feel defensive and like they need to keep their guard up.

Sudden Anger

Sometimes anger can feel like it just sneaks up on you. This type of anger can occur quickly and can resolve quickly, as well. When someone experiences sudden anger, they might feel intense emotions and a loss of control for a brief period of time.

For example, you might feel very upset if a restaurant no longer has the supplies to cook the meal that you wanted. However, you might experience immediate relief if a different item on the menu catches your attention or if you're offered a free dessert in compensation. These emotions can cause abrupt changes in a person's mood and behavior.

Shame-Based Anger

Anger can also stem from internal thoughts, feelings, and insecurities. When this occurs, a person might internalize their emotions, and become upset with whatever person or situation triggered them.

For example, think of a person experiencing low self-esteem. If someone says something critical about their appearance, work, or activity, they might be highly sensitive to the feedback. It can trigger deeper insecurities and reinforce negative thoughts. This can cause them to become upset and take it out on others.

Planned Anger

This type of anger is thought out in advance. It's a deliberate choice that allows someone to express their emotions and maybe even get revenge on another person.

Imagine that you asked your partner to put the laundry in the dryer before they head to work early in the morning. However, when you wake up, you notice that your jeans are still soaked. You might rehearse all of your frustrations in your head first and then wait for them to get home to release those emotions. This is an example of how anger can be planned.

Addictive Anger

People can become addicted to just about anything, including their own emotions. When a person experiences addictive anger, they can become dependent on the emotion. Eventually, this can create a cycle of unhelpful behavior.

In these instances, a person might enjoy the experience of feeling angry. Or, they might feel like they need the arguments and relationship struggles that occur as a result of being angry. In fact, this pattern of behavior might even make them feel comfortable because they are so used to it.

Habitual Anger

Some people experience anger more frequently than others. There are many factors that can contribute to this type of anger, such as a person's stress levels, work environment, and social connections.

When someone experiences habitual anger, they are in a constant pattern of being upset. You might notice that even small things seem to make them upset, or that they frequently pick fights.

Moral Anger

People who experience moral anger often believe that someone else has done wrong. This can be in a religious or spiritual sense, or even in the way that the person views society.

For example, you might experience moral anger if you notice a person cheating on a test. You might become angry because you believe that cheating is wrong and violates your moral code.

Knowing Your Type of Anger Helps

All of these scenarios can be resolved with careful strategies or maybe even with expert help. The next time you find yourself feeling angry, try to discover which type of anger you're experiencing. It might help you uncover which coping strategies will be best for you in the moment. When anger arises, try not to be too hard on yourself. It's okay to experience emotions, just try your best to take a deep breath, listen to your needs, and make a plan to take care of your well-being.

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The 8 Different Types of Anger and Their Unique Characteristics