What are anger and irritability?
Everyone has been angry at some point and even the most patient of people can get annoyed or irritated at times. Perhaps you’ve been in heavy traffic and become upset at other drivers. Or maybe you’ve gotten mad after someone broke their word or damaged your property. Being interrupted, or just the way someone did or said something, might have gotten on your nerves. Many people become angry or irritable in situations like these.
Anger is an emotion that can range from mild annoyance to intense rage. People may become angry when they feel threatened, harmed, or powerless. Some Veterans may feel anger because of a traumatic event from past military experience, such as combat, physical or sexual abuse, injury, or the loss of a buddy from their unit. Others may experience anger because of the stress of life events such as preparing for deployment, transitioning from service, changing jobs, retirement, or because of family or work disputes.
Slightly different from anger, irritability is having a general tendency to be easily annoyed or angry. People who often feel threatened or frustrated may feel angry all the time. The strain of daily anger may cause them to be irritable with others. Constant anger and irritability can be bad for a person’s health, resulting in problems such as high blood pressure, headaches, and ulcers, to name just a few. Sometimes, irritability causes people to lash out at others, which can put a strain on personal and work relationships.
For most Veterans, anger and irritability do not interfere with day-to-day life. However, if the symptoms associated with anger and irritability are affecting your work, relationships, or activities, or they seem to be happening all the time, it could be a sign of underlying issues that need to be addressed.
If I’m experiencing anger or irritability, what can I do about it right away?
“I had a short fuse. If you looked at me the wrong way I'd basically walk up to you and say, ‘You got an issue?’”
Remember, you can’t always control situations that make you angry, but you can choose your response. Some anger management strategies include:
Taking a time out—walk away from the situation and give yourself time to calm down
Practicing tools to keep from responding with anger—take slow, deep breaths or count to 10
Breaking the cycle of anger—acknowledge your feelings and then remind yourself that it is not worth it to respond in an angry way
Maintaining a regular sleep schedule—a good night’s sleep can help you handle situations during your day
Exercising regularly—physical activity can improve your mood and help you sleep better
Talking with your family and friends about your anger and irritability can be a good first step. They may be able to provide support and help you find resources that are right for you. You can also begin letting people know about the types of situations that irritate you or make you feel angry to prevent negative situations before they occur.
Take the next step – Make the connection.
“They taught me how to deal with my anger, and when certain situations set me off, that it's better to walk away than try to deal with them at that moment.”
Every day, Veterans who served in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard connect with useful resources and effective treatments for dealing with anger and irritability. If anger and irritability are affecting your health and well-being or getting in the way of your relationships, work, or daily activities, you may want to reach out for anger management support. Consider connecting with:
Your family doctor: Ask if your doctor has experience treating Veterans or can refer you to someone who does
A mental health professional, such as a therapist
Your local VA Medical Center or Vet Center: VA specializes in the care and treatment of Veterans
A spiritual or religious advisor
Explore these resources for more information about anger and irritability in Veterans.
Learn more about the possible associations between anger and irritability and other issues such as stress and anxiety, relationship problems, posttraumatic stress, and bipolar disorder.
This website provides information, e-books, forums, and online tools for learning about and managing anger and irritability.
If you are a combat Veteran or experienced any sexual trauma during your military service, bring your DD214 to your local Vet Center and speak with a counselor or therapist—many of whom are Veterans themselves—for free, without an appointment, and regardless of your enrollment status with VA.
National Center for PTSD
This website provides information, resources, and practical advice for Veterans dealing with trauma.
VA Medical Center Facility Locator
This website will allow you to search for VA programs located near you. If you are eligible to receive care through the Veterans Health Administration, you can enroll in one of VA’s treatment programs.