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Anger and Irritability

Learn more about anger and irritability, treatment options, self-help tools, and resources to help you recover.

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 his or her word or damaged your personal 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 be more likely to feel anger in everyday situations 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 such life events as preparing for deployment, transitioning from service, changing jobs, retiring from work, or because of family or job dispute.

Slightly different from anger, irritability is having a general tendency to be easily frustrated or impatient. Sometimes, irritability causes people to lash out at others, which can put a strain on personal and work relationships.

Constant anger and irritability can be bad for a person’s health, resulting in problems such as high blood pressure, headaches, ulcers, and other conditions. 

For most Veterans, anger and irritability do not interfere with day-to-day life. However, if the signs and 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?

Remember, you can’t always control situations that make you angry, but you can choose your response. Some anger management strategies include:

  • Taking a timeout. Walk away from the situation and give yourself time to calm down.
  • Adopting relaxation methods to avoid an angry response. Take slow, deep breaths or count to 10.
  • Breaking the cycle of anger. Acknowledge your feelings and then remind yourself that responding in an angry way may make the situation worse or result in negative consequences for you or someone you care about.
  • 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 to connect with care.

Every day, Veterans from all military service branches and eras connect with proven resources and effective treatment for dealing with anger and irritability. Here’s how to take the next step: the one that’s right for you.

New to VA? Apply for health care benefits.

Already enrolled in VA and interested in mental health support? Schedule a mental health appointment.

  • If you’re already enrolled and using VA health care, the fastest way to schedule VA appointments is to call the VA facility where you want to receive care.
  • With VA Appointments tools, you can schedule some VA health care appointments online, view details about upcoming appointments, and organize your health care calendar.
  • If you’re not using VA medical services, contact your nearest VA medical center or Vet Center to talk about your needs.

What about other options at VA? VA offers a variety of tools and resources.  

  • The Veteran Training online self-help portal for overcoming everyday challenges includes modules on managing anger, developing parenting and problem-solving skills, and more.
  • Mental health apps for Veterans cover a variety of topics, ranging from PTSD to anger management to quitting smoking.
  • VA TeleMental Health connects you with a VA mental health provider through a computer or mobile device in your home or at your nearest VA health facility. You can learn more about this option from your local VA medical center.
  • Vet Centers provide support, counseling, and readjustment services for Veterans and active duty service members (including members of the National Guard and Reserve) who have served on active military duty in any combat theater or area of hostility or have experienced a military sexual trauma. Find a Vet Center near you or call 1-877-WAR-VETS (1-877-927-8387) to talk with a fellow combat Veteran about your experiences, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

What about support beyond VA?

There’s a whole community of support ready to help with whatever you’re going through. Use this tool to find resources near you. Explore these resources for more information about Veterans experiencing anger and irritability.

Explore these resources for more information about chronic pain in Veterans.

Learn more about what you can do if you are experiencing specific concerns related to chronic pain, such as depression, posttraumatic stress, and alcohol or drug problems.