Is Your Angry Child Actually Anxious?

Anger has a tendency to bleed into every situation.

Your child who has trouble managing their anger at home probably has trouble managing it at school, during sports practice, with the babysitter, with their friends, etc. And often, anger gets set off by things that seem so little to us. 

Usually, though, there's something underneath that anger.

As an anxiety specialist, I first stop to consider if there's an underlying anxiety disorder, leading to these angry, at times aggressive, outbursts in children and teens. The physical components of anxiety mirror the physical components of anger, and for many kids and teens (and their parents), they confuse this anxiety with anger.

So, with a child who experiences anxiety, their poor test grade may lead to a huge angry outburst. Or missing the goal at soccer practice leads to them storming off the field. Their anxiety overruns their pre-frontal cortex, making it impossible for them to stop and think about their actions, and choose something different.

Anger management and anxiety management go hand-in-hand.

Building anxiety management skills often leads to a decrease in angry, aggressive behaviors - because it trains brains to make positive choices, and to calm down before feeling overwhelmed. Taking deep breaths throughout the day, incorporating mindfulness, or making a choice to take a break when you notice your anger/anxiety rising can all help with managing behaviors and emotions. 

And, if you're meeting with a counselor to discuss anger management strategies, consider asking them if they feel there's something else going on as well, just underneath the surface.

If you're curious about counseling, contact Kelsey at compassionatecounselingstl@gmail.com to schedule a free, 15 minute phonecall and talk about next steps. Kelsey works in St. Louis, MO and helps families in Webster Groves, Kirkwood, Brentwood, and Maplewood.