Veterans on Managing Anger
March 24, 2022 | 2-minute read
When Gus served as a U.S. Army infantryman, he found that anger was not only accepted but could be channeled in ways that could make for a better Soldier. But after transitioning out of the military, he realized his anger was coming out in “real unhealthy ways.”
“I didn’t have my emotions under control, I didn’t have my anger under control, and it was damaging — not only to other people but to myself,” Gus says. “I didn’t want to live like that.”
Wes, who served in the U.S. Army and National Guard, had a similar experience.
“When I got back to the States, I had a lot of anger management problems. I was very volatile, very confrontational,” he recalls.
After transitioning out of military service, many Veterans like Gus and Wes have a tough time reining in their anger, and it can start spilling into ordinary situations.
Because everyone experiences some degree of anger, from being mildly annoyed to feeling intense rage, it’s not always easy to know if or when to seek professional help. You may consider taking an online self-assessment or exploring self-help programs like AIMS, VA’s Anger and Irritability Management Skills course for Veterans and Service members. But if anger starts affecting your work, relationships, or activities, or if you’re feeling short-tempered, impatient, irritable, or frustrated more often than you usually do, speak with your provider.
Anger that disrupts your life may point to an underlying mental health issue that needs to be addressed, such as depression, anxiety disorder, or PTSD. Frequent or prolonged anger and irritability can contribute to high blood pressure, headaches, and stomach ulcers.
Kelly, a U.S. Marine Corps Veteran, found help at VA when she realized that anger had taken over her life. When she couldn’t control something, she reacted with anger: “That's how I dealt with my feelings.”
Hodari, a National Guardsman, took an important step after noticing an uptick in his anger and frustrations. “I just woke up one day and said, ‘You know what? If I really want to overcome all this, let me accept that I have this,’” Hodari says.
While there are many approaches to managing anger, both Kelly and Hodari found group therapy with their fellow Veterans to be particularly helpful.
Kelly says joining a group of women Veterans for therapy “turned out to be the best decision that I had ever made.” She says the women’s commitment to improving themselves and their lives pushed her to want to be a better person, which, for Kelly, has meant getting control over her anger. Hodari’s group made him feel safe in talking about his life and hardships, and that allowed him to work through his anger in a healthy way.
As Gus explains, “You can do everything you do without anger. If you’re feeling angry, if you’re feeling overwhelmed with your emotions, go to a Vet Center. Talk to somebody, because it’s so helpful. And it’ll completely change your life for the better.”