People who cannot control their anger have nowhere to turn leading to family breakdown, sickness and mental health problems, a charity has warned. The Mental Health Foundation says anger is often dealt with only after someone has committed an aggressive crime.

Almost a third of 2,000 people polled said they had a friend or family member who struggled to contain their anger.

The charity is calling for more research and education into anger and earlier intervention in problem cases.


Chronic and intense anger has been linked to heart disease, cancer, stroke, colds and flu as well as depression, self-harm and substance misuse, the charity's Boiling Point report said.

And anger is more likely to have a negative effect on relationships than any other emotion.

The foundation said courts may refer someone for anger management training but services need to intervene sooner.

GPs say they have few options for helping patients who come to with anger problems.

A YouGov survey of 2,000 people found 12% of people say they have trouble controlling their anger.

One in four says they worry about how angry they sometimes feel and 64% think people in general are getting angrier.

Powerful emotion

But most people would not know where to seek help.

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Dr Andrew McCulloch said: "In a society where people can get help for depression and anxiety, panic, phobia, eating disorders and a range of other psychological and emotional problems, it seems extraordinary that we are left to fend for ourselves when it comes to an emotion as powerful as anger.

"We need to be able to recognise when anger is damaging our lives, ask for help and receive it.

"It is the elephant in the room in mental health."

The report concludes that many methods used in mental health services such as talking therapies can also help people cope with anger.

Government mental health tsar Professor Louis Appleby said people would rarely be referred to mental health services for anger alone as it is not a mental disorder.

But he said: "Anger sometimes can be a symptom of anxiety or depression and these are conditions which can be treated.

"The main treatment for mild anxiety and depression is psychological therapies, which the government has committed to expanding over the next three years."

Royal College of GPs mental health spokesman Carolyn Chew-Graham agreed there was very little treatment available for patients who consult their GP with an anger problem.

"Patients with anger management problems do not fit the criteria for referral to a primary care mental health team which tend to focus on people with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, Dr Chew-Graham said.

"GPs can refer people to the voluntary sector, but many do not feel confident to do this, either because they don't actually know what's available or they are not sure the service is suitable or quality checked."

A spokesman for Relate, the relationship counselling organisation, said anger management techniques can be harmful where there is already abuse within a relationship and the more powerful person can use the techniques to manipulate their partner.