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Anger is a common and normal response for a person living with cancer. A person with cancer may experience anger about the way the cancer diagnosis has disrupted his or her life, about the treatment and possible side effects, or about the way that family members and friends are reacting.
Anger can be expressed in a safe and positive way or in an unhealthy way. On the positive side, it can be a source of power to help change things for the better. For example, anger about cancer may provide the person with energy and strength to endure the challenges of treatment. However, if anger is not expressed appropriately, the person may internalize the feelings, which can lead to depression. Meanwhile, some people may try to cope with angry feelings by abusing alcohol and drugs. And if anger is expressed uncontrollably, the person may be at risk for hurting themselves or others. The best way to deal with anger is to identify it and find a way to express these feelings in a safe way.
Tips for coping
Recognize anger. It is important to identify when you are angry. Sometimes people act out their angerâfor example, by yelling at their spouseâbefore they are fully aware that they are struggling with the emotion.
Avoid taking out your anger on others. A person living with cancer may focus his or her anger about the disease on family and friends, which could drive away much-needed support. It is important to direct anger at the cause of the feelings, instead of other people.
Don't let anger mask other feelings. Your anger may also be mixed with other emotions. Anger is sometimes used to hide other painful feelings that are difficult or uncomfortable to express, such as sadness or hopelessness.
Don't wait for anger to buildup. Express your feelings as soon as you recognize the anger. If you wait until your anger is severe, you are more likely to express it in an unhealthy way.
Find safe ways to express your anger
- Discuss the reasons for your anger with a trusted family member or friend
- Feel anger in its full intensity while doing a physical activity at the same time
- Beat on a pillow with fists or a plastic bat
- Yell out loud in a car or private room
- Consider complementary therapies, such as massage, relaxation techniques, or music or art therapy.
If you find that you are struggling to manage and express your anger in healthy ways, you could benefit from counseling, either one-on-one or in a group setting. A counselor trained in anger management can help you identify what triggers your anger, avoid destructive responses, find healthy ways to express your feelings, and learn coping skills. In addition, a counselor can help address related problems such as depression, addiction, and relationship issues. Learn more about the benefits of counseling and how to find a counselor.
Last Updated: January 07, 2011