Medications for anger management can come as either prescribed or over-the-counter options. Medications for anger target underlying issues such as depression, anxiety, and mood dysregulation. There are not any medications specifically indicated for anger, but many different types can be prescribed. They should only be started after exhausting all other options, such as psychotherapy and developing coping mechanisms for life’s stressors.
Common & Effective Medication for Anger
Anger can help motivate people to achieve their goals. But in excess, it can negatively impact someone’s daily living. It can strain relationships with significant others, family, and friends. If you or someone is struggling with anger management, seeing a psychologist/psychiatrist to discuss treatment for symptoms is always a good first step.
The treatment of anger begins with finding the root cause. For example, patients may have underlying depression and anger or anxiety and anger that leads to irritability and agitation. This parallel development of anger can also be diagnosed with certain personality disorders and children with ADHD, where individuals may struggle to interact with the world around them. As such, any medication treatment should aim to treat an underlying cause, as anger does not have a constant physiological development.
A diagnosis with a higher chance of receiving medication treatment is intermittent explosive disorder (IED), as it presents with brief episodes of intense anger that almost always impose on daily living. Prescribing specialists may elect to use medications such as mood stabilizers, beta-blockers, and antipsychotic medications for managing anger while paired with psychotherapy. However, medications are never the first line of treatment for anger as they lack good evidence behind their usage.
Commonly prescribed medications taken to reduce symptoms of anger include:
Individuals can use antidepressant medication to treat depressive symptoms leading to anger issues. They work by increasing the availability of neurotransmitters (i.e., serotonin) in the brain, which can help regulate mood, and reduce impulsivity in some patients. They take a few weeks to take effect, and doctors should counsel patients on Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), the risk of antidepressant withdrawal, and the risk of stopping the medication abruptly.1
SSRI medications that prescribers may use to treat anger include:*1
Common side effects of SSRIs include:
- Sexual dysfunction
- Weight gain
Side effects needing immediate medical attention include:
- Serotonin syndrome
- Suicidal ideation
*These medications have a black box warning, the most severe kind of warning from the FDA for the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in certain people. Before starting any of these medications, you should talk with your doctor about these risks.
Physicians can also use antipsychotic medication in the treatment of anger issues. These medications are different from antidepressants because they impact multiple neurotransmitters. Doctors should counsel patients on side effects, including sedation, dry mouth, weight gain, unusual movements, and urinary retention.2
Potential antipsychotics commonly used in medication treatment for anger include:**2
Common side effects of antipsychotics include:2
- Dry mouth
- Dry eyes
- Hot flashes
- Weight gain
- Urinary retention
Side effects of antipsychotics needing immediate medical attention include:2
- Increased urination
- Severe abdominal pain
**These medications have a black box warning, the most severe kind of warning from the FDA for the risk of death in elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis. Before starting any of these medications, you should talk with your doctor about these risks.
3. Mood Stabilizers
Mood stabilizers can also be used in the treatment of anger issues. While not FDA-approved for this use, they have shown efficacy in smaller studies. The side effect profiles of these medications are different, so patients need to discuss the medical options of mood stabilizers for treating their anger issues.3
Mood Stabilizers that have shown benefits in managing anger include:3
- Valproic Acid
Common side effects of mood stabilizers include:***3
- Muscle aches
- Muscle soreness
- Temporary hair loss
- Diabetes insipidus leading to increased thirst and urination
Side effects of mood stabilizers needing immediate medical attention include:3
- Muscle rigidity
- Severe abdominal pain
***These medications have a black box warning, the most severe kind of warning from the FDA for the risk of hepatotoxicity leading to death and the development of congenital disabilities. Before starting any of these medications, you should talk with your doctor about these risks.
Over-the-Counter Options for Treating Anger
People also can use over-the-counter options if they want to avoid the prescription process for medication or have an increased risk of side effects that prevents them from using specific drugs. While they are not FDA-approved for use, smaller studies are showing their efficacy.
****Dietary supplements (including vitamins, supplements, herbs, and natural medicines) are not regulated the same way as medications by the FDA. These products do not have to have clinical trials to determine their safety and efficacy before selling them. You should consult your doctor or pharmacist before starting any new dietary supplement.
Valerian root is believed to work by acting on an inhibitory receptor. This is believed to reduce anxiety and can help patients with insomnia in randomized control trials. Other studies have found it beneficial in patients suffering from premenopausal symptoms.4 Still, Discussing this with your doctor before starting to use it in your treatment is essential.
Valerian root’s effects on the inhibitory receptor can cause side effects, such as:5
- Upset stomach
Chamomile works by inhibiting pain enzymes in the body, similar to the effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) medication.6 While it is not FDA-approved for its use, chamomile does show to decrease anxiety and help with sleep. Similar to valerian root, studies have found benefits in patients suffering from premenstrual syndrome.
Chamomile is generally well tolerated, but some patients may suffer from:6
Benadryl is an antihistamine medication that is sometimes used for allergies and is an off-label treatment for insomnia/sleep issues. While Benadryl is also not FDA-approved for its use in anger, it helps promote sleep and can provide sedating effects, which can help reduce agitation levels.
Side effects of Benadryl can include:
- Urinary retention
- Heat intolerance
- Dry eyes
- Dry mouth
- Confusion and disorientation in older patients
Passionflower is another over-the-counter herbal remedy that people may use to treat anger. Like the other over-the-counter options, passionflower has sedating effects and can be used to reduce the intensity of feelings of anger or irritation.7 Readers should note that Passionflower is also not FDA approved substance for this use, and It is essential to discuss this with your physician before starting.
Patients should be aware of passionflower side effects, such as:7
- Extreme Sedation
- Uncoordinated movement
What Is the Best Medication for Anger?
Medication is generally not considered the best option for treatment to help control anger. Patients must speak to their doctor and psychologist/psychiatrist to get to the underlying cause of anger so a specialist can tailor the treatment plan to multiple diagnoses.
Anger can also be a normal emotion during stressful times in life, and healthy coping mechanisms can make a difference in redirecting difficult emotions, such as meditation for anger. However, starting medication may be beneficial if anger negatively affects your life.
Generally, SSRI medications are well tolerated in most patients and are an excellent place to start, as side effects are well known for SSRIs. Still, depending on your past medical history and other medications you may be taking, doctors may prefer to start with certain drugs over others. Patients may benefit more from different medications, so it is essential to have an open discussion with your doctor about the risks and benefits of all the options.
Are Medications for Anger Effective?
Again, medications are not the first line of treatment for anger, as doctors and psychologists usually work to find the underlying cause to treat instead. Medication can help manage symptoms, but finding a treatment plan tailored to address your personal needs and chief complaints that lead to feelings of anger is the actual effective method of making impactful change.
Doctors are hesitant to start medication for anger because it is not FDA-approved, and the benefit has only been shown in small studies with smaller groups of people. If you believe that medication can help with your anger, it is always recommended to meet your physician to discuss your options.
How Long Do They Take to Work?
It can take a varying amount of time for antidepressants to work and anxiety medications to start working for each patient. However, it is generally accepted that most patients will require a few months to feel the full impact of medications on symptoms of anger. Naturally, doctors will not change medication doses for the first few months due to this reason.
What to Consider if You’re Pregnant or Taking Other Medications
Many medications for anger can have similar risks as other anxiety medications during pregnancy and the effects of antidepressants and pregnancy. It is essential to talk to your physician about the other medicines you take to ensure no interaction can create worse side effects or bring a heightened risk of congenital disabilities for the newborn.
Other Treatments Used With Anger Medication
The first line of treatment for patients dealing with anger includes anxiety therapy or depression therapy through a psychologist or psychiatrist. Patients may also elect to be part of a group therapy session in conjunction with treatment alone or to have the opportunity to share experiences with people who have similar issues. It may also be beneficial to join an online therapy support group to help break the stigma associated with anger and to meet other people going through similar challenges.
Questions to Ask Your Prescriber About Anger Medication
Starting new medications can be scary. The patient and the doctor must have a mutual role in the decision-making process before starting any new medication. Similarly, patients often feel more comfortable starting new medication when they have all the information.
These questions may be helpful to ask your doctor/prescriber before beginning taking anger medication:
- Should I continue my other treatment options?
- How long should medication take to work?
- What are the common side effects I should expect?
- What are the more life-threatening side effects, and where should I go if I have them?
- What is the dosage, and how often should I take the medication?
Anger is a common experience among those with or without a diagnosable condition and can come in varying intensity levels. If you feel like your anger has become out of control and treatment methods, such as psychotherapy, are no longer working, talking to a therapist and finding the proper medication can significantly affect how you feel.