What is retaliatory anger?

We all get angry from time to time or display angry behaviour, so what’s the difference between that and an anger control problem or an anger disorder?  An anger disorder generally refers to dysfunctional anger that has negative outcomes and is out of proportion with the event or issue it is caused by.  A pattern of anger control problems can be destructive and even be dangerous to you and those around you, as well as affect your personal or professional life on a regular basis.

There are many types of anger and aggressive behaviour – some more destructive than others – including assertive anger, obsessive anger, manipulative anger and retaliatory anger.

What is retaliatory anger?

Retaliatory anger is a form of anger disorder that characterises a negative reaction to someone or something.  It tends to be more common in situations involving those who are close to us – family or friends – because we are more likely to feel hurt by their actions or words and feel the need to lash out in return.  Retaliatory anger can be so damaging to relationships as it can either be a spontaneous reaction without much thought involved, or a planned reaction.  In both cases the response will be designed to hurt and make up for any perceived slight that may have occurred.  This can lead to a cycle of angry responses as both parties seek to ‘score points’ and out do the other, leading to a pattern of escalation which can end up damaging everyone involved and even lead to acts of violence.

What are the signs of retaliatory anger?

The signs and outcomes associated with retaliatory anger include:

  • An escalation of an issue, turning it from a minor problem into a major ‘war of words’
  • Not being able to hold back from responding with anger, even though you know it won’t help the situation
  • A pattern of anger control issues, spanning a period of time
  • A feeling of being out of control with your emotions, thoughts or behaviour

Retaliatory anger can often be the motivating factor in acts of revenge, and as such can be one of the most destructive and dangerous anger disorders.

How common is retaliatory anger

Acting in a retaliatory manner or having retaliatory thoughts is very common, and for the most part we can quickly overcome these feelings and move on.  Retaliating in a harmful way, that could hurt you or others, especially if it happens on a regular basis, may indicate a more serious anger management issue.  If you find that you cannot control your feelings of anger or are concerned that your thoughts or behaviour may harm others, you should seek professional help.

What are the causes of retaliatory anger?

While everyone will react differently to individual situations, we all have an inbuilt mechanism that wants to protect us from being attacked, either mentally or physically.  No one wants to feel that they are being insulted or taken advantage of, and if we do feel threatened, we often retaliate as part of this protection mechanism.

The causes of retaliatory anger can be as numerous as our reactions to it, however in general it can be brought on by:

  • Periods of stress and worry
  • Excessive use of alcohol and drugs
  • Exhaustion
  • Poor impulse control
  • Difficulties dealing with family, friends or co-workers on a regular basis
  • Underlying psychological mental health issues such as depression or depression
  • Personality disorders such as Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder or Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Intermittent Explosive Disorder is also considered to be one of the underlying factors for the development of retaliatory anger behaviours.  The disorder is characterised by periods of intense rage, and is diagnosed most among young men.

Help for retaliatory anger

At Brain Training we offer a blended modality appraoch of Cogntivie Behavioural Therapy and Neurofeedback Brain Training to help our clients struggling with retaliatory anger to regain a sense of calm, clarity and focus back into their lives.

Let us help you. Here is how to get started.


Funding options available Private Health, National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), Medicare, Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA), to cover part of, if not all of your Brain Training Program with us (see our Fees Page).

The team at Brain Training Australia recognise the unique qualities of all our clients and will work closely with you to personalise your Brain Training Program so that you can achieve your goals of optimal mental processes.

We look forward to helping you live a much richer, happier and healthier life.