DBT Skill: Describe Anger

DBT Skill of the Week: Describe Anger

Anger is often a conflicting emotion. The conflict, not the emotion, causes suffering. Biologically it produces the urge to reject, push away, or destroy. Anger is natural, we cannot get rid of it. Anger signals us of an issue to address.

First Signs in Body:

Fist clenching

Jaw clamping

Narrowing eyes

Tension around eyes

Heavy/fast breath

Tight chest/shoulders/neck

Face turning red

Body/hands shaking

Sick to stomach

Scowl or curled lip


Headache/pressure in head

Throbbing temples

Anger Turned Inward

Self-hatred, low self-worth, and resentment

Rejection of parts of self that embarrass or make you feel vulnerable

Self-harm, self-punishment, and even suicidal thoughts/actions

Anger Turned Outward

Blaming and coercive relationships

Emotional or physical harm to others

Destruction of property etc.

Plaques to Anger





Antidote to Anger

Gently Avoid

Opposite Action

Just Breathe

Take a Time Out


Loving Kindness



Quieting Anger Step by Step

Take deep breaths, filling torso and completely releasing the breath

Allow the feeling to get as strong as possible within a zone of safety (e.g., not to the point where you get up, scream, and/or jump)

Observe if other emotions, sadness, guilt, or fear, arise. For now, see if you can stay with the feeling of anger

Describe & Name feelings and body sensations.

Practice compassion towards the anger

Remind yourself that anger is a normal part of being human

Cradle your anger like a mother cradling a newborn. What happens if you hold it with tenderness and care?

Slowly bring attention to your breath, stay with it for a while. Then gently say goodbye to the feeling

Reflect and journal

What did you feel in your body?

Did your experience change as you observed?

Were you able to bring compassion to the anger?

How did you do that?

What happened to the anger at that point?

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