By Charles H. Elliott, Laura L. Smith, W. Doyle Gentry

Most anger-management programs don’t address the issue of medications. In part, that’s probably because medications aren’t actually a way of managing your anger. And studies on the effectiveness of medications for anger have been somewhat inconsistent.

However, you should know that medications may be an option for some people, especially when other emotional disorders, such as depression or anxiety, accompany their anger. Or when violence is part of the picture, medications may play a role in treatment.

Some of the major classes of medications prescribed for people with anger problems include the following:

  • Atypical antipsychotics: These are powerful drugs that tend to sedate patients. They can have serious side effects, such as problems with glucose metabolism which increases risks of diabetes.

  • Antipsychotics: These are older versions of atypical antipsychotics. They’re used when patients lose touch with reality — as happens with hallucinations, delusions, or paranoia. This class of medication has extremely serious side effects, including abnormal, irregular muscle movements, spasms, a shuffling gait, and intense feelings of restlessness.

  • Antidepressants: This class of medication is especially effective for the times that depression and anger coexist. Many of these medications also have significant side effects, such as weight gain, nausea, and fatigue.

  • Antiseizure medications: These medications sometimes help reduce major mood swings and uncontrolled outbursts. Side effects can include fatigue, nausea, and confusion among others.

  • Beta blockers: These medications are usually used to treat high blood pressure. However, they can be helpful in decreasing the physical components of anger because they block the action of norepinephrine, which accompanies anger outbursts. Side effects are usually less than those of the preceding medications but can include fatigue and lightheadedness.

Anti-anxiety medications, such as the benzodiazepines, are sometimes used to treat anger problems. However, they can cause disinhibition, which angry people often have in short supply. Furthermore, they can easily cause ­dependency (requiring increasing dosages over time) and addiction.

Medications for anger problems should be obtained by experts in prescribing psychotropic medications. Not all primary care physicians feel comfortable in prescribing medications for this purpose. Consider seeing a healthcare provider that specializes in prescribing medication for anger.