Wayne Rooney's not the only one to lose his rag in public. But a few simple techniques can help keep emotions in check

A young England footballer spits out expletives. An actress stamps her kitten heels when airline staff refuse to upgrade her lover to first class. Once Britons were lauded and laughed at for their self-control. But now the restraint has all but vanished. Road rage incidents have soared, making the UK second only to South Africa as the angriest place in the world to drive.

Suffering in polite silence at poor restaurant food has also become a thing of the past with the arrival of "table rage". Now a growing number of personalities risk their tempers outweighing their talents as they succumb to "celebrity rage".

Saturday's World Cup quarter final saw yet display of temper from the excitable England striker Wayne Rooney. In the second half, he appeared to kick Portugal's Ricardo Carvalho in the groin. Rooney got the red card, and didn't go quietly.

Anger costs the British economy more than £16bn a year in furniture destroyed and cars crashed. Impotence, heart disease and irritable bowel syndrome are among medical conditions triggered by rage. So why are celebrities losing it?

Jeannie Horsfield, a Manchester-based anger management consultant, is widely credited with having improved Rooney's temper. Saturday's behaviour notwithstanding, she feels he has come a long way on the pitch.

"I think there has been a big improvement in Rooney's behaviour," says Ms Horsfield. "In the most recent instance, he made a mistake and he has been penalised so he is now paying the price."

Referring to the pressures of fame at a young age, she added: "The fact that he is in that position is likely to predispose him to having outbursts. But there are also many times when he has managed to handle himself in a very positive way."

Few celebrities are immune to the temper tantrum. Kate Moss, Pete Doherty, Naomi Campbell, Hugh Grant, Elton John, Liz Hurley and even Prince Harry have reportedly been caught out losing their rag in public.

"If you are a celebrity, you are extremely exposed," says Ms Horsfield. "Any anger will be in the public domain. There is the aspect of media intrusion. If people feel like their territory is being invaded it is a natural response to feel angry."

According to Dr Linda Papadopoulos, a psychologist at the London Metropolitan University, "Celebrities may feel a sense of self-entitlement when it comes to expressing their anger," she says. "There's an expectation that they can get away with more than non-celebrities, and this, to a certain extent, is true. The rise of reality television has also made them feel that the more real you are, the better, which would make public tantrums justifiable."

"Britons are getting more angry and are expressing this more," says Dr Papadopoulos. "The whole stiff upper lip idea doesn't apply now."

Ms Horsfield adds: "People are under more pressure than before. They work around the clock and there is generally less space and time to retreat and find calm. This makes people more stressed, more angry."

"When you are stressed you are more likely to blow up into rage," says Professor Stephen Palmer, psychologist at City University and director of the London-based Centre for Stress Management. "But it is not the situation but the thought provoked from the situation that leads to angry outbursts. That is what needs managing."

Digestive problems, impotence and depression have all been linked to frequent outbursts of anger. And every time someone loses their temper, the stress hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol, as well as cholesterol, are released into the body. "Every time you get angry you increase the chance of getting a heart attack within the following few hours," says Professor Palmer. "I wouldn't recommend outbursts of anger to anyone over the age of 40."

Reprogramming reactions to the thoughts that trigger anger, relaxation techniques, hypnosis and counselling are among techniques used by anger management experts. One success story is Carl Meah, Ms Horsfield's partner. It was five years ago that Mr Meah was charged with possession of a firearm, two threats to kill, criminal damage and affray. It marked the climax of a lifetime of rage. After the first two charges were dropped, he escaped a prison sentence and received 80 hours' community service.

The judge ordered him to attend an anger management programme. "It really did change my life," he says. Today, he is an associate member of the British Association of Anger Management and operates Steppingstones, a Manchester-based anger management consultancy, alongside Ms Horsfield.

"Someone once said that if you want to get rid of all anger, you should have a lobotomy. That is spot on. Anger is a natural emotion. You just have to learn how to express it."

For more information, contact Steppingstones ( www.steppingstonesuk.com; 0161-707 8745), and The Centre for Stress Management ( www.managingstress.com; 020-8228 1185)

Banish the red mist

* Learn to relax. Breathe deeply, visualise a relaxing experience, repeat a calming word or phrase. Or try non-strenuous exercises such as yoga.

* Try not to overreact to criticism. Use humour to lighten up a situation.

* Tell yourself that getting angry won't fix anything. Try to avoid swearing - it pumps up the tension

* Think positively and always look for the brighter side. Use logic.

* Avoid your triggers, such as irritating or uncomfortable surroundings.

* Consider counselling if you feel your anger is really out of control.

* A psychologist can help you to change your behaviour. Ask your GP for details.

Katy Kimbell