- 7 Ways Anger Is Ruining Your Health
- The Link Between Anger and Stress
- Anger and the Brain: What happens in your head when you get angry
- The Angry Brain
- About the Author
- Science of anger: how gender, age and personality shape this emotion
- What is anger?
- How does anger change the way we think?
- Does anger have benefits?
- Are men more angry than women?
- Why do toddlers get so angry – and what can parents do about it?
- Mental health and anger
- Rage and Its Consequences
- Anger Management
- Is your temper hijacking your life? These tips and techniques can help you get anger under control and express your feelings in healthier ways.
- How anger management can help you
- Tip 1: Explore what’s really behind your anger
- Tip 2: Be aware of your anger warning signs
- Tip 3: Identify your triggers
- Tip 4: Learn ways to cool down quickly
- Tip 5: Find healthier ways to express your anger
- Tip 6: Stay calm by taking care of yourself
- Tip 7: Use humor to relieve tension
- Tip 8: Recognize if you need professional help
7 Ways Anger Is Ruining Your Health
Sometimes anger can be good for you, if it’s addressed quickly and expressed in a healthy way. In fact, anger may help some people think more rationally. However, unhealthy episodes of anger — when you hold it in for long periods of time, turn it inward, or explode in rage — can wreak havoc on your body. If you’re prone to losing your temper, here are seven important reasons to stay calm.
1. An angry outburst puts your heart at great risk. Most physically damaging is anger’s effect on your cardiac health. “In the two hours after an angry outburst, the chance of having a heart attack doubles,” says Chris Aiken, MD, an instructor in clinical psychiatry at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine and director of the Mood Treatment Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
“Repressed anger — where you express it indirectly or go to great lengths to control it, is associated with heart disease,” says Dr. Aiken. In fact, one study found that people with anger proneness as a personality trait were at twice the risk of coronary disease than their less angry peers.
To protect your ticker, identify and address your feelings before you lose control. “Constructive anger — the kind where you speak up directly to the person you are angry with and deal with the frustration in a problem-solving manner — is not associated with heart disease,” and is actually a very normal, healthy emotion, says Aiken.
2. Anger ups your stroke risk. If you’re prone to lashing out, beware. One study found there was a three times higher risk of having a stroke from a blood clot to the brain or bleeding within the brain during the two hours after an angry outburst. For people with an aneurysm in one of the brain’s arteries, there was a six times higher risk of rupturing this aneurysm following an angry outburst.
Some good news: You can learn to control those angry explosions. “To move into positive coping, you need to first identify what your triggers, and then figure out how to change your response,” says Mary Fristad, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and psychology at the Ohio State University. Instead of losing your temper, “Do some deep breathing. Use assertive communication skills. You might even need to change your environment by getting up and walking away,” says Dr. Fristad.
3. It weakens your immune system. If you’re mad all the time, you just might find yourself feeling sick more often. In one study, Harvard University scientists found that in healthy people, simply recalling an angry experience from their past caused a six-hour dip in levels of the antibody immunoglobulin A, the cells’ first line of defense against infection.
RELATED: 4 Ways to Let Go of Anger
If you’re someone who’s habitually angry, protect your immune system by turning to a few effective coping strategies. “Assertive communication, effective problem solving, using humor, or restructuring your thoughts to get away from that black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking — those are all good ways to cope,” says Fristad. “But you’ve got to start by calming down.”
4. Anger problems can make your anxiety worse. If you’re a worrier, it’s important to note that anxiety and anger can go hand-in-hand. In a 2012 study published in the journal Cognitive Behavior Therapy, researchers found that anger can exacerbate symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), a condition characterized by an excessive and uncontrollable worry that interferes with a person’s daily life. Not only were higher levels of anger found in people with GAD, but hostility — along with internalized, unexpressed anger in particular — contributed greatly to the severity of GAD symptoms.
5. Anger is also linked to depression. Numerous studies have linked depression with aggression and angry outbursts, especially in men. “In depression, passive anger — where you ruminate about it but never take action — is common,” says Aiken. His No. 1 piece of advice for someone struggling with depression mixed with anger is to get busy and stop thinking so much.
“Any activity which fully absorbs you is a good cure for anger, such as golf, needlepoint, biking,” he says. “These tend to fill our minds completely and pull our focus toward the present moment, and there’s just no room left for anger to stir when you’ve got that going.”
6. Hostility can hurt your lungs. Not a smoker? You still could be hurting your lungs if you’re a perpetually angry, hostile person. A group of Harvard University scientists studied 670 men over eight years using a hostility scale scoring method to measure anger levels and assessed any changes in the men’s lung function. The men with the highest hostility ratings had significantly worse lung capacity, which increased their risk of respiratory problems. The researchers theorized that an uptick in stress hormones, which are associated with feelings of anger, creates inflammation in the airways.
7. Anger can shorten your life. Is it really true that happy people live longer? “Stress is very tightly linked to general health. If you’re stressed and angry, you’ll shorten your lifespan,” says Fristad. A University of Michigan study done over a 17-year period found that couples who hold in their anger have a shorter life span than those who readily say when they’re mad.
If you’re not someone who’s comfortable showing negative emotions, then work with a therapist or practice on your own to be more expressive. “Learning to express anger in an appropriate way is actually a healthy use of anger,” says Fristad. “If someone infringes on your rights, you need to tell them. Directly tell people what you’re mad about, and what you need,” she says.
The Link Between Anger and Stress
Buck Black offers psychotherapy for anger issues through his practice in the Lafayette Indiana area (www.BuckBlack.com) via phone, email, and office visits. He …Read More
Have you ever looked at the role stress has in anger? Many people say that stress is more prevalent today than 20 years ago. Likewise, others say there is more anger (road rage, workplace violence, and so on). Stress can certainly create a variety of problems. If you are prone to anger, then stress will likely increase your angry behaviors.
Stress is healthy when controlled. Healthy stress (Eustress) is what gets us out of bed in the morning and makes us pay attention to the details throughout our day. This type of stress does not cause anger or irritability. For those who do not have enough stress in their lives, they are often referred to as “lazy” or “unmotivated.”
Distress, on the other hand, is a type of stress that causes many people to be irritable and sometimes downright angry. This happens when the stress is too much and is no longer a motivator. You can think of this as when there is a combination of stressors and things just keep piling up. One day, the person does not know how to handle this anymore and there is an anger outburst.
What feeling is behind stress? I have asked the same question about anger in a previous article. When you are feeling either stressed or angry, there is some other feeling that is fueling this. Often, it is being overwhelmed, feeling disrespected, helpless, fearful and so on. It is very important to look at the feelings behind the stress to better understand why you are having this reaction. Once this insight is gained, then steps may be taken to relax and feel much better.
Once you have identified the feelings and thoughts associated with your stress, take a look at your environment. Do you live in a chaotic home environment or perhaps a have a work environment that is adding your stress? When you identify your environmental stressors, take some time to identify ways to limit these stresses in addition to changing the ways you are thinking.
Substances that often increase stress and anger:
- Excess food
- Stress and Anger reducers:
- Learning communication skills
- Engaging in social activities
- Deep breathing, yoga, Qigong
Here are a few of quick quips for managing stress:
If you allow others to make you stressed, you are allowing them to control you. Do you really want others pulling your strings?
Look at stress as a test. Do you want to fail that test by getting stressed out?
The only person responsible for your stress is you.
Stress is energy. Are you going to use this energy for something productive or destructive?
Will it matter tomorrow? Next week? Next Month?
Keep Reading By Author Buck Black, LCSW Read In Order Of Posting
Has there ever been a time in your life when you got angry and ended up hurting someone you care about? In the aftermath of feeling mad, it’s often easy to spot and pinpoint the damage you’ve done. There are visible, tangible signs: tears on the face of your partner, a heavy silence hanging in the air after a loud shouting match.
But anger issues can also cause problems in your life that perhaps aren’t so easy to spot right away. Unfortunately, there’s a whole laundry list of ways that anger can have a negative effect on your life and on the lives of those around you.
Do you ever feel like your anger might be getting out of control? Do you have trouble calming down when you get angry? How do you express these feelings? If anger is a common emotion in your life, chances are you’re causing undue harm to yourself and others.
Your anger affects you
Do you ever feel really angry and unable to let something go? Do you feel like you’re continually on the brink, or on edge? When your anger lasts for extended periods of time, it becomes more difficult to cope with little aggravations in your life and it becomes harder to de-stress.
This can affect every day activities, like work and extracurriculars. It can be hard to focus on tasks or accomplish projects, and can make people not want to work alongside you. Anger also causes feelings like guilt, remorse and shame (especially if you generally act out in ways that you later regret.)
If you’re angry and constantly stressed because of this, it’s also likely that you’ll feel unable to let loose and have fun — which is important for your mental wellbeing.
Excessive anger also puts your physical wellbeing at risk. In the short term, anger can cause headaches, migraines, chest pains, aches and more. Over the long term, anger issues can further complicate pre-existing health conditions. It can also put you at risk for hypertension, high blood pressure, depression, and cardiovascular issues.
While this all may sound like a television PSA for a new drug with “possible side effects,” the impact that your anger issues can have on your life are real and far-reaching.
Your anger affects those around you
You know the saying “laughter is contagious?” The same holds true for other emotions. Your anger can affect not only you, but the people in your life as well. It casts a negative feeling on those around you.
At the very least, your anger can cause people to feel put off, upset, intimidated, afraid, or a handful of other unpleasant emotions. You’re also running the risk of pushing loved ones out of your life for good.
Do you lash out at your partner when you’re angry? Whether this is emotional, physical or both, it can have an extremely negative effect on your partner’s wellbeing. Solving conflict with anger, yelling and violence also sets an unhealthy precedent in a relationship, ignoring the need for open, trusting communication.
If you’re taking out your anger on your partner, give us a call at 1-800-799-SAFE(7233). You can speak confidentially with a non-judgmental advocate about these behaviors and discuss steps for getting help.
If you feel like your anger might be getting the best of you, becoming aware of this is the first step toward making a change.
Psychology Today has a lot of helpful articles about anger.
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Anger and the Brain: What happens in your head when you get angry
I think understanding information on the brain is essential in laying a foundation for anger management. Your brain is the center of your logic and emotions. By understanding how your body works, you can make better sense over why you think and feel what you do when angry.
Scientists have identified a specific region of the brain called the amygdala, as the part of the brain that processes fear, triggers anger, and motivates us to act. It alerts us to danger and activates the fight or flight response. Researchers have also found that the prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain that controls reasoning, judgment and helps us think logically before we act.
Stereotypically, women are thought of as emotional and men as logical, but biology reveals this as false. Curiously, the inverse in true. Scientists have discovered that men have a larger part of their brain devoted to emotional responses and a smaller region for logical thinking than women. This makes sense if you consider the energy needed to be vigilant for self-protection. Men are hard wired for hunting, competition and dominance. Their powerful emotional outbursts of anger, when seen through the hunter gatherer lens, are helpful to come out on top during a confrontation.
Men in the hunter-gatherer world needed a large amygdala to quickly respond when scanning the terrain for potential danger: Is this bad? Could it hurt me? If the information registered as dangerous, the amygdala broadcasts a distress signal to the entire brain, which in turn, triggers a cascade of physiological responses–from a rapid heart rate to jacked-up blood pressure to tense muscles to the release of adrenaline. Within milliseconds, men explode with rage or freeze in fear, well before their prefrontal cortex can even grasp what is happening.
For example, say you’re in a crowded restaurant and the noise of chatter from dozens of conversations fills the air. Suddenly a waiter drops a tray with several glasses, which crashes and shatters as they hit the floor. Automatically, the restaurant comes to a dramatic halt as everyone simultaneously falls to a hush. There is an instinctual reflex to stop and freeze when there is a sudden loud noise.
This raises the important point that the brain doesn’t immediately know if an experience is real or imagined. How can this be? While the amygdala and prefrontal cortex are working towards the same goal, to help you survive, they come at the problem from different directions.
Say you’re watching a movie. If it is a scary movie and you hear a noise outside, your amygdala will say, “Get up and lock the door.” Your prefrontal cortex knows there is no ax murderer outside but you will likely get up and lock the door anyways. Or say you’re watching a sad movie. You know it is a movie and no one died, but you may begin to cry anyways. All of these circumstance sets off false alarms, which unleashes the same level of feeling as if the real event were happening. This means that if the brain can’t tell what is dangerous and what isn’t, everything seems like a threatened.
The amygdala’s emotional response provides a mechanism to work around the limitation of the prefrontal cortex’s reasoning. For example, the prefrontal cortex will remember what your ex-partner looks like, that petite brunette who dumped you for a new lover. It is the amygdala that is responsible for the surge of fury that floods your body when you see someone who looks even vaguely like your former mate.
And “vaguely” is the operative word here. For when the amygdala tries to judge whether a current situation is hazardous, it compares that situation with your collection of past emotionally charged memories. If any key elements are even vaguely similar–the sound of a voice, the expression on a face–your amygdala instantaneously lets loose its warning sirens and an accompanying emotional explosion.
This means even vague similarities can triggers fear signals in the brain, alerting you of a threat. This false alarm happens because the goal is to survive, there is an advantage to react first and think later.
Anger and the Brain: What happens in your head when you get angry
APA Student Poster Award Winner Rachel Zachar shares her research at Nova Southeastern University, where she is a doctoral student.
The Angry Brain
As expected, behavioral outbursts are one major outcome expected to be seen from individuals who experience high levels of self-reported anger. Moreover, effects on cognition with regards to the presence of anger have not been as heavily considered as compared with behavioral understandings and treatments for anger. What effects might anger have on the brain and what might these mean in clinical and health related settings?
Behaviors such as yelling, screaming, and physical violence may be some of the several potential outcomes after anger provocation. But what is actually going on inside of the brain that leads to these outbursts? The current investigation sought to answer this very question. Activation of emotional cortical regions resulting in anger may lead to less known consequential cognitive deficits that are not as heavily considered (Luria, 1976). Due to the lack of severity-related anger studies, the current study sought to assess the differences in cerebral blood perfusion in 17 brain regions at Concentration between high and low levels of self-reported anger. The current investigative study also focused potential neuropsychological sequelae that result from the presence of high anger.
Participants were part of a de-identified database comprised of 19,384 patients from an outpatient psychiatric clinic. This study was archival and included a sample size of 7,413 adults who upon intake, completed a questionnaire packet assessing psychiatric and brain injury symptomatology. Available answers ranged from 0 (never) to 4 (very frequently), and multiple questions were combined to create a specific symptom factor. Thus, the higher the total score is, the more impairment being endorsed.
For this study, a variable of self-reported anger was created using 13 questions that targeted different areas of each construct. Using frequency statistics, individuals were grouped into a high anger (top 25%) or a low anger group (bottom 25%). Individuals falling within the middle 50% of the distribution were not included in the study. Also, all participants were administered a SPECT scan at Amen Clinics, Inc., yielding outcome variables comprised of 17 brain regions.
Results showed that participants with higher self-reported anger were found to have lower blood flow in the left limbic region, basal ganglia, frontal lobe, and parietal lobe. Higher levels of blood flow were observed for within bilateral occipital lobes. No other significant relationships were observed outside of these results.
What does this all mean in terms of clinical and health impressions? Individuals with high levels of anger tended to have dysfunction or abnormal blood flow in certain regions of the brain that are heavily involved in important cortical functions. Lower levels of blood flow within the basal ganglia may lead to deficits in movement that may not normally be present within individuals with lower levels of anger. Because lower levels of blood flow were observed in this area, it could be possible to see movement difficulties within these individuals, making them seem disoriented. Clinically, these individuals may have a tough time moving smoothly, making otherwise simple movements difficult, such as writing and walking.
Limbic system dysfunction may also lead to other poor emotional outcomes over and above the presence of anger. These individuals may experience other types of negative emotions mediated by the limbic system more readily such as fear. Furthermore, they may be more prone to developing anxiety disorders and other disorders that are heavily influenced by the limbic system, creating a plethora of psychiatric symptoms.
Lower levels of blood flow in the parietal region, may lead to difficulty with following rules and with visual-spatial tasks such as driving. These individuals may be more likely to experience road rage and in turn get into road accidents. They may also have difficulty in following rules in school and work settings, leading to poorer performances.
Other higher order cognitive functions such as the maintenance of attention and impulse control may be negatively affected by anger. Lack of impulse control may lead to the reactively aggressive behavioral outbursts that may sometimes be seen in the presence of high anger.
Higher levels of cerebral blood flow in bilateral occipital lobes suggests high self-reported anger may lead to more uses of emotional imagery or hypervigilance to visual stimuli related to the anger-inducing situation.
Overall, this investigation suggests that individuals with higher levels of anger may not only experience behavioral outbursts in reaction to the anger, but more underlying cognitive deficits as a result of anger. These findings may aid in being able to understand the thinking and actions of individuals with high anger, as well as the deficits that may also accompany them. Knowing these changes may allow for better interventions and treatments to take place to not only aid in decreasing behavioral outbursts, but to also decrease the accompanying cognitive deficits that lead to poorer clinical, health, academic, and vocational outcomes.
About the Author
Rachel M. Zachar, M.S., is a 3rd year Clinical Psychology student with a concentration in Neuropsychology at Nova Southeastern University. She will be completing her second practicum specializing in Neuropsychology at Nova Southeastern University. She has previously written a book chapter on intellectual disabilities and one regarding the neurobiology of violence and aggression. She is also currently working on finishing her directed study focusing on cerebral blood perfusion differences between individuals with varying levels of self-reported anger and self-reported anxiety.
Click on the image to download her APA Convention Poster
Luria, A. R. (1976). The working brain: An introduction to neuropsychology. Basic Books.
Science of anger: how gender, age and personality shape this emotion
Anger is the flash of fire that sparks in your brain when you feel you have been shortchanged. Perhaps a stranger has nipped into the parking space that you had been about to occupy, or a lazy work colleague has landed you with a thankless task. Or maybe you have been confronted with a deep, hurtful betrayal by someone you love.
Anger is one of the most primitive emotions we experience – animals are equipped with the same basic neural circuitry. It operates on a spectrum from mild frustration to absolute fury, and the intensity with which we feel anger and how we act on it is very personal. Science is beginning to provide new explanations about the ways that personality, age, gender and life experiences shape the way we feel this emotion.
What is anger?
Scientists believe that the capacity for anger has been hardwired into the brain over millions of years of evolution. It forms part of our instinct to fight off threats, to compete for resources and to enforce social norms. Anger is rooted in the brain’s reward circuit. We are constantly – often subconsciously – weighing up what we expect to happen in any situation. When there is a mismatch between what we’ve learned to expect and the hand we’re dealt, our brain’s reward circuit sounds the alarm and activity is triggered in a small almond-shaped region in the brain called the amygdala.
Anger can trigger the body’s fight or flight response, causing the adrenal glands to flood the body with stress hormones, such as adrenaline, and testosterone, preparing us for physical aggression. But whether we actually end up swearing or scowling or even punching someone depends on a second brain area, the prefrontal cortex, that is responsible for decision-making and reasoning. This puts our anger in context, reminds us to behave in socially acceptable ways and for most of us, most of the time, keeps our primal instincts in check.
How does anger change the way we think?
Feeling anger can alter the way we view risks. Studies have shown that it can make us more impulsive and make us underestimate the chances of bad outcomes. In one study, volunteers who were made to feel angry estimated the chances of suffering heart disease as being lower and said they were more likely to receive a pay raise, when compared with volunteers who had been prompted to feel fearful. Depending on the context, anger can make us brave or reckless.
Anger also influences group dynamics. When we feel angry, we tend to think more negatively and in a more prejudiced way about outsiders, becoming more likely to blame negative traits on a person’s nature rather than their circumstances. Angry people tend to seek someone to blame, research shows. This potentially makes an angry person feel even more enraged with the offending person or group, in some cases perpetuating a spiral of irrational rage.
Does anger have benefits?
Anger has been viewed fairly negatively over the course of history. In ancient Rome, Seneca pronounced anger “worthless even for war”, while wrath makes it on to the list of deadly sins. But science suggests there could be some benefits for the angry individual, if not for society at large.
Anger can serve as a powerful motivator. In a 2010 study, Dutch scientists showed volunteers pictures of objects such as pens and mugs on a computer screen interspersed with subliminal images of angry or neutral faces. When an angry face had flashed up first, people rated objects as more desirable and worked harder to win them in a subsequent game. Interestingly, the participants were not consciously aware of this motivation – they said they just liked the objects more.
Outward expressions of anger can also alter the way you are perceived. Larissa Tiedens, an American psychologist who has conducted extensive research on anger, found that participants were more supportive of President Bill Clinton when they viewed him expressing anger about the Monica Lewinsky scandal than when they saw him expressing sadness – and the effect was replicated with an unknown politician.
Tiedens also found that participants assigned a higher status position and salary to a job candidate who described himself as angry as opposed to sad. And showing anger during a negotiation has also been shown to increase the chances of succeeding in it – people are more likely to yield to someone who is perceived as stubborn, dominant. It’s worth noting that these studies related to how angry men are regarded – there is some evidence that people view angry women less favourably.
Are men more angry than women?
Men are, on average, more outwardly aggressive than women and so it might be assumed that they are also angrier. But this doesn’t appear to be the case. Research has consistently found that women experience anger as frequently and as intensely as men. Men who feel angry are more likely to display aggression, although this does not mean that women are not motivated by rage as frequently. One study, by scientists at Southwest Missouri State University, who surveyed around 200 men and women, suggested that women were as angry and acted on their anger as frequently as men. The main difference they identified was that men felt less effective when forced to contain their anger, while women seemed better able to control immediate impulsive responses to anger.
Guardian Design/Getty Images Photograph: dra_schwartz/Getty Images
Some have suggested that these gender differences are rooted in underlying differences in brain biology. One study, by Ruben and Raquel Gur, a husband and wife team at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, found that while the amygdala is a similar size in men and women, a second region, called the orbital frontal cortex, which is involved in controlling aggressive impulses, is much larger in women. They suggested this could help explain why women seem to be better at keeping the lid on explosive outbursts.
The jury is still out on the extent to which brain biology explains gender differences in terms of anger, but also other behaviours, and there is also compelling evidence that societal expectations play a part.
“We know that even how teachers treat girls and boys in school is quite different and that could influence the ability to regulate these responses,” said Arielle Baskin-Sommers, a psychologist at Yale University. “It’s never going to be just the brain that explains these differences, it’s 100% more complicated than that.”
Why do toddlers get so angry – and what can parents do about it?
Being a toddler is an exciting time: everything is new and there’s so much to explore. But this means, unlike adults, they don’t yet have a well-developed framework of how things work and what to expect from life. They also often lack the language skills to explain what they want. So missteps as trivial as slicing a piece of toast incorrectly can trigger a nuclear intensity meltdown.
A toddler’s tantrum is a combination of two emotions – anger and sadness Photograph: Agencja Free/Alamy Stock Photo/Alamy Stock Photo
For parents, tantrums are a source of utter dread. But Michael Potegal, a psychologist at the University of Minnesota, decided to treat them as natural phenomena, rather like thunderstorms or volcanic eruptions, that could be analysed and understood.
Potegal and colleagues recorded toddlers in their everyday lives, capturing the audio of more than a hundred tantrums. They found that tantrums followed a predictable trajectory that could be boiled down to a combination of two emotions: anger (screaming, yelling, throwing things) and sadness (crying, whining, lying on the floor).
Sad sounds were found to be a constant undercurrent throughout the tantrum, while anger tended to build up to a peak and then vanish, the researchers found.
The trick to ending a tantrum, the scientists concluded, is to get the child over the anger peak as quickly as possible and the trick to that was … doing nothing. Even intervening to ask what was wrong appeared to prolong the process.
Mental health and anger
Our response to angry feelings depends on finely balanced communication between several brain regions. When this becomes disrupted, people’s behaviour can become unexpectedly aggressive.
Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and particularly frontotemporal dementia, can result in damage to the brain’s frontal regions that inhibits our instinctive response to frustration and anger and also a breakdown in connections between this area and the amygdala.
Luca Passamonti, a consultant neurologist and researcher at the University of Cambridge, said: “On average we know that people with frontotemporal dementia will become more aggressive, angrier, grumpier. It makes these feelings more manifest and the way of expressing it can become really impulsive.”
Passamonti said this is likely to be a mixture of losing the ability to inhibit automatic responses to frustration, but also finding it harder to contextualise emotions and understand why you are feeling a certain way.
The way we process angry feelings also contributes to our mental wellbeing. Passamonti said that in some people, high levels of inhibition – an unusually active frontal cortex – can prevent expressions of anger, but result in people feeling depressed.
Finally, life experience also shapes the way people experience anger. “There’s a lot of research showing that exposure to violence … is correlated with romanticising anger and aggression,” said Baskin-Sommers, whose research covers criminal and antisocial behaviours.
A recent study, aimed at uncovering how exposure to violence changes people’s cognitive processes, found that people who had violent childhoods were able to discriminate between “good” and “bad” strangers in an experiment. But they were less likely to trust people, even when they had behaved generously. “It shapes them so fundamentally that they’re not able to easily discriminate who they can trust,” said Baskin-Sommers. “They’re always on edge and unsure how to navigate that social world.”
That constant feeling of threat means anger and aggression can be triggered far more easily. In the future, Baskin-Sommers said, interventions such as cognitive behavioural therapy could help people overcome early life experiences such as exposure to violence.
Rage and Its Consequences
Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states …Read More
My daughter, who is an EMT (Emergency Medical Tech), described a recent case she was on that again demonstrates the destructive impact of uncontrolled anger and rage. Her ambulance was called to a traffic accident in which a man was pinned behind the wheel of his car. He was in extreme pain and had two broken legs and other injuries that were difficult to determine until he was released from the automobile. Fortunately, he did survive with relatively minor injuries except for the broken legs. What is most important in this story are the circumstances that lead to the accident. By the way, the accident was the result of his smashing into a tree. Miraculously, the other occupants of the car escaped without injury and he lived to tell the story. As to the car, who knows?
It seems that this person was on his cell phone while he was driving. The point here is not to discuss the merits or dangers of using a cell phone while driving but to discuss immediate and sudden rage reactions. He was on the cell phone discussing some type of work issue with a client who refused to cooperate and close the deal. When the conversation ended he flipped the cell phone closed, took his eye off of the road and hurled the phone onto the dash board. The combination of rage, hurling the phone and taking his eyes off of the road caused him to lose control of the automobile and crash into the tree.
Rage and driving are not a good combination. Rage and relating in a marriage or in raising children are not a good combination. Rage and anything are not a good combination. Why? When in a rage people are not in control of their impulses and are liable to do or say anything that they would otherwise would not do or say. In this state of rage, the individual can become a danger to them selves or to others. Even the nicest people who do not see themselves as violent and would never anticipate hurting others are capable of the most awful acts if they allow themselves to become overwhelmed with rage. In fact, this is obviously what is meant by the term “losing control of one’s self.”
There are many reasons why people “lose control of themselves. For one, there is a tendency to take things that occur in a way that is very personal. Sometimes that happens even when we know better. Someone told me that a bank manager promised to call back with an important financial offer. When the manager failed to call the individual was incensed as though the manager deliberately intended to insult this individual. In fact, there are dozens of reasons for the manager’s failure to make the call none of which have to do with wishing to cause hurt or insult.
Also, there are those of us who have strong tendencies towards explosive anger reactions. Most of the time these are individuals who really need psychotherapy and medication to help them control their angry impulses. I had a relative who was much like this. He predictably and frequently reacted to otherwise benign circumstances with huge amounts of rage. While he was never physically abusive with his family he was most certainly verbally and emotionally abusive. He never did learn to control his anger, rejected psychotherapy and died of a heart attack having alienated most people in his life. In fact, I will never forget one occasion, when I was a little boy, when he hurled a kitchen chair across the room in a fit of rage because he had stained his new suit. While suits can be replaced I never forgot the incident and it is stored in my memory to this day. He was not my father but an uncle who played a significant role in my early life and development.
Whether it is a marital argument, a controversy with a friend or a conflict at work or while driving, rage reactions are extremely dangerous and unhealthy.
If you are a person with this tendency to rage seek help for your self now before there are terrible consequences.
Your comments are welcome and encouraged.
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Is your temper hijacking your life? These tips and techniques can help you get anger under control and express your feelings in healthier ways.
Anger is a normal, healthy emotion, neither good nor bad. Like any emotion, it conveys a message, telling you that a situation is upsetting, unjust, or threatening. If your kneejerk reaction to anger is to explode, however, that message never has a chance to be conveyed. So, while it’s perfectly normal to feel angry when you’ve been mistreated or wronged, anger becomes a problem when you express it in a way that harms yourself or others.
You might think that venting your anger is healthy, that the people around you are too sensitive, that your anger is justified, or that you need to show your fury to get respect. But the truth is that anger is much more likely to have a negative impact on the way people see you, impair your judgment, and get in the way of success.
Effects of anger
Chronic anger that flares up all the time or spirals out of control can have serious consequences for your:
- Physical health.Constantly operating at high levels of stress and anger makes you more susceptible to heart disease, diabetes, a weakened immune system, insomnia, and high blood pressure.
- Mental health. Chronic anger consumes huge amounts of mental energy, and clouds your thinking, making it harder to concentrate or enjoy life. It can also lead to stress, depression, and other mental health problems.
- Career. Constructive criticism, creative differences, and heated debate can be healthy. But lashing out only alienates your colleagues, supervisors, or clients and erodes their respect.
- Relationships. Anger can cause lasting scars in the people you love most and get in the way of friendships and work relationships. Explosive anger makes it hard for others to trust you, speak honestly, or feel comfortable—and is especially damaging to children.
If you have a hot temper, you may feel like it’s out of your hands and there’s little you can do to tame the beast. But you have more control over your anger than you think. With insight about the real reasons for your anger and these anger management tools, you can learn to express your emotions without hurting others and keep your temper from hijacking your life.
Myths and facts about anger
Myth: I shouldn’t “hold in” my anger. It’s healthy to vent and let it out.
Fact: While it’s true that suppressing and ignoring anger is unhealthy, venting is no better. Anger is not something you have to “let out” in an aggressive way in order to avoid blowing up. In fact, outbursts and tirades only fuel the fire and reinforce your anger problem.
Myth: Anger, aggression, and intimidation help me earn respect and get what I want.
Fact: Respect doesn’t come from bullying others. People may be afraid of you, but they won’t respect you if you can’t control yourself or handle opposing viewpoints. Others will be more willing to listen to you and accommodate your needs if you communicate in a respectful way.
Myth: I can’t help myself. Anger isn’t something you can control.
Fact: You can’t always control the situation you’re in or how it makes you feel, but you can control how you express your anger. And you can communicate your feelings without being verbally or physically abusive. Even if someone is pushing your buttons, you always have a choice about how to respond.
How anger management can help you
Many people think that anger management is about learning to suppress your anger. But never getting angry is not a healthy goal. Anger will come out regardless of how hard you try to tamp it down. The true goal of anger management isn’t to suppress feelings of anger, but rather to understand the message behind the emotion and express it in a healthy way without losing control. When you do, you’ll not only feel better, you’ll also be more likely to get your needs met, be better able to manage conflict in your life, and strengthen your relationships.
Mastering the art of anger management takes work, but the more you practice, the easier it will get. And the payoff is huge. Learning to control your anger and express it appropriately will help you build better relationships, achieve your goals, and lead a healthier, more satisfying life.
Tip 1: Explore what’s really behind your anger
Have you ever gotten into an argument over something silly? Big fights often happen over something small, like a dish left out or being ten minutes late. But there’s usually a bigger issue behind it. If you find your irritation and anger rapidly rising, ask yourself, “What am I really angry about?” Identifying the real source of frustration will help you communicate your anger better, take constructive action, and work towards a resolution.
Is your anger masking other feelings such as embarrassment, insecurity, hurt, shame, or vulnerability? If your knee-jerk response in many situations is anger, it’s likely that your temper is covering up your true feelings. This is especially likely if you grew up in a family where expressing feelings was strongly discouraged. As an adult, you may have a hard time acknowledging feelings other than anger.
Anger can also mask anxiety. When you perceive a threat, either real or imagined, your body activates the “fight or flight” response. In the case of the “fight” response, it can often manifest itself as anger or aggression. To change your response, you need to find out what’s causing you to feel anxious or scared.
Anger problems can stem from what you learned as a child. If you watched others in your family scream, hit each other, or throw things, you might think this is how anger is supposed to be expressed.
Anger can be a symptom of another underlying health problem, such as depression (especially in men), trauma, or chronic stress.
Clues that there’s more to your anger than meets the eye
You have a hard time compromising. Is it hard for you to understand other people’s points of view, and even harder to concede a point? If you grew up in a family where anger was out of control, you may remember how the angry person got their way by being the loudest and most demanding. Compromising might bring up scary feelings of failure and vulnerability.
You view different opinions as a personal challenge. Do you believe that your way is always right and get angry when others disagree? If you have a strong need to be in control or a fragile ego, you may interpret other perspectives as a challenge to your authority, rather than simply a different way of looking at things.
You have trouble expressing emotions other than anger. Do you pride yourself on being tough and in control? Do you feel that emotions like fear, guilt, or shame don’t apply to you? Everyone has those emotions so you may be using anger as a cover for them. If you are uncomfortable with different emotions, disconnected, or stuck on an angry one-note response to situations, it’s important to get back in touch with your feelings. HelpGuide’s free Emotional Intelligence Toolkit can help.
Tip 2: Be aware of your anger warning signs
While you might feel that you just explode into anger without warning, there are in fact physical warning signs in your body. Becoming aware of your own personal signs that your temper is starting to boil allows you to take steps to manage your anger before it gets out of control.
Pay attention to the way anger feels in your body
- Knots in your stomach
- Clenching your hands or jaw
- Feeling clammy or flushed
- Breathing faster
- Pacing or needing to walk around
- “Seeing red”
- Having trouble concentrating
- Pounding heart
- Tensing your shoulders
Tip 3: Identify your triggers
Stressful events don’t excuse anger, but understanding how these events affect you can help you take control of your environment and avoid unnecessary aggravation. Look at your regular routine and try to identify activities, times of day, people, places, or situations that trigger irritable or angry feelings.
Maybe you get into a fight every time you go out for drinks with a certain group of friends. Or maybe the traffic on your daily commute drives you crazy. When you identify your triggers, think about ways to either avoid them or view the situations differently so they don’t make your blood boil.
Negative thought patterns that can trigger anger
You may think that external factors—the insensitive actions of other people, for example, or frustrating situations—are causing your anger. But anger problems have less to do with what happens to you than how you interpret and think about what happened. Common negative thinking patterns that trigger and fuel anger include:
- Overgeneralizing. For example, “You ALWAYS interrupt me. You NEVER consider my needs. EVERYONE disrespects me. I NEVER get the credit I deserve.”
- Obsessing over “shoulds” and “musts.” Having a rigid view of the way a situation should or must go and getting angry when reality doesn’t line up with this vision.
- Mind reading and jumping to conclusions. Assuming you “know” what someone else is thinking or feeling—that they intentionally upset you, ignored your wishes, or disrespected you.
- Collecting straws. Looking for things to get upset about, usually while overlooking or blowing past anything positive. Letting these small irritations build and build until you reach the “final straw” and explode, often over something relatively minor.
- Blaming. When anything bad happens or something goes wrong, it’s always someone else’s fault. You tell yourself, “life’s not fair,” or blame others for your problems rather than taking responsibility for your own life.
When you identify the thought patterns that fuel your anger, you can learn to reframe how you think about things. Ask yourself: What’s the evidence that the thought is true? That it’s not true? Is there a more positive, realistic way of looking at a situation? What would I say to a friend who was thinking these things?
Tip 4: Learn ways to cool down quickly
Once you know how to recognize the warning signs that your temper is rising and anticipate your triggers, you can act quickly to deal with your anger before it spins out of control. There are many techniques that can help you cool down and keep your anger in check.
Focus on the physical sensations of anger. While it may seem counterintuitive, tuning into the way your body feels when you’re angry often lessens the emotional intensity of your anger.
Take some deep breaths. Deep, slow breathing helps counteract rising tension. The key is to breathe deeply from the abdomen, getting as much fresh air as possible into your lungs.
Get moving. A brisk walk around the block is a great idea. Physical activity releases pent-up energy so you can approach the situation with a cooler head.
Use your senses. You can use sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste to quickly relieve stress and cool down. You might try listening to a favorite piece of music, looking at a treasured photo, savoring a cup of tea, or stroking a pet.
Stretch or massage areas of tension. Roll your shoulders if you are tensing them, for example, or gently massage your neck and scalp.
Slowly count to ten. Focus on the counting to let your rational mind catch up with your feelings. If you still feel out of control by the time you reach ten, start counting again.
Give yourself a reality check
When you start getting upset about something, take a moment to think about the situation. Ask yourself:
- How important is it in the grand scheme of things?
- Is it really worth getting angry about it?
- Is it worth ruining the rest of my day?
- Is my response appropriate to the situation?
- Is there anything I can do about it?
- Is taking action worth my time?
Tip 5: Find healthier ways to express your anger
If you’ve decided that the situation is worth getting angry about and there’s something you can do to make it better, the key is to express your feelings in a healthy way. Learning how to resolve conflict in a positive way will help you strengthen your relationships rather than damaging them.
Always fight fair. It’s OK to be upset at someone, but if you don’t fight fair, the relationship will quickly break down. Fighting fair allows you to express your own needs while still respecting others.
Make the relationship your priority. Maintaining and strengthening the relationship, rather than “winning” the argument, should always be your first priority. Respect the other person and their viewpoint.
Focus on the present. Once you are in the heat of arguing, it’s easy to start throwing past grievances into the mix. Rather than looking to the past and assigning blame, focus on what you can do in the present to solve the problem.
Be willing to forgive. Resolving conflict is impossible if you’re unwilling or unable to forgive. Resolution lies in releasing the urge to punish, which can never compensate for our losses and only adds to our injury by further depleting and draining our lives.
Take five if things get too heated. If your anger starts to spiral out of control, remove yourself from the situation for a few minutes or for as long as it takes you to cool down.
Know when to let something go. If you can’t come to an agreement, agree to disagree. It takes two people to keep an argument going. If a conflict is going nowhere, you can choose to disengage and move on.
Tip 6: Stay calm by taking care of yourself
Taking care of your overall mental and physical wellbeing can help ease tension and diffuse anger problems.
Manage stress. If your stress levels are through the roof, you’re more likely to struggle controlling your temper. Try practicing relaxation techniques such as mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, or deep breathing. You’ll feel calmer and more in control of your emotions.
Talk to someone you trust. Nothing eases stress more effectively than chatting face-to-face with a friend or loved one. The person doesn’t have to provide answers, they just need to be a good listener. But talking about your feelings and seeking a different perspective on a situation is not the same as venting. Simply venting your anger at someone will only fuel your temper and reinforce your anger problem.
Get enough sleep. A lack of sleep can exacerbate negative thoughts and leave you feeling agitated and short-tempered. Try to get seven to nine hours of good quality sleep.
Exercise regularly. It’s an effective way to burn-off tension and ease stress, and it can leave you feeling more relaxed and positive throughout the day. Aim for at least 30 minutes on most days, broken up into shorter periods if that’s easier.
Be smart about alcohol and drugs. They lower your inhibitions and can make it even harder to control your anger. Even consuming too much caffeine can make you more irritable and prone to anger.
Tip 7: Use humor to relieve tension
When things get tense, humor and playfulness can help you lighten the mood, smooth over differences, reframe problems, and keep things in perspective. When you feel yourself getting angry in a situation, try using a little lighthearted humor. It can allow you to get your point across without getting the other person’s defenses up or hurting their feelings.
However, it’s important that you laugh with the other person, not at them. Avoid sarcasm, mean-spirited humor. If in doubt, start by using self-deprecating humor. We all love people who are able to gently poke fun at their own failings. After all, we’re all flawed and we all make mistakes. So, if you’ve made a mistake at work or you’ve just spilled coffee over yourself, instead of getting angry or picking a fight, try making a joke about it. Even if the joke falls flat or comes out wrong, the only person you risk offending is yourself.
When humor and play are used to reduce tension and anger, a potential conflict can even become an opportunity for greater connection and intimacy.
Tip 8: Recognize if you need professional help
If, despite putting these previous anger management techniques into practice, your anger is still spiraling out of control, or if you’re getting into trouble with the law or hurting others, you need more help.
Anger management classes allow you to meet others coping with the same struggles and learn tips and techniques for managing your anger.
Therapy, either group or individual, can be a great way to explore the reasons behind your anger and identify triggers. Therapy can also provide a safe place to practice new skills for expressing anger.
Anger isn’t the real problem in an abusive relationship
Despite what many believe, domestic violence and abuse does not happen due to the abuser’s loss of control over their temper. Rather, it’s a deliberate choice to control another person. If you are abusive towards your spouse or partner, know that you need specialized treatment, not regular anger management classes.