THE SILENT SABOTEUR: HOW ANGER AFFECTS YOUR HEALTH AND WAYS TO CONTROL IT
Anger is an emotion we all experience at some point in our lives. Whether it is frustration, irritation, or outright rage, anger is a natural reaction to a variety of circumstances. It is a powerful and often intense emotion, but have you ever considered how anger can affect your health?
In this blog post, we will explore the connection between anger and physical well-being, delving into the physiological responses, the impact on mental health, and strategies for managing this powerful emotion.
What is Anger?
Biologically, anger is believed to be a stress-derived emotion that triggers (or is triggered by) a cascade of physiological responses in the body. When we get angry, our heart rate increases, blood pressure spikes, and stress hormones flood the system. Anger is one of several stress responses that make up the "fight or flight" response, a survival mechanism we inherited from our ancestors. Its main purpose is to prepare the body for combat, often resulting in aggressive behaviors, thoughts, and communication.
Anger can be healthy when felt in response to an appropriate situation and when its expression can be contained and kept non-aggressive. Even when controlled, anger can cause stress and adversely affect the body and general health.
The Health Effects of Anger
Throughout the course of life, situations that give rise to anger are often far and few between and short-lived. Most people learn how to deal with anger swiftly and minimize its occurrence, as this leads to better solutions and more peaceful outcomes. Those who do not may acquire an anger management problem.
Over time, sustained anger can lead to long-term health effects pertaining to continuous activation of the stress response. Unaddressed anger issues are a risk factor for mental health issues, compromised emotional well-being, heart disease, and lower immunity, as reviewed below.
One of the most concerning aspects of chronic anger is its impact on heart health. Anger can strain the heart and blood vessels in a similar way to other forms of chronic stress.
In the long run, chronic anger is known to heighten the risk for hypertension and cardiovascular disease. In those with pre-existing heart conditions, extreme outbursts of anger are capable of triggering a heart attack or stroke. While not directly connected across studies, those with chronic anger issues are likely to experience more intense outbursts than the average person, supporting the link between anger and increased mortality risk.
Women and those without comorbid conditions may be less susceptible to acquiring anger issues. A large-scale study assessing over 47,000 participants found that of those who experienced anger once or more per week on average, the risk of atrial fibrillation, heart failure, and mortality was greatly increased in men and in those with diabetes.
Emotional and Mental Well-Being
Anger not only affects us physically but also takes a toll on our emotional well-being and relationships. Individuals who struggle with chronic anger are inclined to be more aggressive verbally and physically, which can affect their relationships and isolate them.
Long-term social isolation and anger management issues can eventually result in substance abuse or other maladaptive coping strategies that exacerbate associated health problems. Aside from cardiovascular events and immune complications, chronic anger can heighten the risk of developing mental health conditions, such as personality disorders, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other mood disorders.
It has been observed that the state of our immune system is partially a reflection of our emotional state of being. The immune system responds to states of both stress and relaxation, taking them into consideration when interpreting cues that warrant an immune reaction. Emotion and the stress response are intimately connected to the experience of pain, the release of inflammation, as well as their resolution.
Studies show that anger can adversely affect the immune system in a similar way to stress by inhibiting immune cells, increasing the expression of inflammation, and promoting an unbalanced immune response. These factors can make individuals more susceptible to infections and are associated with the development of inflammatory conditions and autoimmune diseases.
Recognizing the Signs of an Anger Management Problem
Recognizing an anger issue is crucial for maintaining good health. A person with an anger management problem frequently loses their temper during inappropriate situations with little provocation.
Common signs include:
- Frequent outbursts
- A quick temper
- Difficulty controlling anger
- Getting angry during inappropriate situations or over small things
- Physical or verbal aggression
- Impulsive behavior
- Prolonged resentment
- Physical symptoms such as elevated heart rate, muscle tension, and headaches
It is essential to seek the advice of a mental health professional if you or someone you know displays these symptoms over an extended period of time.
What Causes Anger Issues?
Neurologically, anger has been shown to activate many areas of the brain that overlap with other stressful emotions, such as fear, anxiety, and depression. Those with chronic anger problems are inclined to have a wider variety of triggers and a heightened response, which resemble features of post-traumatic stress disorder.
The most common triggers for anger pertain to one’s reaction to conflict or to a dashed expectation that leads to frustration. Sources of either stress or irritation can trigger angry outbursts in those with anger issues.
How to Deal with Anger
Managing anger is key to maintaining both mental and physical health. Those with anger issues can help themselves overcome the problem by looking after themselves and improving their ability to control their anger.
Self-care practices, understanding the triggers and removing or distancing themselves from them, using stress management techniques, and learning healthier coping mechanisms are all helpful tools for dealing with anger. The following sections explore these tips in more detail.
Dealing with one’s anger should be viewed as a form of self-care, as it can drastically improve one’s well-being and life quality. As anger is a major form of stress mismanagement, basic self-care practices can go a long way towards lowering stress, keeping a stable mood, and building resilience against triggers of anger.
Key self-care practices that can help to manage reactivity and improve one’s mood include:
- Getting sufficient quality sleep to avoid irritability, lower stress, and enhance energy levels
- Maintaining a balanced diet to help stabilize emotional outbursts and mood swings
- Avoiding excessive caffeine, sugary foods, and allergies or sensitivities
- Staying adequately hydrated
- Engaging in enjoyable relaxation activities like reading, listening to music, taking long baths, or spending time in nature
- Nurturing healthy relationships for emotional support and stress reduction
- Talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling, or write in a journal.
It is difficult to manage anger if one is unaware of oneself while angry or of the triggers that caused it. Mindfulness is a calming technique that aims to increase self-awareness and self-acceptance. Practicing being fully present in the moment lowers emotional reactivity and helps one to navigate through situations that may otherwise unconsciously lead to angry outbursts or mood swings.
The presence of the self sheds light on an objective experience-based perspective that highlights thoughts, feelings, and actions, which gives one the option of discarding unnecessary ones, choosing more reasonable responses, and taking a deeper look at unfounded reactivity. Over time, this helps to break an angry mindset and any associated behavioral patterns, eventually doing away with them entirely.
Studies support these observations, sharing how behavioral management techniques (that demand mindful awareness of behavior) beneficially lowered stress and aggression in those with chronic anger. 
Stress Reduction Techniques
When one becomes mindful of anger, it becomes obvious that stress is often the main trigger. Reducing stress can disrupt anger and prevent it from escalating. By making use of the following stress reduction techniques, you can keep calm and build better emotional control:
- Deep Breathing. Practicing deep, diaphragmatic breathing helps to calm the nervous system, regulate the heart rate, and interrupt signals of stress in the brain that can perpetuate patterns of reactivity. Take a deep breath in through your nose for a count of four, hold it for another four counts, and then slowly let it out through your mouth for a count of six.
- Meditation. Regular meditation calms the mind and can help to cut through neural circuits involved in keeping one “wired” or stressed. There are many types of meditation, yet all of them involve focusing your attention inwardly and cleansing the mind. After finding one that works to lower your stress levels, it is important to be consistent with it in order to benefit in the long run.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation. Through this technique, different muscle groups in the body are tensed and released to reduce physical tension and stress. It can help to relax the muscles from head to toe and may be most effective when done before sleep.
- Exercise. Regular physical activity, such as yoga, brisk walking, or jogging can reduce stress by balancing neurotransmission and releasing endorphins, which are natural mood-lifting chemicals the body makes.
- Take Some Time Off: If you feel yourself getting angry, take a few minutes to cool down before you say or do anything you might regret.
Remember that different techniques may work better for different individuals, so it is essential to find what works best for you.
Find Healthy Coping Mechanisms
Stressful situations are a part of life that should not always be avoided in order to cope. It is important to work out when stress triggers anger and to find a positive solution that can be used for dealing with stress in the future.
Those with anger issues commonly need to assess the way they approach stress, problem-solving, communication and conflict resolution in order to minimize their responses. Humor and taking a mindful approach when communicating can help to keep things calm when working towards a solution or resolution.
Pay attention to factors that might increase stress and provoke anger, such as time management, goal setting, and unrealistic expectations. When triggered, it can also help to distance or distract oneself from stress by taking a deep breath or going for a walk, before returning to approach the issue with a fresh and calm mind.
If it is difficult to find positive solutions to triggers of stress and anger, then it may be worthwhile to seek psychological advice.
When to See a Psychologist
Seeking support from a therapist or counselor can provide personalized guidance for those with anger issues. This is crucial in cases of chronic anger that become unmanageable and begin to impact daily life. Mental health specialists can help determine the underlying causes of anger in individuals and recommend management techniques.
In conclusion, anger is a powerful emotion that can significantly impact your health. The physiological responses it triggers, its effects on mental well-being, and its contribution to various health conditions emphasize the importance of recognizing and addressing anger issues. By learning to manage and control anger through healthy coping mechanisms and, when necessary, seeking professional help, you can improve your overall health and well-being. Remember, anger can be a natural emotion, but if left unchecked, it can also be detrimental to your health.
-  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9472789/
-  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27188635/
-  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4212945/
-  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3260787/
-  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6336501/
-  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9174026/
Disclaimer: Please note that Mya Care does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information provided is not intended to replace the care or advice of a qualified health care professional. The views expressed are personal views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Mya Care. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen. Do not reproduce, copy, reformat, publish, distribute, upload, post, transmit, transfer in any manner or sell any of the materials in this blog without prior written permission from myacare.com.
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