Chronic anger & health

Some people seem to be angry all the time. Are you one of them?

Anger is an important part of the human condition, but many people are uncomfortable with anger or grow accustomed to feeling angry all of the time.

What makes us angry?

Loss of self-esteem—we feel we have failed ourselves.

Loss of face—we have been humiliated.

Loss of your role—it may have been important, and without it you lose some of your identity.

Loss of a relationship—along with mourning, this is the most common response.

Loss of security—feeling we are going to be harmed.

Loss of control—we are afraid we will act inappropriately.

The physical response to anger is similar to that of fear: dry mouth, shaking, cold hands, fatigue, crying, and heart palpitations. Our body processes both emotions in the same way, although our minds process them differently.

A constant state of anger can do real physical harm. Even if we bury anger deep inside, it can be just as damaging—coming to the surface in an explosion at the next crisis.

There are also psychological reactions to anger:

Seeing yourself as a victim. You may blame others for your condition. You can become crisis-ridden, going from one trauma to the next. You are powerless and never face up to your part in contributing to your condition.

Looking for justice and revenge. You may feel self-righteous and justified in attacking anyone you feel has done you harm. You become narcissistic and only care about your feelings. You become the perpetrator. However, sarcasm, coldness and putdowns will be more destructive to you than to the other person.

You feel discounted and ignored. You may turn your anger into self-criticism that in turn can lead to depression. You may get into the “what if” or “if only” type of thinking which will give you no peace of mind.

You feel powerless. Power and anger are related. People who feel in control of their lives are less angry. If you feel powerless, you may become passive-aggressive, expressing your anger in indirect ways. You may be intentionally irritating, sarcastic, and stubborn, and revert to childlike behaviors.

Gender difference in anger styles

In our culture, men are allowed to express their anger openly. Women are more apt to turn their anger into self-criticism or turn it inward. These gender roles are rapidly changing.

What anger does to your health

A growing body of research increasingly shows the connection between constant anger and disease.

Studies have tied chronic anger to diseases linked with weakened immune systems (perhaps resulting from anger’s escalating effect on stress hormones), coronary disease, cancer, suicide, and even increased workplace injuries. Also, chronic anger may trigger bad habits such as smoking and drinking, and can lead to serious food addictions, alcohol and drug abuse, and depression.

Counseling can help you from falling victim to your own anger, and can help make you more content. You don't need to be held hostage to your anger.




© 2006 All rights reserved. |  Last revised by R. Cohen on January 21, 2006.