Anxiety

The Connection Between Anxiety, Anger, and Adrenaline

Anger is turbocharged anxiety and your body's attempt to regain control.

Posted Dec 15, 2019

Georgiy/Adobe Stock
Source: Georgiy/Adobe Stock

All living creatures survive and flourish by avoiding threats and gravitating toward rewards. Humans have language and consciousness, which creates problems with an avoidance response.

Thoughts create the same chemical reaction as a physical threat and we can’t escape our thoughts. Emotional pain is processed in a similar manner as physical pain (1). Since humans can’t escape from their thoughts, there is a constant elevation of stress hormones. These hormones vary by the matter of degree.

Another problem is that we have the ability to put a name on it. We call it “anxiety.” The medical profession has viewed anxiety as a psychological problem, whereas anxiety is simply a description of the feelings generated by elevated stress hormones and the autonomic nervous system response. It generates psychological issues, but this survival reaction is not primarily a “psychological” problem. 

Feeling Trapped?

One of the primary reactions to anxiety is control. Once the threat is resolved, the body chemistry normalizes. What happens when the real or perceived threat persists and we feel trapped? This, of course, causes the secretion of even more hormones and the feeling of being angry. Anger and anxiety are the same entity. It is your body’s attempt to increase your efforts to regain control. Anger is anxiety with a chemical kick. Many reactions occur in your body (2). This includes:

  • Shift of blood supply to skeletal muscles, which enables you to flee danger.
  • Decreased blood flow to your brain – especially to the frontal cortex where most thinking occurs.
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Faster heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Rapid breathing

Adrenaline also affects every cell in your body with each organ system manifesting its own unique response. There are four categories (3). These are: 

  • Smooth muscles—control digestion, bladder emptying, and the diameter of blood vessels and lung airways.
  • Skeletal muscle—muscles used for motor function including heart muscle
  • Central nervous system—is intended to protect you, and one starting point is to amplify danger signals from the environment, such as pain
  • Conversion reaction—a given organ system will completely shut down.

Adrenaline/ Cortisol/ Cytokines/ Histamines

There are over 30 symptoms that can occur with the sustained “adrenaline bath” from the different organ system reactions. They include:

  • Smooth muscle
    • Migraine headaches
    • Irritable bowel
    • Spastic bladder
    • Sweating
    • A pounding sensation of your heart
  • Skeletal muscle
  • Central nervous system
  • Conversion reactions (whole systems shut down)
    • Paralysis
    • Blindness
    • Weakness
  • Migraine headaches
  • Irritable bowel
  • Spastic bladder
  • Sweating
  • A pounding sensation of your heart
  • Paralysis
  • Blindness
  • Weakness

Your body—a cell culture medium

Dr. Bruce Lipton is a world-renowned cell biologist formerly from Stanford. He has authored several remarkable books including, The Biology of Belief and The Honeymoon Effect. My wife and I had the pleasure of meeting him and his wife. He succinctly pointed out that when he places human cells in a culture medium that contains adrenaline and cortisol, the cells shrivel. When placed in a culture dish that contains oxytocin and growth hormone, the cells flourish. The difference isn’t subtle. Oxytocin is the hormone secreted at birth and is felt to be significant in a mother's bonding with her infant. It is also nicknamed “the love drug.”

SydaProductions/Adobe Stock
Source: SydaProductions/Adobe Stock

He also points out that the human body is essentially one big culture medium contained by the skin, with about 50 trillion cells in the body. Therefore, as adrenaline is in contact with every cell, the effects are profound. 

The way you think does affect your body chemistry. What chemical environment do you want your cells to be exposed to on a daily basis? You do have a choice. Anxiety, anger, and adrenaline OR awareness, forgiveness, acceptance, and oxytocin.

References

1. Eisenberger N, et al. Does rejection hurt? An fMRI study of social exclusion. Science (2003); 290.

2. Porges, Steven. The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory. Norton and Co. New York, NY, 2017.

3. Abass A, et al. Direct diagnosis and management of emotional factors in chronic headache patients. Cephalgia (2008); 28: 1305-1314.

4. Lipton, Bruce. The Biology of Belief–10th Anniversary edition. Hay House. Carlsbad, CA, 2016.

5. Lipton, Bruce. The Honeymoon Effect. Hay House. Carlsbad, CA, 2013.