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What Causes Anger and How It Affects the Body

Here are some ways to let go of it.

Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels
Source: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

People are angry right now. Our world has changed dramatically in the last six months, and people are reaching a boiling point. It began with the pandemic. A lot of people were afraid, and that fear turned into anger. Businesses were shut down, and we were told to stay home and wear masks if we go out. Many people don’t like to be told what to do. People became frustrated, and that frustration turned to anger because they were losing their jobs. People became hurt and frustrated when other people didn’t agree with them.

The causes of anger differ from one person to another and from situation to situation, but no matter what the reason, it can ruin your health. One of my professors said, “There is no such thing as anger. What you’re feeling is either fear, hurt, or frustration.” No matter how you label it, it harms your body when you feel any of those emotions.

Common causes of anger include stress, which makes you feel anxious and irritable, and frustration if things are out of your control, or you don’t reach a goal. Fear can be due to a threat of violence, or verbal or physical abuse. You feel disappointed when your desires or expectations are not met. Resentment comes when you feel hurt, offended, or rejected.

Excessive and uncontrollable anger can cause problems in your relationships with friends and family, problems at work, legal and financial difficulties, and physical and mental health issues. Anger is often at the root of murder, violent crimes, destruction of property, and abuse, whether physical, verbal, or sexual. Domestic violence incidents have increased during the pandemic.

Failure to handle your anger well can cause mental health problems, as well. Anger affects your thoughts and feelings. If you are angry, you may use alcohol or other substances to dull the anger or try to forget about what made you angry. Using substances to solve problems usually causes more problems. Anger can also hijak your ability to think clearly, and as a result, you can end up making poor decisions and using poor judgment. You may even end up saying something you later regret.

Anger creates energy surges, and when energy surges occur, chemicals such as adrenaline enter your bloodstream, your heart rate increases, your blood flow increases, and your muscles tense. Losing your temper affects your cardiac health. It can shorten your life when it is sustained. Anger also compromises your immune system. Everyone gets angry sometimes; handling anger well, though, can help you to stay healthy.

When you get angry, ask yourself if the level of anger you are feeling and your reaction to it is out of proportion to what triggered the anger. Are you overreacting? Are you directing your anger at the correct person? Are you taking something personally? It’s much better to take your emotional temperature throughout the day and to address your feelings before you lose control of them. Self-monitor: do you feel your heart begin to race, are your muscles starting to tense? These are all indicators that you are beginning to become angry.

If you are angry because you feel like you’re losing control, it’s best to try to remain calm. Slowly count to 10. Take some deep breaths. Changing the rate and depth of your breathing will relay messages to your brain to calm down. Walk away from the situation. Give yourself some space from whatever or whoever is making you angry—start by calming down. Learn to express your feelings more productively. Practice self-care by getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night, exercise, eat a healthy diet, and limit the amount of time you spend watching or reading the news. Pay as much attention to what you are feeding your mind as you do to what you are feeding your body. Go for a walk, get outside, spend time in nature. It’s good for your mind, body, and soul. Listen to your favorite music. Distract yourself with something, a hobby, a movie, or a book. Don’t let your anger fester. The longer you hold on to something, the heavier it gets. You cannot control other people’s behavior; you can only control how you react to it.

More from Louise B. Miller Ph.D.
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