Anger is one of the strongest human emotions. It is also one of the deadliest. Juxtaposed with all other emotions, anger is one that, if continued, almost never produces any good. As humans, we are independent of one another; hence, we are in control of what we feel but not how people make us feel. Inanimate objects, past events, family members, or colleagues should not be given the power to control us at any point in time.
Psychologically, anger can drag one to depression. Mentally, it leaves you in a state of disarray and health wise it causes a number of really risky illnesses. Not forgetting the danger that follows from irrational behaviours borne out of anger issues like assault and other violent acts. It could cause you to take actions you would live to regret. Rather than hold grudges or throw darts of anger, there are so many safer ways to communicate your displeasure.
Uncontrolled anger can lead to arguments, physical fights, physical abuse, assault and self-harm. On the other hand, well-managed anger can be a useful emotion that motivates you to make positive changes.
Where Anger has become a habit it is important to seek out ways to put an end to it before it costs you your friends, loved ones, or even your life.
Physical effects of anger
Anger triggers the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response. Other emotions that trigger this response include fear, excitement and anxiety. The adrenal glands flood the body with stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.
The brain shunts blood away from the gut and towards the muscles, in preparation for physical exertion. Heart rate, blood pressure and respiration increase, the body temperature rises and the skin perspires. The mind is sharpened and focused.
Health problems with anger
The constant flood of stress chemicals and associated metabolic changes that go with recurrent unmanaged anger can eventually cause harm to many different systems of the body.
Some of the short and long-term health problems that have been linked to unmanaged anger include:
Having headache does not seem like such a big deal until it just does not stop. The type of headache that follows from being angry are tension headache and migraine.
Tension headache usually occurs towards the neck and is not entirely terrible; however, migraines are recurrent and can be terrible. Migraines occur on one side of the head and can be followed by nausea and disturbed vision.
Anger induced headaches follow not directly from the act of being angry but from the actions that accompany the act of being angry. You know, throwing things angrily, clenching your teeth or fists and generally how much you internalize anger. Putting pressure on your muscles can actually give you headache! Unless you feel recurring headaches are not such big issues, then you really have to get your anger issues under control.
- digestion problems, such as abdominal pain
If you have been angry before, you would know that one act of anger can give you sleepless nights. Insomnia is another danger that comes with anger. Well, research has linked insomnia to high blood pressure, heart failure, diabetes, and many more. It is one constantly revolving roller coaster.
- increased anxiety
Anger causes anxiety and stress; anxiety and stress cause you to stay up.
At this phase, you are stuck somewhere between being sad and being angry. Anxiety attacks, frustration and all the others related evils can get you generally depressed. The dangers of staying depressed cannot also be overemphasized. Suicide and substance abuse are some of the dangers that follow depression.
- high blood pressure
High Blood pressure, which is also known as Hypertension, occurs when the pressure or force of blood that pushes against the walls of the arteries is too high. The normal range of blood pressure is a systolic pressure below 120 mmHg and a diastolic pressure below 80 mmHg; that is, 120/80mmHg. Anything above this is high and anything below this is low- especially for adults.
When you are angry, your heart rate speeds up. Not in the good way like when you exercise, but the burst of energy from anger causes your blood vessels to tighten and your blood pressure soars. So if you are already hypertensive, anger is something you should completely steer clear of. Dangers range from further aggravating the issue or running the risk of instant death. It is that serious.
- skin problems, such as eczema
- heart attack
Heart attacks happens when the heart cannot get oxygen or there is a blocked blood flow at a given time. Sometimes, it results in the death of part of a heart muscle. This can also lead to death. It follows the same procedure for hypertension and for adults who already run the risk of heart attack, getting angry will not just shake your surroundings but can also take your entire life off your feet.
Anger has been linked to the risks of stroke. Along with other forms of negative emotions, anger is a known cause for stroke. Research also has it that people who had strokes were more likely to have experienced anger or negative emotions in the two hours prior to the stroke than at the same time the day before the stroke. Also, sudden reactions to actions and activities can also cause stroke.
Unhelpful ways to deal with anger
Many people express their anger in inappropriate and harmful ways, including:
- Anger explosions – some people have very little control over their anger and tend to explode in rages. Raging anger may lead to physical abuse or violence. A person who doesn’t control their temper can isolate themselves from family and friends. Some people who fly into rages have low self-esteem, and use their anger as a way to manipulate others and feel powerful.
- Anger repression – some people consider that anger is an inappropriate or ‘bad’ emotion, and choose to suppress it. However, bottled anger often turns into depression and anxiety. Some people vent their bottled anger at innocent parties, such as children or pets.
How Anger issues affect your friends and Family
A continued demonstration of anger towards your friends and family members, may cause them to retract from you. In essence, they stay away and sooner or later, you would realise that you are alone and without close friends.
Anger issues affect relationships as well and distorts communication. Nobody wants to be in a violent relationship but where people are stuck with them, there is a natural desire to avoid all actions that could possibly lead to it happening. Hence, no real communication may take place.
Worse off, anger may lead you to react in ways you do not generally want to. For example, anger may lead you to hitting your spouse or saying hurtful words that would forever be held against you. This is possible the worst way to lose a friend or relation. Usually, at the point of anger, people say things they do not mean.
Finally, anger and peace are parallel to each other. There is no such thing as peaceful anger- at least none I know of. Anger should be reduced to a minimum so peaceful coexistence can exist.
Expressing anger in healthy ways
Suggestions on how to express your anger in healthy ways include:
- If you feel out of control, walk away from the situation temporarily, until you cool down.
- Recognise and accept the emotion as normal and part of life.
- Try to pinpoint the exact reasons why you feel angry.
- Once you have identified the problem, consider coming up with different strategies on how to remedy the situation.
- Do something physical, such as going for a run or playing sport.
Suggestions for long-term anger management
The way you typically express anger may take some time to modify. Suggestions include:
- Keep a diary of your anger outbursts, to try and understand how and why you get mad.
- Consider assertiveness training, or learning about techniques of conflict resolution.
- Learn relaxation techniques, such as meditation or yoga.
- See a counsellor or psychologist if you still feel angry about events that occurred in your past.
- Exercise regularly.
Benefits of regular exercise in mood management
People who are stressed are more likely to experience anger. Numerous worldwide studies have documented that regular exercise can improve mood and reduce stress levels. This may be because physical exertion burns up stress chemicals, and it also boosts production of mood-regulating neurotransmitters in the brain, including endorphins and catecholamines.
Teaching children how to express anger
Expressing anger appropriately is a learned behaviour. Suggestions on helping your child to deal with strong feelings include:
- Lead by example.
- Let them know that anger is natural and should be expressed appropriately.
- Treat your child’s feelings with respect.
- Teach practical problem-solving skills.
- Encourage open and honest communication in the home.
- Allow them to express their anger in appropriate ways.
- Explain the difference between aggression and anger.
- Punish aggression or violence, but not appropriately expressed anger.
- Teach your child different ways of calming and soothing themselves.
Where to get help
- Your doctor