- No one enjoys being angry, but it’s an emotional state that we all inevitably experience.
- While occasional anger is a natural part of life, if the body is given time to recover, it is not necessarily unhealthy.
- That said, when an individual is constantly exposed to a toxic, overstimulated environment, anger can wear down the body and mind.
- Anger can cause high blood pressure, migraines, gastrointestinal issues, and rapid heart rate.
- Managing anger can be done successfully, especially with help from a mental health professional.
We all know what it means — and what it feels like — to be angry. However, our experience with anger can vary: Some hold it in until they can scribble down their feelings in a journal; others don’t dream of holding themselves back and lash out furiously instead. This begs the question: is there a right or wrong way to express anger?
This question is multifaceted. Simply put, it’s important we manage our anger properly so that we can avoid detrimental effects on our physical or mental health.
What Is Anger? Is It a Healthy, Normal Response?
We’ll delve into the potential effects of anger, but first, we should understand the functionality of anger a little better. Here are some good-to-know tidbits about anger, offered by Psychotherapist John Sovec:
- Although anger feels like a big dominant emotion for most people, in psychology it is often viewed as a secondary emotion. This means that anger is an easily accessed and primal response while behind it are the true triggering emotions such as frustration, abandonment, loneliness, and loss.
- As a biological response, anger releases huge amounts of cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream, which over the long term, interfere with the body’s ability to heal itself.
- Occasional anger is fine for the body — as long as there is a recovery time for the body to clear itself of cortisol and adrenaline. Constant and building anger are detrimental to the body and often are ignored because a person has become accustomed to living in a toxic and over-stimulated environment.
In summary, yes, it’s healthy and normal to feel angry from time to time! However, if we don’t take the time to manage and recover from our anger, we’re at risk of suffering from negative effects — both physically and mentally.
What Does Anger Do to Your Body?
As Sovec introduced, anger can be detrimental when it’s experienced frequently or without proper resolution. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Patrice Douglas, explains just how harmful anger can be to our physical health and answers the important question, “What does anger do to your body?”
“Anger can absolutely harm you or even kill you due to the wear and tear it has on your body. When we are angry, it takes three seconds for our body to go into full fight or flight mode, which means our body is ready to take on an attack. When angry, we stay in this state for approximately 30 minutes each time we are mad throughout the day. This creates exhaustion and wears on our bodies causing weaker immune systems, which then leads to a higher risk of infection.
Having our body in attack mode can increase blood pressure and rapid heart beating, which can ultimately cause heart attacks or a stroke [later in life]. Many people report feeling exhaustion and headaches when having anger issues. While anger is an extremely important emotion to have as it alerts us when something is wrong and change needs to happen, health-wise it can be dangerous if it occurs frequently and/or lasts for too long.”
We can exhaust our bodies with anger, leading to weaker immune systems. And a weaker immune system means a greater risk of becoming sick. So, the answer is yes, unresolved or continuous anger can lead to you becoming ill more often.
How Can Anger Affect You Mentally?
What about the mental and emotional effects of anger? Sure, none of us like to writhe with anger or lash out at our loved ones, but we also don’t fully realize the implications this can have on our minds.
Caleb Backe, Health and Wellness Expert, agrees and explains the spiral of negativity you might enter: “Everyone knows that anger is unpleasant, but not everyone realizes just how much it can affect your mental (and physical) health. It puts you in a funk, which can lead to feelings of hurt, self-doubt, and isolation. As you stew in your anger, you might push others away, even those who care for you the most, and this only serves to worsen your mood.”
Tips for Managing Anger
All in all, it’s important that you learn to manage your anger, so you don’t suffer from these negative effects on your mental health or your physical health. Here are a few tips that can help:
- Take deep breaths: Breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold for four seconds, and then breathe out through your mouth for another four seconds. Repeat a few times, and feel your heart rate slow back down.
- Focus on what’s in your control: Make a list of what’s in your control and what isn’t, at this moment. Then, focus on what is in your control to regulate your angry feelings and improve the situation.
- Find an outlet: Use the energy and adrenaline you have from your anger for good. Clean the house, go for a long jog, or take your giveaway piles to Goodwill. Turn your anger into action.
We’re all different — find the management techniques that work for you. And if you’re still struggling to express or understand your anger, consider meeting with a mental health professional. Anger management counseling, specifically, can help you to get to the root of your angry tendencies and control them.