Is habitual anger unhealthy?

Charles J. Sophy, MD
Adolescent Medicine

Anger can impact more than just your mood. In this video, psychiatrist Charles Sophy, DO, discusses how habitual anger can affect your health.

The way we feel -- especially being hurt or angry can have very negative effects on other parts of our physical body and on our emotions. When we are experiencing internalized anger, our nervous and hormone systems react, creating harmful side effects, both physically and mentally, and this can lead to compromised health as well as compromised personal and professional relationships. 

Yes, chronic anger is unhealthy as when we become angry our body reacts though the stress response. If we are habitually angry, these are the conditions that can occur as a result of this physical response to the chronic or ongoing anger we experience:
  • elevated blood pressure
  • increased heart rate
  • tense muscles
  • heart attack
  • hiatal hernia
  • glaucoma
  • stroke
  • hives
  • asthma
  • ulcers
  • migraines
  • low back pain
  • psoriasis
  • shortened life expectancy
In addition to thousands of anger and stress studies, many other health studies have also connected anger to loneliness, chronic anxiety, depression, eating disorders, sleep disorders, obsessive-compulsive behavior and phobias. It can also have a detrimental effect on our relationships and threatens the development and maintenance of intimate relationships. Communication is the key to learning how to handle our anger and creating healthy and fulfilling relationships.

Learning how to communicate does not have to be complicated. While most of us have developed communication skills from our families and environment, there are easy-to-learn, proven skills that can provide you with the tools and knowledge you need to be able to channel and express your anger or hurt feelings appropriately.

When we are able to express our feelings, be they sadness, frustration, or anger, we feel more in control of our lives and able to create the type of relationships we want with others.

Current research has clearly shown that it is healthier to express and resolve our relationships that it is to hold them in and allow them to make us ill or to cause conflicts at work, at home or with friends and colleagues.
Anger is a normal emotion. Chronic anger isn't. Carrying around a lot of anger is unhealthy physically and psychologically. The key to getting a grip on anger is to find the source. Oftentimes anger is masked by other emotions such as stress, fatigue, depression and being hurt. If you truly want to work on your anger, you've got to go to the root of what's bothering you. Just focusing on the anger won't solve the problem because you're avoiding the cause. It's easier to walk around ticked than to admit that you're overwhelmed or that your feelings are hurt.

You can discover where your anger is coming from by identifying what's triggering it, discovering who you lash out at, look at how it's effecting your relationships, and how it's effecting your health. Chronic anger can lead to self-destruction. Don't let anger destroy you; it's not worth it. While you're discovering where you're anger's coming from find positive outlets to release it. Exercise, journaling, reading, painting, martial arts, fishing or yoga are just a few examples. 

Remember you're in control of your anger; so don't let it control you.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.