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Is suppressing anger bad for my health?

Mona A. Schulz, MD
Psychiatry
Stuffing your anger, internalizing your anger for a prolonged period of time is bad for your health. In fact, many of the phrases for losing one’s temper illustrate how prolonged, unattended to anger, not listening to the intuition and responding to it appropriately causes changes in you health. If you internalize your anger, if you don’t listen to the intuitive message behind the irritation and aggravation, you’re going to blow a rod, too. You’re going to blow your kind of rod, whether it’s developing a physical problem like a headache, migraines, having high blood pressure, developing neck problems, back problems and the like.
William Stillman
Health Education

Suppressing your anger, or withholding it by turning it inward, can be detrimental to your health. That's not to suggest that permission is granted to express your anger through verbally or physically venting at the adults, children or animals in your life. The key is to find a proactive outlet in which to channel your feelings.

While there's something to be said for the nobility of temperance, suppressing your anger internally can have a dramatic impact on not only your mental wellness but also your physical well-being. The withholding of anger or rage can manifest in physical health ailments such as heart-related diseases or ulcers. Additionally, those who do not identify a vehicle for proactively expressing their feelings may try to suppress their true feelings with addictive behavior such as alcoholism or binge eating.

Abraham Lincoln was virtuous on many levels, but one of his admirable attributes was temperance. Once, during the Civil War, he became violently affronted by the deeds of one of his generals and shot off an enraged letter in which he strongly berated the general. But, he never sent the letter! Instead, he waited until the next morning to re-read the letter---by which time his temper had cooled significantly---and Lincoln decided not to post it!

The point being that channeling the anger or rage "energy" is a form of discipline (requiring conscious practice) preferable to venting it at others in the heat of the moment---which can cause regretful or irreversible damage to relationships. Consider the manner in which channeling anger might work best for you, be it some sort of physical exertion; or, like Lincoln, a written venting intended for your eyes only; or some means of creative expression. Your heart, mind, and body will thank you for the effort. 

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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.