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If you're frequently angry, you may be creating serious health problems for yourself, both now and in the future. In this video, psychiatrist Charles Sophy, DO, describes some of the most common consequences of habitual fury.
Anger causes an adrenaline rush; it's part of the fight-or-flight response, in which your body gears up to either stand and fight (anger) or flee (fear). So when you're experiencing anger, you'll often notice an increase in your heart rate and your breathing, your breathing becomes shallow, you feel flushed, your muscles tense up, and you feel shaky. Your thoughts tend to become judgmental (you might say to yourself, "What a jerk!" or "This shouldn't be happening. It's completely ridiculous!"). As well, you might notice that your mind takes you back to other times when you've felt this angry; this is called state-dependent memory, when your mind goes hunting for other times when you've had this emotion, and the memories it comes up with increase the emotion you're currently feeling. Finally, the urges that often accompany anger are acting-out urges, such as the urge to yell or scream, to throw something or hit someone, or to lash out in verbally hurtful ways.
People have different physical responses to anger, but some of them may include teeth grinding, flushing, paling, fists clenching, prickly sensations, sweating muscle tensions, temperature changes and numbness.
Anger usually is obvious by our facial expressions.
Women often describe anger as a slow burn, while men describe it as a fire or flood that rages within them. It also varies by cultural norms. Some Asian cultures, for instance, experience anger in a milder way and for a shorter period of time than Caucasian Americans.
In either case, your body is gearing up to survive or fight the wrong that has been perpetrated against you. Chemicals like noradrenaline and adrenaline surge through the body.
Anger is not just an emotional state but it is also a physical one. Anger alters the body’s chemistry as well as triggers the “fight or flight” response. Fight or flight response is a psychological state that you go through when you feel that there’s danger. When you’re angry, your body goes into a high alert mode that initiates many physical changes. For starters, the adrenal glands pump the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol throughout the body. Over time the production of too much cortisol can lead to a little extra fat around the mid-section. Also, the muscles tense and prepare you to fight. Your heart rate accelerates, as your blood pressure elevates, and your breathing patterns change becoming faster and shallower. Your body temperature rises and you may begin to sweat. Your body is getting ready for action. After an anger episode it can take between 20-60 minutes to return to your pre-arousal state. Did you ever think of what you’re putting your body through when you get angry?
If all that happens just during one anger episode, imagine what happens to someone who’s angry all the time. After a while the anger will catch up with their health. Prolonged periods of anger have been associated with many health problems such as:
- Suppressed immune system
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Skin problems
Learning to get a grip on anger is important to your psychological and physical well-being. If you believe that anger is taking a toll on your life, please seek the help of a mental health professional.
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.