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Managing Anger and Inflammation

Managing Anger and Inflammation

The movie Anger Management made fun of Adam Sandler's character Dave for getting sentenced to anger management classes. A good premise for a slapstick comedy, but in real life repeated, uncontrolled outbursts of rage become an emotional and physical hazard to the person experiencing the flares of anger and to others around them. And while behavior therapy can help people learn to redirect or dispel their impulsive emotions and actions, it doesn’t really identify the underlying cause. Now doctors may be a step closer to finding out why stresses and frustrations (perceived or imagined) make one person "blow-up" but don’t push those buttons in someone else.

Folks who are overwhelmed by explosive anger and rage—a condition psychotherapists call intermittent explosive disorder (IED)—also suffer from body-wide inflammation. By studying IED’s relationship to the inflammation markers C-reactive protein and interleukin-6, scientists discovered if you’re enraged, your body (including your brain and nervous system) is inflamed! And they’re trying to figure out if reducing inflammation in a person’s body (not as simple as taking an ibuprofen) can quell anger and make it less likely to flare-up.

So if you’re blowing your stack a little too often—we say eliminate that stack of pancakes from your breakfast menu (and anything else with added sugar, syrup or grains that aren’t 100% whole). Enjoy salmon, ocean trout, and healthy fats (unsaturated)—they soothe inflammation. And reduce stress (very inflammatory) with daily meditation. Try mindfulness, progressive relaxation, or breathing exercises. Cooler heads will prevail!

Medically reviewed in July 2019.

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