How anger affects your health
When you get angry, your heart rate, arterial tension and testosterone production increases, cortisol (the stress hormone) decreases, and the left hemisphere of your brain becomes more stimulated.
Researchers induced anger in 30 men "Anger Induction" (AI), which consists of 50 phrases in first person that reflect daily situations that provoke anger.
Before and immediately after the inducement of anger, the researchers measured heart rate and arterial tension, levels of testosterone and cortisol, and the asymmetric activation of the brain.
If you knew that frequent anger might raise your risk of heart disease significantly, would you continue to blow off steam by yelling and smashing things during an argument or getting furious if the office email crashes during a rushed, stressful day?
It's time for hot heads to take heed: Increasingly, the negative, irritable, raging, and intimidating personality type worries heart researchers and doctors alike. "You're talking about people who seem to experience high levels of anger very frequently," says Laura Kubzansky, PhD, MPH, an associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health in Cambridge, Mass., who has studied the role of stress and emotions on cardiovascular disease.
Results reveal that anger provokes profound changes in the state of mind of the subjects ('they felt angered and had a more negative state of mind') and in different psychobiological parameters.
So how exactly does anger contribute to heart disease? Scientists don't know for sure, but anger might produce direct physiological effects on the heart and arteries. Emotions such as anger and hostility quickly activate the "fight or flight response," in which stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, speed up your heart rate and breathing and give you a burst of energy. Blood pressure also rises as your blood vessels constrict.
Anger is a powerful emotion and releasing the pressure that builds inside you can be essential to deal with problems and move on. But if anger isn’t dealt with in a healthy way, it can have a significant effect on your daily life, relationships, achievements and mental well-being.
What is anger?Anger is one of the most basic human emotions. It is a physical and mental response to a threat or to harm done in the past. Anger takes many different forms from irritation to blinding rage or resentment that festers over many years.
How does anger work?As we go about our lives, we’re constantly weighing up situations and deciding what we think about them: good or bad, safe or unsafe etc. How we interpret a situation influences how we feel about it. If we think we are in danger, we feel afraid. If we feel we have been wronged, we feel angry. These feelings determine how we react to the situation. We translate meanings into feelings very fast. With anger, that speed sometimes means that we react in ways we later regret.
How do our bodies respond to anger?Many of our emotions are linked to a particular physical response. Anger gets the mind and body ready for action. It arouses the nervous system, increasing the heart rate, blood pressure, blood flow to muscles, blood sugar level and sweating. It also sharpens the senses and increases the production of adrenalin, a hormone produced at times of stress.
At the same time as these physical changes, anger is thought to affect the way we think. When we are first faced with a threat, anger helps us quickly translate complex information into simple terms: 'right' or 'wrong' for instance. This can be useful in an emergency as we don’t waste valuable time weighing up information that doesn’t instantly affect our safety or well-being.
But it can mean that we act before we've considered what else is relevant and made a rational decision about how to behave. It may be that we need to take more time to look at the situation and deal with it differently. When anger gets in the way of rational thinking we may give way to the urge to act aggressively, propelled by the instinct to survive or protect someone from a threat.
Reasons for getting angry:
- facing a threat to ourselves or our loved ones
- being verbally or physically assaulted
- suffering a blow to our self-esteem or our place within a social group
- being interrupted when pursuing a goal
- losing out when money is at stake
- someone going against a principle that we consider important
- being treated unfairly and feeling powerless to change this
- feeling disappointed by someone else or in ourselves
- having our property mistreated.
We may feel angry immediately or only feel angry later when we go back over a situation. Anger can surface years later that has its roots in abuse or neglect long ago. Sometimes anger stays locked inside us for decades because it wasn’t dealt with sufficiently at the time.
The feeling of anger, like all emotions, is not isolated in your mind. The mental reaction triggers a cascade of physical reactions that extend throughout your body, including:
Interestingly, the last finding, uncovered by researchers from the University of Valencia, suggests that although anger is perceived as a negative emotion, it actually prompts you to become closer to the object of your anger, likely as a means to stop the conflict. And when it comes to anger, resolving the upset is a very wise decision.
- Increases in heart rate, arterial tension and testosterone
- Decreases in cortisol (the stress hormone)
- Stimulation of your left brain hemisphere, which is involved in experiencing emotions related to closeness
Why Unresolved Anger Can be DeadlyAnger is a normal emotion, one that all of us experience from time to time. It’s a feeling that evokes that well-known "fight-or-flight" response, preparing us to defend ourselves physically and psychologically in a conflict. Back when anger corresponded to real threats, this response could be lifesaving, but today it pushes your body into an overdrive mode that is almost always unnecessary.
As soon as you start to get “hot under the collar,” your body starts preparing for a “fight.” Your muscles get tense, your digestive processes stop and certain brain centers are triggered, which alters your brain chemistry.
The feeling of anger may actually help you make better choices even if you are normally not great at making rational decisions because anger can make you focus on that which is important, and ignore things that are irrelevant to the task of making a decision.
Feelings of Anger Damage Your Heart :
It does not feel good to be angry, and this is a clue that this emotion is also likely damaging your body on a physical level.Letting your anger out explosively may be harmful because it triggers surges in stress hormones and injures blood vessel linings.
Your Emotional Health is Intricately Linked to Your Physical Health
Negative emotions will invariably impact your physical well-being, and anger is no different. Emotional factors are actually one of the most important contributing factors for all diseases, including cancer.
That is why an effective strategy to manage your emotional stress has long been a part of my top health tools, and this is because there is overwhelming evidence that your mind does matter when it comes to preventing, or triggering, disease.
The idea that your emotions impact your health and the development of disease is not new. Even the conservative Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that 85 percent of all diseases appear to have an emotional element, but the actual percentage is likely to be even higher.
There are a host of techniques to instill positive emotions and thoughts and create a sense of inner-peace, and the best rule is to find the one that works for you, whether it is considered conventional or "alternative," and keep on using it. Prayer and meditation are helpful for many.
Life’s Too Short to Live With Anger
Optimal health involves addressing and resolving your anger and other emotional traumas as quickly as possible without letting old emotional wounds contribute to more negativity, and therefore disease, in your mind and body.
- Relaxation techniques (slow deep breathing, meditation, prayer, positive imagery)
- Empathizing with the person (or situation) you’re angry with
- Exercising (vigorous activity is an excellent way to release angry energy that has built up, and gentler exercise, like yoga, can help you calm down afterward)
- Asking yourself, “Will this situation matter in 10 minutes? Tomorrow? Next month? Next year?” Most often, situations you’re angry over mean very little in the greater scheme of your life. Keep this question in mind to help you remember that the situation you’re so angry about now will likely be irrelevant in a short time -- and is probably not worth getting worked up over.
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