Anger is a normal human emotion. We become angry about something difficult in our lives, a person, a situation or event, an ongoing problem, and anger comes up and then gets resolved. Anger is a useful emotion that signals us that something is wrong in our lives. Anger is an emotion that we associate to "fight or flight" survival instincts. It stimulates adrenaline, gives us energy, and helps us survive dangerous situations. However, if we hold onto anger and habitually experience anger, rage, strong emotional reactions to people and situations, we chronically stimulate the body's survival systems, including the androgenic hormone system and immune system. Heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and other health problems are negative health effects of chronic anger. Chronic anger not only affects our relationships with others, it harms our bodies.
Angry people are more likely to get sick because chronic stress caused by anger results in immune system dysfunction. Rather than fight disease (e.g., colds, viruses), the immune system is dealing with the effects of the chronic stress. Anger problems and depressive symptoms have been linked to all major causes of death. Individuals that have less control over their anger tend to heal more slowly from wounds. They tend to have more cortisol, a stress hormone, in their system. Higher rates of hostility result in breathing problems and higher rates of decline in the aging process. Chronic anger results in:
- Weight gain - Cortisol (the stress hormone that triggers the fight or flight response in the body) may be secreted in unhealthy amounts when stress and anger are chronic. Negative effects of too much cortisol can include: Increased weight (particularly in the abdomen), blood sugar imbalances, suppressed thyroid function, high blood pressure, and lower immunity.
- Headaches – Internalized anger may result in more frequent headaches.
- Lowered immunity – People with chronic anger may experience more illness (e.g., colds) and more bodily aches and pains due to lowered immune function.
- Stroke – Ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel carrying blood to the brain is blocked by a clot. Approximately one person every 40 seconds (in the United States) has a stroke. Although high blood pressure is the most common cause of strokes, anger and depression may result in high blood pressure.
Healthy ways to combat the negative effects of anger include calming exercises, allowing the body to repair itself. The body repairs itself during sleep, and meditation techniques (e.g., tai chi, yoga, sitting or walking meditation) that bring that level of calm to the body promote healing. social interactions, community involvement, and membership in a spiritual community have been shown to promote healing. Because poorly managed anger presents such a significant problem in so many areas of life, it’s important to learn and practice healthy anger management techniques in daily life
Other practices that can result in positive emotional benefits:
- Positive Outlook - A positive outlook results in personal satisfaction, improved mental clarity, and improved overall function. Those who "see the glass half full" experience better health.
- Exercise - Exercise results in the release of endorphins, lifting the mood and promoting a sense of well-being, decreasing anger. Exercise may be the first suggestion for someone with a temper problem or to reduce chronic anger.
- Laughter - Laughter "doeth good like a medicine" (Bible). Learning to laugh more is healing, with laughter releasing endorphins into the body, resulting in a pain-killing effect. When angry, watching a comedy, talking to a funny friend, or reading jokes can reduce the anger.
- Prayer - Prayer can result in release of anger. People who pray are often more aware of the good things in their lives, the blessings, and are able to maintain a more positive outlook and manage their fears, frustrations, and anxiety.