Anger's effects on your well-being and health
According to the Anger Research Consortium, most people feel a little angry a few times a week and as many as a third of us feel angry daily.
Whether reacting to unfairness, standing up for ourselves, or seeking a solution we are less frustrated with, anger facilitates change in our lives. On the flip side, anger’s power over us makes it difficult to control. When our anger gets the better of us and we feel out of control, or seem scary to others (and ourselves), it’s not uncommon to suffer the consequences, including serious impacts on relationships, health, work performance, and overall quality of life.
Crossing the line
When does anger cross the line from being a useful warning system for protecting ourselves to becoming harmful? Anger is harmful when it affects your ability to function well in daily life and hurts your health, relationships, and job.
Anger is harmful when:
- You get angrier than the situation calls for
- You can’t cool off quickly, making it hard to move on
- You feel angry all the time or many times a day
- You’re not always sure why you’re angry, or with whom
- You have a ‘hair trigger’ response and find yourself angry with those closest to you for very little reason
- You turn to physical or verbal aggression
- You lose jobs, friends, or intimate relationships because of your anger
- You turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with feeling angry
It’s hard to imagine that a feeling could cause so many physical responses. In addition to the immediate “fight or flight” impact that anger has on our bodies, there are many and serious long-term health impacts that occur when we don’t manage this emotion effectively. Anger at any age is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. And unmanaged anger can lead to many of the physical effects of stress, such as headaches, sleep difficulties, high blood pressure, fatigue, or digestive problems.
Beyond personal health problems, anger—when poorly managed—continually surfaces in our relationships. We may not realize we are breeding fear, anxiety, and anger in the people we care about most. Not only that, but our own emotional patterns can create a cycle of guilt, and regret leading to more frustration and anger. The impact is both immediate and long term, from success at work and the happiness of your marriage to your child’s ability to succeed in school and make friends. Long-term patterns of anger can affect the way children eventually behave in their own adult relationships and how they parent their own children.