Psychology 101: Anger and Sickness: How Anger Can Affect Your Health

by Janice Killey

Anger is a natural human emotion, especially when taking into account that there are things capable of making anyone feel upset or dissatisfied with some aspects of life. However, just because it’s normal doesn’t mean people should feel it all the time. Most importantly, anger should never take over your life. When anger becomes the body’s dominant emotion, not only does the world “feel your rage”; your body takes the brunt of the impact too. That’s right – anger affects your body in many different ways, the same way being happy makes you more energetic. How does this work?


The Basics of Anger: Defining One’s Rage

It may help to know what anger is before understanding how it can affect the body. For starters, anger is an emotion that is characterized by being antagonistic or hostile towards something or someone, especially if you feel as though they’ve done something wrong to you.


Anger has its benefits as well, especially as a means to express how one feels. This can also serve to motivate you to find solutions to problems. In ages past, humans have used anger and hostility to find ways to better defend themselves against predators. This trait has carried on until today; only that “predators” or “problems” take different forms.

Unfortunately, excessive anger does cause its own fair share of problems. For instance, anger does affect one’s view of situations and also has an influence on mental health. It can also have negative impacts towards one’s relationships, daily activities, and overall satisfaction with life.


Anger and the Body: How the Two Relate

It’s also important to understand that anger isn’t always a good emotion to have precisely because of how it can affect the body in different ways. Professionals from Psychologists Southern Sydney can be of assistance when it comes to identifying where your specific anger issues lie and how you can resolve them. Below are some ways anger can affect your health:

  • Anger can weaken your immune system and increase the risk of diseases: Feeling anger can result in dips in antibody levels, especially immunoglobulin. Antibodies are the first line of defense of the body against infections. This means being angry can literally make your body weaker, and this might explain why being angry can make a lot of people feel physically unwell.
  • Anger can put you at risk of stroke or heart attack: Having outbursts of anger, or even feelings of extreme anger in general, can raise your blood pressure to unhealthy levels and may be detrimental to your cardiovascular health. This is especially the case of repressed anger, as it’s commonly associated with coronary or heart disease. Not being able to control your outbursts also puts you at risk of stroke, as having bleeding or a blood clot in your brain during an outburst can increase your risk of stroke.
  • Anger can put your lungs at risk: Aside from putting your cardiovascular health at risk, being hostile or angry can hurt your lungs. Intense emotions can affect the way your lungs function; this, in turn, increases your risks of respiratory problems. This is linked to the increase in stress hormones that are commonly associated with anger, and these can cause inflammation in the air pathways in the body.
  • Anger can worsen anxiety and depression: Having anxiety and depression come with feelings of uncontrollable or excessive worry, which is also another common behavior when angry. However, unexpressed and bottled-up anger can also worsen symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. Not only that, passive anger that is commonly present among upset individuals can also be linked to depression.
  • Anger can affect your overall mental performance: When you’re angry, you’re likely going to have increased levels of cortisol, which can kill neurons or brain cells in the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus. When these areas of the brain are affected, your ability to perceive risks and make good judgment calls will be affected. Anger can even prevent you from developing new memories.


The Takeaway: Anger Affects the Body in Many Ways

Anger is a completely normal thing to feel, especially in situations where you feel you may have been hurt or disadvantaged by someone or a situation. It’s also normal to express anger in a multitude of ways. However, it’s unhealthy when anger becomes your “default” response, especially if you cope is through methods that might hurt you and others in the process. If you feel like your anger is already negatively affecting your health, you might need to find ways to control your anger and cope with it in positive ways.


Janice Killey

Janice has a wealth of experience and training. She holds a Diploma of Education, Bachelor of Arts (Psychology), Master of Arts (Counselling), and Diploma of Clinical Hypnotherapy (ASH). She is a Registered Psychologist at Psychologists Southern Sydney. She’s also a member of the Australian Psychological Society.

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