The Physical and Mental Toll of Being Angry All the Time

The Physical and Mental Toll of Being Angry All the Time

Do you have a short fuse?

Are you easily angered, often upset or frequently consumed by fury – over who knows what? Of course your blood isn’t literally boiling, but chronic anger could have a damaging impact on not only your relationships and personal life, but also your overall well-being.

Certainly anger is a normal human emotion, and getting upset from time to time doesn’t do a person any mental or physical harm. “Anger, just as a fight-or-flight mechanism, with stress and anxiety … is meant to be physiologically beneficial,” says Dr. Cynthia Thaik, a cardiologist and holistic health practitioner based in Los Angeles. “We’re trying to increase the blood flow to the organs that are supposed to take action – the cardiovascular, the neuromuscular system and the central nervous system.”

Anger, like experiencing anxiety or stress, can serve a useful purpose, spurring change or action, such as when conflict – approached in a respectful manner – improves the quality of a relationship. But in other cases, the frequency, duration or intensity of anger can make it problematic, notes John Schinnerer, an anger management coach in Danville, California, and a consultant to the Pixar movie “Inside Out,” which brings a child’s various emotions to life through different characters.

Often people can’t control their anger – and rather it controls them. “It becomes a problem when it is too frequent, too intense, too enduring, and when it stops working for you,” says Howard Kassinove, professor emeritus of clinical psychology and director of the Institute for the Study and Treatment of Anger and Aggression at Hofstra University in New York. That is, it ceases to serve a positive function, explains Kassinove, co-author of “Anger Management for Everyone.”

Experts say this kind of toxic or uncontrolled anger is most concerning from a health standpoint. “If you have intermittent episodes of really very severe anger, it can affect the heart,” says Dr. Michael A. Kutcher, an interventional cardiologist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “It’s kind of an adjunctive risk factor. It’s not of and by itself a cause of coronary artery disease or a cause of heart disease. But if the anger is sustained and the blood pressure is affected and the heart rate is affected, that indirectly can lead to coronary disease or disease of the heart muscle.”

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