How Anger Makes You Physically Sick


Keep it in? Let it out? Both can be hazardous.

Anger is one of the 7 deadly emotions of caregiving. Get mad when you must — but don’t make a habit of it.   It affects  your body and brain.

On the one hand, an angry outburst can be a stress release, better for you than keeping seething feelings bottled up inside.

But chronic anger can make you physically sick, researchers say.

Frequent angry episodes can raise your risk of heart attacks and strokes and weaken your immune system.

Anger inside your body: The heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, and blood flow to muscles is reduced; glucose levels and adrenaline rise to give the muscles a shot of energy for the “fight or flight” response.

But never expressing anger when that’s what you’re feeling can be downright deadly.

Swedish research shows that those who walked away from conflict without saying anything (though they had reason to be upset) had double the risk of a heart attack compared to men who challenged authority.

Unexpressed anger is also linked to a lowered immune system.

The common thread: hostility seething through the body, whether expressed often or withheld often.

Researchers in this article don’t advise how to manage anger healthfully. For caregivers, it helps to learn to deal with hotheads without blowing your own top and to learn ways to cope with the frustration that loved ones can trigger.

What helps you?


Exerpt reprinted with permission from

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Suggested tips on how to respond to anger situations

Step Back and Breathe

Count to ten before you say or do anything and be mindful of your breathing. If you still don’t feel calm, count to ten again…and breathe.

Ask yourself:

  • What am I angry about?
  • What is hurting me?
  • What is going on that is not ok for me?
  • Did this person intend to hurt me?

When possible, remove yourself from the source of the stress and anger

Go for a walk or exercise. Moderate physical activity can be a productive outlet for your emotions. Besides releasing pent-up energy, your general physical feeling will improve.

Avoid emotionally charged and strenuous workouts, they can feed into the anger.

Imagine a calm relaxing scene.

  • Remember a time when you felt at peace.
  • Close your eyes, and travel back there.
  • Allow yourself to be there for a while and feel yourself release.

Empathize with the other person.

  • Try to see the situation from his or her point of view.
  • Remember that there is always more than one way to see anything.

Write in a journal. Keep track of your anger:

  • What did “I” get angry about?
  • What did “I” do or say in response?
  • How did “I” feel, physically and emotionally?

By identifying your sources of anger, you can learn to anticipate and respond to anger situations.

Use “I” statements when talking about the problem or situation instead of criticizing or blaming the other person. “I” am upset that the kitchen didn’t get cleaned after dinner,” instead of “Why is the kitchen still a mess?”, or “You should have cleaned it!”

Stop Brooding or Stewing. “Mind talk” is a major anger signal and one of the most destructive things you can do to yourself.

  • Rage starts when you lose control of your own thoughts or feelings.
  • You can control what you say.
  • Talk to the person you have anger with.
  • Share your feelings with a close friend or family member.
  • Seek professional help

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