How Anger Affects the Body When you get angry, your heart rate and blood pressure spike, your muscles tighten, and you might have an impulse to do something physically violent. It’s called the fight-or-flight response, and it’s designed to protect you from dangerous situations.
But chronic anger can be a different story, and it can lead to health issues like inflammation, headaches, and gastrointestinal problems. Learn how to manage your anger and the physical effects it has on your body.
Heart rate and blood pressure
When you’re angry, your body responds with a release of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These stress hormones cause your blood vessels to tighten and increase your blood pressure. Often, these reactions are temporary, but you can get into a bad situation if you let your anger build up.
If you have high blood pressure (hypertension), your heart has to work harder to pump blood through the arteries. Your doctor will measure your systolic and diastolic blood pressure, which measures the pressure exerted by each heartbeat on the artery walls. Your doctor may also measure your pulse, which is the number of times your heart beats per minute.
Your doctor’s target is between 120 and 80 millimeters of mercury systolic (pressure) and 80 to 60 millimeters of mercury diastolic (pressure). This is known as an optimal blood pressure level.
But your doctor needs to establish a safe and healthy baseline for you, based on your age, gender, physical activity levels, weight, medical conditions, body position, and other factors. A healthy resting heart rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute.
A high resting heart rate can mean you’re stressed or overweight, using too much medicine, or have a poor fitness level. It can also indicate a health problem, such as heart disease or high blood pressure, that requires attention and treatment.
Researchers have found that people who lose their temper are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke in the two hours following an outburst of anger. They assessed a group of 300 patients and asked them to use a seven-point scale of their anger levels over the previous 48 hours. Those who reported feeling levels 5 and 7 (enraged or out of control) were most at risk of a heart attack.
When you are angry, your body reacts the same way it does when you are stressed or anxious. Heart rate goes up, circulation is increased, glands are swollen and the body’s muscles are tense.
This is why anger can make you feel achy, stiff and even painful, especially in areas like the chest and the arms. Anger can also cause your breathing to become quick and shallow, which can lead to a number of health problems.
The key to dealing with this type of stress is to recognize that it affects your muscles. If you are able to take the time to notice when your muscle tension is caused by anger, it can be a powerful tool to help you cope with your emotions.
Progressive muscle relaxation is a practice that has been shown to be effective in reducing feelings of anger and anxiety. It involves tense the specific muscles that are causing you discomfort and then relaxing them in stages. You can do this
exercise anywhere, but a comfortable spot in your home or at the gym can work best.
You can do this for a few minutes each day, or as you need it. The goal is to get into the habit of consciously tensing and relaxing your muscles.
Try to only tense the specific muscles that you are targeting, and to be deliberate about it. This can be a bit difficult at first, but with regular practice it becomes easier.
It is important to understand that some degree of muscle tension is necessary to keep your body healthy and functioning properly, but when it becomes unhealthy or excessive, it can lead to chronic pain and other problems. If you are experiencing
muscle tension that is impacting your daily life or your health, it is important to seek help from a doctor.
Anger can cause a number of physical responses in the body, from heart rate and blood pressure to muscle tension and inflammation. But if you’re angry regularly, you could be setting yourself up for serious health problems in the long run. The first way your anger can affect your body is by increasing inflammation. When you’re upset, your brain sends signals to the hypothalamus, which then triggers your sympathetic nervous system and pumps out hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.
This causes your muscles to tighten, your blood vessels to narrow and your breathing to become shallow. Inflammation is a natural response that your body uses to defend itself against an irritant, whether it’s bacteria, a virus or something else. It may also occur when you’ve injured your skin or sprained an arm. But chronic inflammation, or the sort that’s triggered by anger, can set you up for more serious health concerns, according to research. Specifically, people with
frequent anger and violent behavior have more inflammation in their bodies than those who don’t exhibit these traits.
Moreover, inflammation can increase your risk of certain diseases, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. A study published in the Journal of Psychiatric
Research found that people diagnosed with IED (intermittent explosive disorder), which is characterized by repeated episodes of impulsive aggression and temper tantrums, have higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) than those without these psychiatric disorders.
These findings help support a connection between anger and hostility and inflammation, according to the authors of the study. But they note that more research is needed to determine the full extent of the relationship between anger and inflammatory processes.
The good news is that mood swings are common and usually go away once stress levels subside. However, they can become severe if not treated and have an impact on your health and relationships. Mood swings may be caused by many different factors. For example, a person’s diet and sleep habits can have a significant effect on their emotions. Getting enough sleep, eating well and avoiding caffeine withdrawal can help to regulate your moods.
Hormonal shifts, such as menstruation or pregnancy, can also have a negative impact on a person’s mood. This is especially true for women, who are more likely to experience hormonal changes than men. PMS and its more severe form, PMDD, affect up to 5% of women of childbearing age.
Another condition that can cause mood changes is Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. These diseases damage brain cells and reduce the amount of chemicals in your brain that control your feelings, including emotion.
Depression and bipolar disorder can also cause mood swings. If you’re experiencing these mood shifts, you should seek help from a doctor.
People who have these conditions often struggle to manage their emotions, which can lead to anger and irritability. Medications can help to control these symptoms and prevent further harm to the body.
If your mood swings are extreme and not going away, you should talk to a mental health professional. They can help you identify the triggers that lead to your mood shifts and help you develop strategies to change your behavior.
In addition to a doctor’s consultation, psychotherapy and counseling are also helpful for managing mood swings. They can teach you coping skills and strategies for handling stressful situations.
If you have asthma, the body’s response to strong emotions can trigger your symptoms. This includes coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. Stress is another common emotion that can cause your asthma to flare up. When you feel stressed, the body’s sympathetic nervous system is activated — the part of the brain that reacts to threats and emergencies. This causes your breathing rate to increase and muscles to tighten up, says Dr. Duijndam.
Chronic stress exacerbates inflammation, which can make your immune system work harder to fight off potential infections or illnesses. This can contribute to your asthma, especially if it’s been going on for long.
Fortunately, you can reduce the effects of your anger on your health. Self- management techniques such as meditation and exercise can help calm your mind.
Also, a regular sleep schedule, eating a healthy diet, and staying away from sugar can help you cope with the pressures of everyday life.
You may also find that a relaxing, calming breathing routine can help you manage your emotions and relax your body. By practicing relaxation exercises, you can activate the parasympathetic nervous system — the part of the brain that helps you rest and recover from stressful events.
Researchers have found that people with asthma who experience high levels of emotional distress tend to have worse airway function and suffer more acute attacks than people who do not experience these emotions. So, they’re working to understand how stress and anxiety affect lung function and how to alter this connection between the mind and lungs to improve asthma.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison is leading a four-year clinical study to investigate how the brain and lung communicate when people experience emotional stress. The team will administer a whole-lung challenge that primes the airways with inflammation without triggering an asthma attack, and then track and analyze the lungs’ responses to stress. The hope is that these findings will lead to new ways to help people with asthma manage their disease and avoid exacerbations.