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Crime Prevention, Education, Family, Governance, Healthcare, Proverbs, Workplace

Why anger is bad for you

CALMDOWNBy Victoria Lambert
From: The Australian
14 March, 2014

IT’S official — anger is bad for your health. A study in European Heart Journal by the Harvard School of Public Health warns that angry episodes can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

According to researchers, in the two hours immediately after an outburst, risk of heart attack increased nearly fivefold and risk of stroke increased more than threefold.

From the school run to the supermarket, it seems every­where everyone is on a short fuse. Dr

Sarah Brewer, a British GP and the author of Cut Your Stress, sees this as a big problem. “It affects relationships at home and at work, and your ability to improve the situation you find yourself in. It makes you less able to find a good way out of your problems.”

Surely, feeling a bit short-tempered doesn’t carry the same health risks as full-on Incredible Hulk-style histrionics? If you simmer, but never boil, surely that keeps your heart whole?

Not at all, says Nerina Ramlakhan, a neurophysiologist at Capio Nightingale Hospital in London, where she treats clients with chronic fatigue, sleep problems, mental burnout and stress.

“We used to divide people into two types: A and B. The As — driven, aggressive — were asso­ciated with anger and heart attacks or stroke. The Bs were calmer and, we thought, health­ier. But now we separate people differently into those who hold rage in and those who express it out.

“And what we see is that the latter group can sometimes be healthier. They may flare up, but this allows their body to recover from the physical stress of getting angry. Those who hold on to their rage are keeping their bodies flooded with hormones unnaturally and setting up a host of long-term problems from weight gain and depression to chronic fatigue and increased risk of stroke.”

This may explain why the Harvard report suggested that those who were constantly on edge were at greater cumulative risk of a heart attack.

When we get angry or annoyed, explains Dr Ramlakhan, our body is undergoing the “fight or flight” response to a stimulus it perceives as dangerous. We experience a hormonal surge: adrenalin, which puts our body into a state of arousal; and cortisol, which dampens down our immune system and helps conversion of stored fat to fuel. Minutes after the perceived threat passes, our bodies return to normal function.

However, if we stay angry and irate that cascade of hormones keeps being produced with no end in sight, leaving us exhausted. Our immune systems stay depressed so that we are more at risk of disease.

Too much adrenalin blocks the production of the “happy” hormone serotonin, so we start to suffer depression and mood swings, which can contribute to more anger.

We may self-medicate with food or alcohol or have a cigarette. We feel unreasonably tired. This could be due in part to the body tensing for potential action.

Research published online last month by the Society for Neuroscience showed that the biceps, deltoids and triceps in our arms are prepped by the brain to be on standby when we feel angry or antagonised.

What are the early indicators that your anger is at damaging levels?

“You feel sick and anxious, and can’t eat,” Dr Ramlakhan says. “Your energy is either super high or rock bottom, espe­cially in the late afternoon, so you rely on caffeine to keep you going. You may get ill 24 to 48 hours after going on holiday, which is when the effects of adrenalin start to wear off, which may have been masking a poor immune system, leaving your weary body more vulnerable to viruses and illness.

“You may also constantly check your phone for messages or emails or your Facebook. This is because your body has started to get a hit of an endorphin called dopamine; your body is rewarding you every time you read a message because it is learning to associate new hits of social media with pleasure or stimulation.” She adds: “So many people are running on an ‘anger cocktail’ of adrenalin, cortisol, dopamine and caffeine.”

Jay Brewer, the head of physiology at Nuffield Health points out that our heart rates become measurably more “metronomic” when we are stressed. “Healthy hearts beat with a degree of variability, but when we are angry or roused that beat becomes more rhythmic. It happens during labour, as a woman gets closer to giving birth and her body is working harder.

“Heart Rate Variability can be used, after a heart attack, as a way to predict how likely a second attack is.” Lower HRV may also indicate depression.

Dr Ramlakhan adds: “Perhaps you don’t realise you’re cross, but interpret your feelings as anxiety. Unfortunately, your body will be going through the same processes.”

Weight gain around the abdomen, for example, can occur, even when we are not aware that we are troubled.

Jay Brewer explains: “Our fat cells around the abdomen are very efficient and use cortisol
efficiently to make them more lipogenic or attractive to fat. They then absorb any fat in the bloodstream and expand like never-ending balloons.”

Meanwhile, he adds, fat cells naturally release inflammatory markers that are important in helping our immune systems to function. But if we start releasing too many, these markers can contribute to inflammation that can damage arteries and also contributes to the mutations in cells, which lead to cancer.

Happily, Dr Ramlakhan says, the solution to debilitating anger is not that complicated. “There are huge amounts of research to suggest when we produce oxytocin — the ‘cuddle hormone’ — it can reverse the damaging effects of too much adrenalin and cortisol. Oxytocin stops fat from sticking to blood vessels, reduces production of free radical cells, and acts as a vasodilator, allowing blood pressure to fall, and leaving us floppy and relaxed.

“And we produce oxytocin easily — it happens when we fall in love, give birth or if we see our team score. We produce it when we feel grateful, blessed or full of joy. We just have to laugh more and be kinder.”

The Times

THE FIVE ANGER TYPES

EXPLOSIVE/REACTIVE

Personality traits

You lack self-control. When something makes you angry you react instinctively, without thinking. Your response is never proportionate to the situation.

Triggers

You are most likely to get angry when you feel thwarted, so at work you may explode with rage when someone else fails to finish a piece of work on time.

How you react

You lash out, you yell, slam doors, are verbally abusive and may become violent. Road rage is typical of this type of anger.

Effects on your health

High blood pressure, elevating your risk of heart attack and stroke. You are also more likely to die younger as you walk into dangerous situations in a rage.

How to manage your anger

Anger counselling is a very good idea, as is trying to verbalise how you feel, and relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation. Your “type” is unlikely to seek help — but you could try the time-honoured ploy of counting to 10

PASSIVE/AGGRESSIVE

Personality traits

You don’t express it, you don’t verbalise it but you do make sure you get your own back. You’re an introvert who finds it difficult to express yourself or say “no”.

Triggers

Feeling aggrieved, thwarted, or disappointed. You might, for example, have failed to get a promotion, and hate the person who did get it.

How you react

You don’t directly say anything angry or act in an angry way, though you may be sarcastic. You gossip behind people’s backs and damage their reputations, withhold praise or give people the silent treatment.

Effects on your health

While unlikely to damage your physical health, your anger is still holding you back and stopping you reaching your potential — at work you are unlikely to be promoted as you will be seen as obstructive and unhelpful.

How to manage your anger

Try counselling to help you own your emotions and express yourself better, so you can say: “When you do X, it makes me feel Y, and I would prefer it if you did Z”.

INTERNALISED

Personality traits

You’re a perfectionist, afraid of doing the wrong thing. You’re conscientious, but not very open to new experiences and worried you are not performing as well as you should so you become angry at yourself.

Anger triggers

Stress of any sort. Feeling trapped, perhaps in a job where you have to work long hours. You don’t know how to escape the situation and make life better for yourself.

How you react

You turn the anger in on yourself — indeed, it can lead to depression, even suicide. You constantly feel something is going to go terribly wrong. Hypochondria and insomnia are common.

Effects on your health

You may find that your immune system is compromised so you will have a lot of colds. You may be neglecting yourself, eating a bad diet, for example, so you have high cholesterol.

How to manage your anger

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) would help you to see the bigger picture and realise not everything is about you.

CHRONIC

Personality traits

You always seem angry or defensive, taking everything people say the wrong way. You have low self-esteem so you always see things as a criticism. You externalise your anger.

Anger triggers

You want immediate results and are constantly being disappointed by your own expectations. You can be irrational, for example, changing the goalposts of a project.

How you react

You get red in the face, you shout, your body language is aggressive, and you may well be feeling guilty for not being able to put your anger behind you.

Effects on your health

As with those who suffer from explosive rages, anger puts your blood pressure up, and raises your risk of heart attack and stroke. You’re also at risk from heart disease and ulcers.

How to manage your anger

CBT would be helpful, as would meditation or yoga — gentle exercise is best as you don’t want to be doing anything that would put your blood pressure up.

DIRECT

Personality Traits

Some situations should and do make you angry, but you react in a direct and proportional manner. You are generally an easygoing person, you know your own limitations but are confident with them.

Anger triggers

Injustice. Or someone acting inappropriately. Anything you consider to be wrong.

How you react

You stay in control, you appraise the situation and formulate a response in a rational and constructive way. You don’t shout, but you do maintain eye contact, and you don’t make, or accept, any excuses.

Effects on your health

Because of the way you control your anger, without explosive outbursts or turning the anger in on yourself, it should have no impact on your health.

How to manage your anger

You have realised that anger tends to simmer and return if not dealt with effectively. Make sure you keep on expressing yourself, and do whatever you need to do to stay relaxed.

Dr Sarah Brewer

Original article here

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About steveblizard

Steve Blizard commenced his financial planning career in 1988 from a background of life insurance broking, a field in which he still works. He is a member of the Financial Planning Association and the Responsible Investment Association. His experience ranges from administration of Superannuation to advice regarding insurance, retirement, remuneration and investment planning. Steve is an accredited Remuneration Consultant, specialising in salary packaging. He is a columnist for the Swan Magazine and the WA Business News

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