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Anger control for men

WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Everyone gets angry at some stage, but the triggers of anger may be different for men and women.

Anger is natural, but can be a problem if it boils over, especially if that involves violence.

Bottling up anger can also be harmful.

Understanding anger

Anger is both psychological and physiological, and causes your nervous system to trigger a number of biological reactions:

  • Levels of hormones, like cortisol, increase
  • Your breathing gets faster
  • Your pulse gets faster
  • Your blood pressure rises
  • As you heat up, you begin to sweat
  • Your pupils dilate
  • You may notice sudden headaches

Basically, your body is gearing up for intense physical activity. This is the “fight” part of the “fight or flight” response. If we’re exposed to something stressful, our bodies get ready to do battle or run away.

Anger is common because it has an evolutionary advantage. Anger isn’t just a human emotion. Fear and rage are common to animals too. They developed over aeons to help creatures fight and survive.

Health risks of uncontrolled anger

The problem is that nowadays your body’s full-blooded physical response to anger isn’t always so useful. It might have come in handy when our ancestors were trying to fight off bears, but it really doesn’t help when you’re standing in a queue at the post office.

In fact, uncontrolled anger is worse than useless: it’s bad for you. Several studies have found a link between anger and disease. For instance, a large study of almost 13,000 people found that those who had high levels of anger, but normal blood pressure, were more likely to develop coronary artery disease or have a heart attack. The angriest were three times as likely to have a heart attack as the least angry.

So how does anger turn into disease? Your body’s physical reaction to anger is intended for the short-term, it gives you the immediate boost you need to survive, but if this explosion of hormones is triggered too often, you can suffer long-term effects. Anger’s stress hormones may contribute to arteriosclerosis, the build-up of plaques in the arteries that can cause heart attacks and strokes. These hormones may also increase levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), which causes inflammation and may also contribute to cardiovascular risk. One study found that people prone to anger had levels of CRP twice or three times as high as others. Anger can even cause electrical disturbances in the heart rhythm.

Anger has also been linked with depression. People who report being frequently angry are less likely to take care of themselves. They’re more likely to smoke, drink to excess, and eat unhealthily, and they’re less likely to exercise. While it’s hard to say that in these cases anger is the cause, it’s certainly linked with a lot of unhealthy behaviour. Anger can also be an expression of feelings of helplessness or depression.

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