Anxiety and anger may not seem related. Anxiety is often associated with fear, and fear is seen as the opposite of bravery - something that people feel they need in order to be angry. Many people that experience anxiety actually has a hard time getting angry, simply because their anxieties have started to make them feel somewhat helpless.
But some people experience a very different anxiety symptom - pure anger - and that anger may actually be directly related to how people respond to anxiety and fear.
How Severe is Your Anxiety
Anxiety causes severe, constant stress. That means that you become irritable easier, and high stress quickly. The more severe it is, the worse that anger can be. Our free 7 minute anxiety test can score your anxiety severity and compare it to others.
Anger and Anxiety
Anger can actually come from more than one cause. Interestingly, however, the anger itself may be a cause of anxiety on its own. Many people experience profound anxiety as a result of their anger episodes, because of their inability to control that anger.
If you haven't taken my 7 minute anxiety test yet, take it now. It'll give you an idea of how your anxiety affects you and whether anger is a cause or symptom.
Why Am I Angry for No Reason?
Anger is a strange emotion. But it rarely occurs for "no reason." Usually, when a person experiences anger, it is because they are overwhelmed, powerless, scared, or feel threatened (justly or unjustly). There are many potential causes. But there are also potential solutions. We explore these below.
Causes of Anger Anxiety
Anxiety itself is the activation of the fight/flight response in the body. It becomes a problem when your body activates the response for no reason, or the response is unable to go away. That creates a variety of unwanted physical and mental experiences that make it hard to control your quality of life.
But the fight/flight system is called that for a reason. Once it's activated, it causes people to react with a feeling of needing to flee or a feeling of needing to fight. Because there are no dangers, most people experience the need to flee. Some people, however, feel an overwhelming desire to fight, and that may be one of the primary causes of anger from anxiety.
There are other potential causes and factors as well, and all of these may play a role in your anger symptoms. These include:
- Irritation Anxiety is a disorder that causes tremendous irritation. Irritation itself makes people more prone to experiencing negative emotions, including anger. Those that have constant irritation may become upset that others are bothering them, and respond by feeling angry.
- Loss of Control Anger is also a natural response for many when they don't feel they're in control. Anxiety is, itself, a loss of control. Especially common in panic attacks, along with other anxiety disorders, many people that suffer from anger issues may be experiencing the effects of no longer feeling in control of their lives.
- Passing Blame One of the more natural responses to stress is the feeling that others are contributing to it, especially when that stress is so hard to understand - like the case of anxiety. This may cause people to unintentionally pass blame to others as a way of explaining away their unusual symptoms.
In addition, however, it's important to remember that while anger can be a symptom of anxiety, it can also be a cause. Those with anger issues often experience very deep anxiety as they worry about their ability to control their anger, and in some people, this can lead to further outbursts of anger which cycle back into more stress.
It's also not uncommon for those that have no anger management issues to develop them, as a result of this cycle of reinforcement.
Controlling Anger From Anxiety
When anxiety results in anger, it can be very frustrating. It's not necessarily something that can simply be controlled and reduced right away. It often takes a great deal of time and effort, as well as a commitment to ensure that you're able to control this symptom. You'll have to work on two separate issues:
- Controlling Your Anger
- Controlling Your Anxiety
Even though anger is the result of your anxiety, you'll still want to learn how to handle situations where anxiety is present. Some amount of stress and anxiety is natural in life, and you'll want to be absolutely certain that you can ensure no anger results from those anxious experiences.
How to Control Your Anger
Anger management classes can be immensely beneficial, but let's look at how to control your anger from anxiety. You'll want to focus on learning how to react to your anxiety in a way that isn't anger related. Consider the following:
- Leaving Quickly Generally, anger is the first response you experience after persistent anxiety. You need to essentially create the "flight" response, rather than the "fight" response. You can do this by leaving as soon as you can when you're feeling angry. You need to learn to let yourself flee, so that you're not staying around long enough to see what comes from a fight.
- Anger Thoughts Journaling Often anger builds up, and leads to thoughts that are hard to control. Journaling (writing out thoughts in a journal) gives you a place to share all of those angry thoughts before they become bottled up, so your mind stops focusing on them as often.
- Close Eyes/Slow Breathing When the anger comes from irritation, or because you feel like you're losing control, you need to find a quick way to take a step back. Start by closing your eyes (if it's safe to do so), because this reduces the visual stimulation around you. Then, start slow breathing to calm your heart rate and reduce your irritated tendencies.
These are only temporary solutions because you'll still need to control the anxiety itself. But they'll at least get you started in learning to respond to issues without anger.
How to Control Your Anxiety
Because anger, in this case, is an anxiety problem, you'll need to learn to control your anxiety altogether if you want to stop feeling angry.
There are several effective stress reduction strategies, including:
- Deep Breathing
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation
All forms of exercise are crucial for controlling both anxiety and anger as well, because they're used to reduce pent up energy and frustration in a way that few other things can.
But you'll also need to focus on simply learning to understand how to cope without the use of drugs or stress reduction strategies. Coping is a natural tool - it's your brain's ability to simply get over a problem without making it a big deal. It's something that can be learned, but only if you are able to recognize the causes of your anxiety and how to adapt to them.
I've helped many people suffering from anger reduce their anxiety, but before I can start, I need you to take the free 7 minute anxiety test. It's the only way to know what your anxiety is, how it affects you, and how it compares to other people. You'll see a graphical snapshot of your anxiety, and get recommendations for what you can do to curb it.
So if you haven't yet, take the test here.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Jul 06, 2018.