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Control Anger - The Hidden Anxiety Symptom

Alexandra Richards, DClinPsy
Control Anger - The Hidden Anxiety Symptom

Anxiety and anger may not seem related. Anxiety is often associated with fear, and fear is considered by many to be the opposite of anger - something that people may feel they need in order to attack danger. Sometimes behind the anger are actually feelings of worry and fear, and the anger itself can become a further source of anxiety. Some people who struggle with anger may have a hard time expressing their worries and concerns. They may feel “weak” doing so and have had very little practice asking for help. Becoming angry may have become the way they express their feelings.

But for some people their anger is a symptom of underlying anxiety, and that anger may actually be directly related to the physiological reaction that occurs when faced with dangerous situations.

Anger and Anxiety

Anger can have many triggers. Interestingly, the anger itself may be a cause of anxiety on its own. Many people experience profound anxiety as a result of their anger episodes, due to their fear of losing control and the stress that they experience in their life as a result of that anger.

Why Am I Angry for No Reason?

Anger can be hard to understand. But it rarely occurs for completely "no reason." Usually, when a person experiences anger, it it may relate to them feeling overwhelmed, powerless, scared, or threatened. There can be many potential causes. But there are also potential solutions. We explore these below.

Causes of Anger Anxiety

Anxiety itself is the emotion caused by the activation of the fight/flight response in the body. It can become unhelpful in situations where the physical effects of fight or flight are not advantageous (e.g. Not a survival situation) or the response continues for a longer time. That creates a variety of unwanted physical and mental experiences that can impact your quality of life.

But the fight/flight system is called that for a reason. Once it's activated, it triggers the physiological responses that are thought to enhance survival in a dangerous situation - to react with the bodily tools necessary to flee or or to to fight. 

But when the fight or flight system is activated without the presence of physical danger, the emotions a person experiences can be more complex than fear alone. For example:

In addition, it's important to remember that while anger can be a symptom of anxiety, it can also be a cause. Those with anger issues may cause stresses in their life, such as upsetting those close to them, that leads to further stress and anxiety. This can become a cycle of anger and anxiety.  

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:

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, but if it’s getting in the way of your life it may be something to address. 

How to Control Your Anger

Anger management classes can be immensely beneficial, but let's look at other ways 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:

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:

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 with anxiety and stress in a way that works for you. Coping is 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.

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