Health consequences of anger issues and the need for psychotherapy

Compared to sadness, anger increases the risk for chronic disease in adults and this is validated by research.  Anger contributes to chronic inflammation and while the inflammation helps in the short term, the long term low-grade inflammation increases the risk for chronic disease with ageing [1].

Insights on how anger impacts the mind and the body:

“Anger also causes the release of the stress hormone, cortisol. The release of this hormone gives the body bursts of energy. However, too much of this hormone can cause a multitude of negative effects on the body. Too much cortisol in the body can cause an imbalance in blood sugar; it can suppress thyroid function, and decrease bone density. This hormonal imbalance also impacts the body’s immune system. Research shows that chronic-angry people suffer more frequent colds, flu’s infections, asthma, skin disease flare-ups and arthritis, as compared to non-chronic-angry people”[2]

Anger and Type 2 Diabetes

Anger is associated with developing type 2 diabetes via two potential mechanisms: [1] through its association with poor health behaviors, resulting in obesity and/or [2] activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which leads to an inflammatory response initiated by interleukin–6 (IL–6) (Black, quoted by Golden Hill et.al)[3]

Anger and heart disease

  1. Research indicates the increased risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular event risks within 2 hours of anger outburst [4] ! Figure 1 provides insights on this.
  2. The current review suggests that anger and hostility are associated with coronary heart disease (CHD) outcomes both in healthy and CHD populations[5] [6]. The relationship follows a dose-response pattern, thus, the individuals who express more anger are at increasingly higher risk of coronary heart disease.

Health Consequences of Anger

Figure 1: Estimated number of excess cases of coronary heart disease per 10 000 individuals per year according to the frequency of anger outbursts according to low (5%), medium (10%), or high (20%) 10-year risk of coronary heart disease. (Source: Reference [4])

Suppressed anger

There is evidence to show that suppressed anger can be a precursor to the development of cancer, and also a factor in its progression after diagnosis[7].

However, it is important to note that there are remarkably few studies of the anger and cancer link. The research to date does suggest a link, particularly with regard to intense and persistent anger that is suppressed. That link to date does not mean there is a general association between suppressed anger and all types of cancers but may be implicated in certain cancers such as breast cancer (although the findings are not consistent), and prostate, lung, and colorectal cancers[8]. Hence, while repressed emotions have long term health consequences, the linkage of anger with cancer is not yet established[9].

So what?

Overall, individuals with anger outbursts need to heal their inner parts and hence the research recommends the use of both psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy (for prevention of chronic disease).

More articles covering “Anger” on our website

References:

[1] Meaghan A. Barlow, MA, Carsten Wrosch, Jean-Philippe Gouin and Ute Kunzmann. Is Anger, but Not Sadness, Associated With Chronic Inflammation and Illness in Older Adulthood? Psychology and Aging, 2019

[2] Boerma, C. (2007). Physiology of anger.

[3] Staicu, M. L., & Cuţov, M. (2010). Anger and health risk behaviors. Journal of medicine and life, 3(4), 372–375.

[4] Elizabeth Mostofsky, Elizabeth Anne Penner, Murray A. Mittleman, Outbursts of anger as a trigger of acute cardiovascular events: a systematic review and meta-analysis, European Heart Journal, Volume 35, Issue 21, 1 June 2014, Pages 1404–1410, https://doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehu033

[5] Chida, Y., & Steptoe, A. (2009). The association of anger and hostility with future coronary heart disease: a meta-analytic review of prospective evidence. Journal of the American college of cardiology, 53(11), 936-946.

[6] Kawachi, I., Sparrow, D., Spiro III, A., Vokonas, P., & Weiss, S. T. (1996). A prospective study of anger and coronary heart disease: the Normative Aging Study. Circulation, 94(9), 2090-2095.

[7] Thomas, S. P., Groer, M., Davis, M., Droppleman, P., Mozingo, J., & Pierce, M. (2000). Anger and cancer: an analysis of the linkages. Cancer Nursing, 23(5), 344-349.

[8] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-forgiving-life/201709/anger-and-cancer-is-there-relationship

[9] Jainish Patel, Prittesh Patel (2019) Consequences of Repression of Emotion: Physical Health, Mental Health and General Well Being. International Journal of Psychotherapy Practice and Research – 1(3):16-21.