Anger is an emotion that in some cases can be healthy if it is expressed quickly and the reasons for it understood. But what about repressed anger?
Keeping anger inside for long periods of time is not healthy and can have serious repercussions for the person holding it in. Here are six ways that repressed anger can harm you, backed by scientific studies:
1. Repressing anger is associated with heart disease
Studies have shown that by repressing anger, you are putting a great deal of stress onto your heart. One study found that people who were prone to repressing anger were at twice the risk of contracting coronary heart disease than those who were calm.
The answer is clear, in order to protect your heart, you should identify your feelings of anger and address them before you start to suppress them. Dealing with anger in a constructive way is not only healthier for your psychological welfare, but for your physical wellbeing also.
2. You are more likely to be at risk of a stroke
If you constantly repress your feelings of anger, then you lash out in a much more aggressive manner, you are three times more likely to have a stroke than those who do not suppress theirs. If you already have a brain aneurysm, there is a six times higher risk of rupturing this aneurysm after an angry outburst. In order to cope with feelings of anger that are then repressed, research suggests identifying triggers that prompt the anger and then address them with a different response.
3. Repressed Anger is linked to depression
Known as passive anger, where people think about their anger but do nothing about it, is linked to depression. Many studies have linked repressed anger to depression but all is not lost. Getting up and out and about relieves depression, no matter what the cause and this is true of repressed anger. Choose an activity that occupies your mind or one that soothes and relaxes you, and the anger will naturally dissipate.
4. It can weaken your immune system
Do you find that you are constantly sick all the time? Do you tend to repress your feelings, in particular, your anger? Research shows that those who habitually repress their feelings of anger are more likely to get sick.
In one study, even healthy people who had only recalled an angry incident had a six hour drop in the body’s natural antibodies – immunoglobulin. This is the body’s first line of defence when it comes to the immune system.
For those that are angry all the time but do nothing about it, it is healthier to adopt a few coping strategies, such as using humour, conversation or problem-solving, to get the mind away from the anger feelings.
5. Repressing anger can make anxiety worse
Anger and anxiety are similar emotions, they use the same chemicals in the body such as adrenalin. In studies, those who suffered from generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) found that if they repressed their anger on top of these symptoms their anxiety grew worse.
There are many similarities between anger and anxiety, angry people sometimes feel helpless, as do those who suffer from anxiety. Repressing anger can make a person irritable, as can anxiety. If a person has deep set anger issues that have not been resolved, they can experience worsening anxiety as they are unable to manage their anger properly.
6. Anger can seriously shorten your life
Apparently, happy and optimistic actually live longer, so it can be assumed that angry people do not. Those who are constantly stressed and angry have a shortened lifespan, according to several different studies. This is because stress is intrinsically linked to your health and causes reactions in your body that are unhealthy, such as a rise in the stress hormone cortisol. A rise in cortisol disrupts body processes and can lead to lower immune functions, increased weight gain, higher blood pressure, depression and even mental illness.
There are many reasons why a person might repress their anger. Perhaps as a child, they grew up in a household where emotions were frowned upon. Maybe you had a parent that was totally dependent on your and you had to hide your emotions from them.
Whatever the reason for repressing your anger, it is unhealthy and can cause serious health problems. Talking about your anger will allow you to understand why you are repressing it. By releasing it in a safe and secure way, you can make sure that it no longer damages you or those around you.