Some Curious Facts About Anger

Some Curious Facts About Anger
Sergio De Dios González

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 05 April, 2023

Anger is one of the basic emotions. Moreover, it’s one that moves us to take action. In fact, just as it can make us sick if it isn’t channeled properly, it can also become the spark that triggers a necessary action. For this reason, even though it has a negative valence (it doesn’t make us feel good) we can’t say that it’s maladaptive. Indeed, no emotion per se is.

Our ancestors’ aggressive instincts were an evolutionary advantage. If they hadn’t devised means of protecting themselves from predators, in the kinds of fights that were marked by the idea of kill or be killed, they might not have survived. After all, humans are fragile and nature can be hostile. Therefore, they needed more than just a desire to continue living to face the dangers of life at that time.

However, giving vent to anger isn’t a positive option. That’s because an angry mind doesn’t make good calculations, nor does it properly process ideas. This often leads to erratic or wrong behavior. Ideally, we should find a balance point. Let’s take a look at some curious facts about anger.

““Recognise your anger, and then wait a few hours or a day, and think about how you can bring it up more constructively.”

-David Lebel-

Anger: a ticking time bomb for the body

Anger is one of the emotions that causes the most physical reactions in the body. According to experts, it results in strong muscle tension, as well as an acceleration of the heartbeat. It also leads to clenching of the teeth and increases sensations of heat and sweating. Indeed, it’s a whole physiological cocktail.

As if the above weren’t enough, as with fear, anger causes the adrenal glands to flood the body with the stress hormones of cortisol and adrenaline. This is because fight-or-flight instincts are also activated. Consequently, the brain causes blood to be diverted to the muscles as this is how the body prepares for physical activity.

Research published in the European Heart Journal indicates that anger can be dangerous for heart health. According to the study, the risk of having a heart attack doubles within two hours of an anger outburst. It also increases the risk of having a stroke. Both are excellent reasons to avoid angry outbursts.

angry female driver in traffic
Stress hormones flood the body when we experience episodes of anger.

The reasons for anger

Some time ago, a study was conducted regarding ancestral communities, that focused on anger. The researchers discovered that the children of hunter-gatherers who committed homicide were more likely to have experienced angry outbursts and violent behavior. Based on this and other analyses, new investigations were produced. In fact, they identified an anger gene, known as MAOA.

However, this information has to be taken with a pinch of salt. Indeed, there’s still no conclusive data on the genetic components of anger. In the case of those ancestral communities, having a homicidal father might’ve meant there were aspects of their upbringing that predisposed them to more violent reactions. In effect, it had nothing to do with genetics.

However, what has been proven is that one of the main triggers for anger is frustration. Indeed, trying to achieve a goal and not managing it causes annoyance. This can easily lead to an aggressive response. On the other hand, not everyone reacts like this. Perfectionists, obsessive or narcissistic individuals are particularly vulnerable.

Couple in heated argument
Accelerated heartbeat, grinding teeth, and muscle tension are some physical effects in moments of anger.

The good side of anger

Although not many would dare to say that anger has positive aspects, the truth is that it does. As a matter of fact, when it doesn’t go too far, a good dose of anger can drive some people to claim their rights. Otherwise, they’d remain passive and have to follow the dictates of others.

Aggression can also be positive in sports contests. It’s usually a factor that motivates and leads to increased physical effort. From another perspective, researchers Heather Lench and Linda Levine conducted an interesting study on the effects of anger on creativity.

These scientists asked a group of people to solve a series of complex puzzles. After trying, many failed. Those who felt sad about it stopped trying. However, those who felt anger kept repeatedly trying until they managed to move forward and solve more puzzles. Consequently, the researchers verified that this emotion can be a really positive engine for achievement.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Lench, H., & Levine, L. (2005). Effects of fear on risk and control judgements and memory: Implications for health promotion messages. Cognition & Emotion, 19(7), 1049-1069.
  • Mostofsky, E., Penner, E. A., & Mittleman, M. A. (2014). Outbursts of anger as a trigger of acute cardiovascular events: a systematic review and meta-analysis. European heart journal, 35(21), 1404-1410.
  • Pantoja, C. A. (1940). Fisiología de la Emoción. Revista de la Facultad de Medicina, 9(6), 402-409.
  • Peters, E. J., Slager, S. L., McGrath, P. J., Knowles, J. A., & Hamilton, S. P. (2004). Investigation of serotonin-related genes in antidepressant response. Molecular psychiatry, 9(9), 879-889.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.