When Anger Makes Us Sick

December 4, 2017

Anger is one of the most powerful feelings a human being can experience. It comes in many forms: resentment, hate, intolerance, annoyance, etc. What all of these have in common is discomfort and a desire to confront the other person. And, believe it or not, anger makes us sick.

It’s a feeling we all experience. At first, it’s positive. After all, anger is a reaction to something we interpret as a threat. It reaffirms our identity, to the extent that it leads to expressing our needs and our desires. It’s also a self-defense emotion. Sometimes we need irascible determination to confront aggression.

“The greatest remedy for anger is delay.”


But, we all know that anger also has a very negative side. It’s negative for us as well as for the people around us. It isn’t so much about whether or not we experience anger, but why we are angry, how intense our anger is, and what the consequences are. 

This feeling can pervade us so deeply that it turns into a permanent state of being. It can truly interfere with our life.

One of worst parts of anger is that it sets off a chain of reactions in our body. If we experience it often, anger makes us sick, both physically and emotionally.

clenched fists, because anger makes us sick

Why anger makes us sick

Anger has surprising effects on our body. There are three types of reactions: corporal, cognitive, and behavioral. They are activated when we feel threatened and are preparing to attack. The physiological reactions:

  • Heart rate increases.
  • Breathing accelerates.
  • Blood pressure spikes.
  • Muscles tense up.
  • Adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol levels go up.

What happens next is our ability to process internal and external information (cognitive response) diminishes. Finally, all of this translates into behavior, including verbal or physical aggression. In other words, possible violence.

It is worth mentioning that three types of anger have been identified:

  • Quick or sudden anger, when we feel attacked or trapped.
  • Stable and intentional anger, which is the same as resentment, comes out in spells, and lasts over time.
  • Recurring anger, which is expressed frequently and turns into part of the person’s personality.

How anger makes us sick

Many studies demonstrate the damaging effect of anger on our physical health. One study, from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, shows that people who experience recurring anger are at a higher risk of stroke. Experts studied more than 14,000 individuals and concluded that people who spend more time angry were more vulnerable to eventually having a stroke.


They also showed that the most irritable people have a more fragile immune system, and thus are more prone to infectious disease. They also found evidence that the spike in hormones like adrenaline causes blood clots and weakens blood vessel walls.

John Hopkins Medical School also did a study with 1,100 students over the course of 16 years with the plan of comparing the results with their medical history in the following decades. In the end, they concluded that those who are quick to anger are three times more likely to suffer a heart attack. Another study showed that anger increases the level of fat in the body, as well as sensitivity to pain — to a significant degree.

A toxic emotion

It’s easy to see that anger practically poisons the body. We might not feel the physical effects right away, but if we stay that way too much, we WILL feel them.

It isn’t necessarily bad to be angry: it is an instinct whose primary positive or adaptive function is that of self-preservation. The negative side of anger is when we let all of that energy express itself and we’re out of control. The real problem is when we don’t manage it at all.

Apart from not dealing with it at all, there is also a negative way of doing so. That is, to bottle up your anger completely. In this case, you’re like a pressure cooker, ready to explode at any moment.

a woman smiling, surrounded by smoke

When we feel anger, the best thing we can do is voluntarily remove ourselves from the situation. Counting to 10 helps, or sometimes we need 15 or 20. Step aside for a moment and take a deep breath. When you feel calm again, speak clearly without getting worked up about whatever it is that made you mad.

Finally, in these types of situations, it is important to try to identify any underlying factors that may have nothing to do with the current situation but are feeding your anger.