Anxiety is the worry or fears you feel in response to a perceived threat. Anger is also a threat response, but it’s coupled with a strong sense of annoyance.
Anxiety is tightly linked to worry and fear that are out of the ordinary for everyday triggers. Many individuals with an anxiety disorder will often be quick to anger; however, the link between anger and anxiety is often missed or overlooked.
Anxiety is often connected with overstimulation from a stressful environment or threat, combined with the perceived inability to deal with that threat.
Anxiety not only presents as a pounding heart, shortness of breath, clammy skin, and racing thoughts, but it can also present in more subtle ways such as anger or frustration.
Individuals with undiagnosed anxiety may find themselves lashing out and becoming frustrated over everyday occurrences that usually do not warrant an emotional reaction.
Not all anger is linked to anxiety, but often if individuals take a step back and uncover what is triggering their anger, they may discover that they are showing signs of fear and panic, which may be the root of an anxiety disorder.
How are anger and anxiety connected?
Both emotions cause physical symptoms by releasing powerful hormones into your bloodstream. Both can be triggered by everyday experiences. And both can be either improved or worsened by your thought patterns.
Here’s the relationship between anger and anxiety:
Part of the human condition
Everyone gets angry. Everyone feels anxious now and then.
In fact, there are times when anxiety is logical, and anger is an appropriate response — one that can lead to important changes.
Same physiological symptoms
When you’re angry or anxious, your body secretes hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline, that prepare you to fight or flee.
During anxious or angry moments, you’re likely to experience:
- rapid heart rate
- chest tightness
- clenched or tight muscles
- rushes of heat
- gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea
- tension headaches
These symptoms will dissipate quickly under normal circumstances. But if you have long-term issues with anger or anxiety, the release of these hormones over and over may lead to health problems.
Effect on health
Researchers have found, for example, that anger is elevated in anxiety disorders and depressive disorders.
Other studies have shown that too much anxiety and anger can lead to:
- lung problems, including worsened asthma
- heart disease
- high blood pressure
Tips for dealing with anxiety and anger
If you have been struggling with anxiety and anger, it may be useful for you to introduce a few practical coping strategies into your daily life to help you improve how you’ve been feeling:
1. Physical exercise
If you’re looking for an immediate reduction in both anxiety and anger, get moving. When you exercise, you focus on your body, which gives you little time to concentrate on or mull over any anxious or angry thoughts.
Researchers found that people who ran on a treadmill for 20 minutes reported fewer symptoms of anger and anxiety than they had before exercising.
The same study showed that people who looked at nature scenes were happier when they finished than study participants who chose other entertaining backgrounds to watch.
2. Mindfulness practice
Mindfulness is a meditation practice in which you what you’re sensing and feeling in the current moment without trying to judge, change, or interpret your thoughts and feelings.
Mindfulness exercises have been shown to reduce both anxiety and anger.
3. Breathing exercises
Slow breathing has powerful effects on the physiological symptoms of anxiety and anger.
One of the measures of good health is your heart rate variability (HRV), the variation in the amount of time between your heartbeats. If you’re feeling threatened, your HRV is low. Low HRV is linked to anxiety, depression, and heart disease.
A higher HRV means you can easily adapt to changes in your environment. Your heart speeds up and slows down appropriately.
Researchers have found that slow breathing (fewer than six breaths per minute) can boost your HRV and leave you feeling less anxious, less angry, and more relaxed.
Many people find gentle Swedish massage therapy to be a relaxing experience. It’s also been proven effective at reducing anxiety and anger.
5. Take a few minutes for yourself
If something is making you feel stressed, anxious, or uncomfortable, remove yourself from that environment if you can. Find a quiet space and give yourself time for your stress responses to reduce. You may want to try some deep breathing – take in a slow deep breath through your nose for four seconds.
6. Write down your thoughts
Whether you have a physical diary or keep notes on your phone, writing can be a good way to release any anxious or angry thoughts. The act of writing or typing these thoughts can feel as though they are flowing from your mind onto the paper or phone, helping to create some distance between you and them.
7. Think before you act
If you are feeling angry, before yelling or fighting, ask yourself, Will this action help make things better or worse? Am I going to feel better now but feel worse later?
When we learn to connect directly with our anxiety, it doesn’t morph into anger, so there’s no anger to cope with. Instead, we fully admit the fear was feeling and address it head-on.
8. Talk with a doctor
Talk to a mental health professional or doctor if you’re experiencing any of the following scenarios:
- Friends, family, or coworkers have expressed concern about your handling of anger or anxiety.
- You aren’t welcome in certain places of business because of how you express your feelings.
- Episodes of anger or anxiety are frequent and intense.
- You express anger in verbally or physically aggressive ways.
- Anger or anxiety has caused you to have thoughts of self-harm.
- You feel your anxiety is interfering with your ability to function or enjoy your life.
To sum up, anger and anxiety are closely related. Because they’re both normal responses to perceived threats, they help us survive dangerous situations.
If you experience anger or anxiety too often or too intensely, it can affect your mental and physical health and can lead to problems in your relationships.
Learning to manage these two powerful emotions will help you live a longer, happier life.