What Is The Relationship Between Anxiety And Anger?

Reviewed by Whitney White, MS CMHC, NCC., LPC

Published 12/10/2020

Anxiety and anger are two different emotions that can sometimes interact with each other. Technically, anxiety is characterized by feelings of fear, tension, and worry. When anxiety goes beyond a certain point and interferes with daily life, it may be classified as an anxiety disorder. If you're suffering from an anxiety disorder, there is a higher chance that you may often be troubled by the feeling of anger.

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Anxiety is connected to perceived threats and stressful conditions or events. When attempts to manage those stressors, threats, or events don’t work, frustration may result. When anxiety isn’t effectively managed, it can result in frustration and anger.

WHAT IS ANXIETY?

Anxiety.org states that anxiety is experienced when your body and mind unanimously react to strange, dangerous, and stressful situations. Anxiety is associated with the sense of distress, dread, or uneasiness triggered by a certain event or condition. You may feel anxious when you think about a coming exam/test/ interview or a presentation that you will need to give.

Mental Health America explains that when you're excessively anxious about a certain event or condition, it can affect some important aspects of your life, such as your work, relationships, and physical activity. In this situation, it may indicate that you have a diagnosable anxiety issue. For help determining if you may have a diagnostic anxiety issue, visit this link: https://www.mind-diagnostics.org/anxiety-test. This test isn’t a diagnostic tool, but can help you pinpoint things that you’re experiencing and support you in a decision to seek out support in addressing anxiety.

Anxiety is a symptom of some other problems. Some of these include:

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  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Phobias
  • Depression
  • Substance use disorders
  • Irritable bowel syndrome

WHAT IS ANGER?

The American Psychological Association explains anger as "an emotion characterized by antagonism towards someone or something you feel has deliberately done wrong." Anger comes with strong feelings of annoyance, which may be with the urge to harm or decide to withdraw.

Anger can be classified into different forms, including general irritability and passive anger (when you bottle up your anger and expressing your feeling in the form of apathy or sarcasm). Anger is not always a bad thing, as it can help you express the negative feelings you have or drive you towards finding solutions to some identified problems. However, when anger interferes with your mental and physical health, it can lead to increased blood pressure, difficulty concentrating, or other physical changes.

Anger can be an emotional response that may be a symptom of other conditions. The following are some of the conditions that unmanageable anger may be an indicator of:

  • Depression
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Narcissistic personality disorder
  • Oppositional defiant disorder
  • Grief
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Intermittent explosive disorder

What Triggers Anger?

Anger, as a strong emotional response, can be stimulated by different events or conditions. It may happen as a result of feeling that you or others were treated unjustly, arise from feeling unheard, or from feeling betrayed. Anger is often an emotion that can mask other emotions like fear or sadness.

WHAT ARE THE CORRELATIONS BETWEEN ANXIETY AND ANGER?

Both anxiety and anger can be responses to a perceived threat. It's claimed that anxiety and anger may play a vital role in sensing and reacting to research threats or dangers. The following are some of the ties between anxiety and anger:

  • Irritation

Irritation is one of the common symptoms of anxiety disorders. Feeling irritated that people around you contribute to the stress you experience can lead to an angry outburst. In other words, when you're threatened, the anxiety you experience may trigger your anger.

  • Loss of Control

Anger is an emotion that most people experience when they feel they are unable to handle a certain situation. So, anxiety that can interfere with your normal life may trigger anger, which is a natural response sometimes when you feel you are no longer in control.

  • Lack of Assertiveness

Expressing what's in your mind when you have a strong feeling of annoyance about someone or something can go a long way to relieve your anger and anxiety. However, if you're unwilling to express the negative emotions you feel or deal with them, they may accumulate over time and lead to anger.

  • Fight or flight response

Anxiety is characterized by the feelings of fear, worry, and tension, which stimulate the response of fight or flight by your body (adrenaline and cortisol are hormones secreted by your body for fight or flight response). The fight response can be a way that some respond to anger.

You may also experience the following when you're angry or anxious:

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  • Tension headaches
  • Fast heart rate
  • Rushes of heat
  • Chest tightness
  • Diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Clenched or tight muscles

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS THAT YOUR ANGER MIGHT BE ANXIETY?

The following are signs that show that what you're experiencing is anxiety related anger:

  • You Feel Scared: Sometimes feeling angry is easier than feeling afraid. To distract from the fear in a situation, you may become angry.
  • You Feel Embarrassed: You may try to discharge embarrassment with anger.
  • You Have Sleeping Problems: When you're not getting enough sleep, it can make you feel hostile, angry, or irritable.
  • You Feel That Things Are Beyond Your Control: Sometimes, people settle for anger when they discover that the situation is beyond what they can control. Some of these situations may include workplace issues, relationship problems, financial issues, etc.
  • You've Been Hurt: You may tend to express upset by yelling at someone— this may be because the person might have done something that hurt you. Explaining how you feel can be vulnerable, which is sometimes scary and may trigger anxiety.  
  • You Have Just Had A Significant Recent Life Shift: Changes can be stressful, even if they’re good changes like a promotion or moving to a new place. If you’re navigating change and experiencing some anger in the process, it may be the uncertainty of the changes going on in your life that are triggering anxiety and therefore anger.

WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF ANXIETY AND ANGER ON YOUR HEALTH?

Sometimes, you may find it difficult to properly deal with anxiety and anger. Severe anxiety and excessive anger can be inimical to your mental and physical health. The following are some of the effects anxiety and anger may have:

  • Headaches
  • Worsened asthma or other lung problems
  • Sleeping problems
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Fatigue

HOW TO MANAGE ANXIETY AND ANGER?

Anxiety and anger are common emotional responses that can interfere with your life's quality if not properly managed or dealt with. Different strategies can help relieve your levels of anxiety and also effectively manage your anger. The following are some of these ways:

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  • Engaging in Healthy Exercise: Exercise can be beneficial in coping with anxiety. For instance, yoga can help lower cortisol levels (stress hormone) and enhance your mood. To ensure healthy behaviors, you may want to combine exercise with other coping techniques.
  • Practicing Mindfulness: Mindfulness can help you manage your condition by making you aware of your current moment without judging, interpreting, or changing your feelings and thoughts.
  • Taking Your Breathing Exercises Seriously: The way you breathe can help manage your anxiety and anger. Some breathing techniques have been shown to help manage anger and anxiety both.
  • Try Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of therapy that helps you handle unhealthy thoughts contributing to anxiety and anger.
  • Try A Good Massage: If you consistently experience stress which results in anxiety leading to irritation and anger, you can help yourself by trying a gentle massage therapy, which can help reduce the symptoms of anxiety.
  • Talk to A Mental Health Professional: Seeing a therapist or you doctor can be the most appropriate thing to do when you discover that you cannot manage your anxiety or anger yourself. Ensure you seek professional assistance the moment you begin to experience any of the following:
    • You are becoming depressed because of anger and anxiety
    • You're experiencing frequent or intense episodes of anxiety or anger
    • You're getting the feelings that anxiety and anger are affecting some important aspects of your life (limiting your efficiency and effectiveness or stopping you from enjoying your life)
    • You have been frequently asked to manage your emotions (anxiety or anger) properly by your coworkers, friends, or family
    • You physically or verbally express your anger in a very aggressive manner
    • You have the thoughts of hurting yourself because of your anxiety
    • You have started avoiding important encounters and events because of your anxiety
    • You have been stopped from coming to certain places and settings because of how you express your feelings

CONCLUSION

You can reduce the symptoms of your anxiety and become calmer, less worried, and less tense. The first step is determining how problematic your anxiety may be. You can take an anxiety test online in just a few minutes and get some insight into this question.