Anger can be scary and as such, it is a frowned upon emotion. However, it is entirely normal and it can be the correct response given certain circumstances. Everyone faces it at some point but few understand this unpleasant emotion. According to the world’s leading holistic child psychologist, Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD, “Anger is an emotional response to a real or perceived triggering thought or event.” Depending on the person and the circumstances this can include personal unpleasant interactions, disruptive events, or even observing an injustice or misunderstanding.
What causes anger?
It is common for anger to be preceded by feelings of shame, frustration, fear or grief. When a threat is perceived by the brain’s amygdala, the frontal lobes will regulate the response with a release of cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that dictates the ‘fight or flight’ response. When ‘fight’ becomes the chosen response, the body produces testosterone which leads to the classic displays of anger. The more testosterone, the larger the reaction will be and the harder it can be to control the emotion.
What makes some people so angry?
Anger is a complex response. The extent of the outburst can depend on genetic factors. Naturally higher testosterone levels are often found in those considered to be short-tempered. Anger can also be linked to underlying psychological issues such as anxiety, chronic stress, or depression. In other cases, temporary circumstances such as hunger, uncertainty, or sleepiness may be enough to set someone “off.” The response that someone displays varies from person to person. Some respond to a stressor by shutting down while others feel a sense of strength in their anger. In this sense, some respond to anger with tears while others lash out with violence.
While there is often a link to the above mentioned circumstances, the way that a person handles these feelings and “self-regulates” can be a learned behavior too. In some cases, the response is what was modeled during childhood. Since children are not born with emotional coping skills, having a parent or caretaker who had poor self-regulation abilities and angered quickly can cause a child to develop with an overactive response. Once these responses are engrained as the appropriate reaction they can be difficult to unlearn. More reactive people may suffer from emotional dysregulation which is an overstimulated nervous system causes an inability to control an emotional response to triggers. Sometimes this means that even a minor irritant can result in a disproportional outburst.
Depression, anxiety, and anger
Depression can block the self-regulation pathways that allow the brain to pump the breaks on an emotional response. Without this ability, individuals may begin to react with more intensity than they previously would have. Depression has a range of symptoms and while some of them, such as irritability do overlap with anger issues, not all who suffer from depression will also have anger management problems. With anxiety, a frequent sense of fear and need for vigilance causes the amygdala to constantly be on alert and the frequency and intensity of anger outbursts may increase. This elevated intensity to anger has been found to strongly exist in teenagers with anxiety disorders.
Anger is normal
Anger is an important and natural emotion. However, no one wants to walk around angry all the time so, it is important to recognize the signs and triggers of anger so that the perceived threats can be managed. This includes changing lifestyle, working with a professional, finding a new perspective and outlet and even just acknowledging the emotion as a fair and legitimate feeling. Anger problems can be managed. It may take time, distance and the help of a mental health expert, but what triggers anger can become a personal choice. Remembering that anger is an individualized reaction means that what works for someone else may not work for everyone, and that is perfectly normal.