Anger is a very powerful emotion. If it is not handled appropriately, it can have destructive results for the individual and their family.   Uncontrolled anger can lead to physical fights, arguments, physical abuse, self-harm and assault.  But well-managed anger can be a useful emotion to motivate people to make positive changes.

Anger triggers the body’s fight or flight response.   This is when a person experiences a stressful event. Our body prepares for us to fight or run (flight) known as the “fight or flight response”.  We begin to experience fear, excitement and anxiety.  The autonomic nervous system will prepare the body for emergency situations – the fight or flight response. The sympathetic division increases our level of arousal (i.e.  heart rate, adrenaline etc) and motivates us to act with alertness and speed. The parasympathetic division relaxes us after the state of emergency has disappeared. The adrenal glands play a particularly important role in determining an individual’s ability to cope with stress. Adrenalin causes constriction in the stomach and intestines (taking appetite away) and increases the rate of heartbeat. No doubt you have experienced this state of tension, when your stomach becomes tight and your heartbeat faster seeming louder). The secretion of adrenalin (also known as epinephrine) excites the sympathetic system that in turn leads to even greater secretion of adrenalin. Thus, a closed system of excitation and arousal is formed. This closed system is one reason why the level of excitement takes a while to disappear even after its cause goes.

Noradrenalin (also known as norepinephrine) stimulates the pituitary gland to secrete another hormone. This other hormone stimulates the liver to increase blood-sugar level, so that the body has energy for quick action.

The preparation of the body by the autonomic system is called the alarm phase. This is followed by the resistance phase. The body can resist the tension because its defence powers have been called into action during the alarm phase. The body later returns to a normal unexcited state. Certain physiological functions, however, continue to perform at a high level. As a result, there will be increased secretion of certain glands and organs (such as digestive juices that can lead to ulcers or diarrhoea).                

If a new stressor occurs, such as an infection, the body cannot always defend itself efficiently as it did during the alarm phase.  If the individual is subject to continuous stresses, they reach a point of exhaustion, where the defence powers of the nervous system collapse. The body’s immunity system becomes depleted, and thus illness can ensue, and in extreme instances, even death. If exhaustion continues for too long, a person might suffer mental illness or a breakdown -a kind of psychological death.

Health Problems

Due to the stress and metabolic changes that occur due to recurrent, unmanaged anger, short term and long-term health problems can occur. These include –

  • 1-Headaches/migraines
  • 2-Insomnia
  • 3-Digestion problems, such as abdominal pain, irritable bowel, stomach ulcers
  • 4-Eating disorders
  • 5-Allergies
  • 6-Backaches
  • 7-Frequent colds and fatigue
  • 8-Increased anxiety
  • 9-Depression
  • 10-High blood pressure
  • 11-Skin problems, such as eczema
  • 12-Heart attack
  • 13-Stroke
  • 14-Asthma
  • 15-Diabetes
  • 16-Cancer

If the cause of stress or anger does not disappear for an extended length of time, the actions of the autonomic system and adrenal glands are prolonged.

The pattern of preparation for emergencies in a way, embraces the persons life in its closed circuit….so the person becomes a victim to an unyielding level of stress.


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