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When Anxiety Becomes Anger

March 30, 2021 Rizza Bermio-Gonzalez

Anxiety and anger feel a lot alike. An increased heart rate, feeling flushed, tense muscles, uncomfortable stomach issues -- these symptoms may be familiar to you if you experience chronic anxiety. They may also sound like things you felt the last time you were angry. 

I experience these symptoms during times that I am anxious or angry. Because of this, I started thinking about the similarities between the two. I know that there have been times that I have experienced unexplained anger. Now, reflecting on those times, I may have actually been expressing anxiety. I think this was much more common in my younger days.

Anxiety is something that I have been experiencing since I was a young teenager. When I was younger, I would often say that I had a "bad temper." But I never really stopped to reflect and take a closer look at what I was feeling and why I felt that way. I would often see red and behave in a manner that matched my emotions. I would often find myself making impulsive decisions based on anger without thinking about the consequences.

What Happens When Anxiety Becomes Anger

As I've gotten older, I've stopped to reflect on emotions that I experienced in earlier years. And when I think about times that I have felt angry or instances in which my anger has gotten me into a little bit of trouble, I realize that, during many of these times, I was experiencing anxiety as well.

Anxiety is often associated with extreme worry or fear about future events. It may also be associated with the feelings of fear experienced during past traumatic events. One of the most challenging aspects of anxiety is that it takes you out of the present time. So, for example, unresolved emotions about past events might affect current thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. This could include feelings and expressions of anger.

How to Deal with Anger that Stems from Anxiety

If you experience chronic anxiety as I do, it's a good idea to check in with yourself when you feel angry. Think about where the feelings are coming from and how you can come with them. Here are some strategies that I find useful:

  1. Use strategies to stay grounded. Anger can result from feelings from the past that haven't been fully dealt with. Therefore, trying to stay grounded and focused on what is happening in the present can be a useful tool for coping with anxiety. I will often slow down and take in my current setting and what I am experiencing through my senses. Doing so helps me to stay in the present.
  2. Work through recent stressful events. Journaling is a great method for this. Sometimes I find that writing feely can be quite cathartic. I am often able to express myself easier on paper than I can through the spoken word. You may find that, by writing freely, you uncover feelings and emotions that you've buried that are resurfacing in the anger you are expressing through road rage or yelling at a family member or the inexplicable feelings of hostility.
  3. Immerse yourself in a good workout. This is a great strategy that I find is so helpful. Sometimes, it's hard to identify where those anxious feelings are coming from, and, sometimes, those feelings simply need to be let out. Exhausting workouts can allow you to do just that. Try it the next time you feel intense anger that could be stemming from anxiety.

While not all anger is connected to anxiety, you may find that it is sometimes rooted in unprocessed feelings. Those feelings might be fear and intense worry associated with potential future outcomes of past traumatic events. Try these strategies to help you unpack those feelings of anxiety that are connected to anger. Share any strategies you find work for you in the comments below.

APA Reference
Bermio-Gonzalez, R. (2021, March 30). When Anxiety Becomes Anger, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, May 7 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/treatinganxiety/2021/3/when-anxiety-becomes-anger



Author: Rizza Bermio-Gonzalez

Lizanne Corbit
March, 30 2021 at 7:57 pm

Wonderful strategies! Your point about anxiety pulling us out of the present moment is absolutely true and such an important one to remember. If we can press pause to pull ourselves out of the anxious response experience we can give ourselves the necessary perspective to see that what we're feeling right now isn't fully tied to the present. Working out is always an excellent one because it also gives us a burst of feel-good energy.

March, 31 2021 at 4:41 pm

Hi Lizanne,
Thank you so much! I really like your analogy about "pressing pause." Exercising indeed is helpful on so many levels! Thank you for your response!
Wishing you well,
Rizza

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