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What Anger Does to the Body and How to Use It

By Chris Brown

Evolutionarily, anger has served an important role in helping people successfully negotiate interpersonal conflicts within and outside of their tribes, according to a UC Berkeley paper. It provided our ancestors with the drive to protect their communities with healthy self-interest and inspire innovation. However, in the modern world, anger often produces unproductive responses. By touching on the causes of anger, and stopping it from becoming a chronic condition, one can harness the power of this ancient emotion in a positive way.

The Bodily Response of Anger

When anger activates, it triggers a domino effect of responses designed to prepare the body for conflict. Much like with fear and pain, adrenaline floods the system of an angry person. The adrenaline elevates body temperature, speeds heart rate, and increases respiration. Increased oxygen causes brain function areas related to self-interest and survival to heighten, while other areas associated with risk analysis can become hijacked. This can result in poor decision making and lowered inhibitions that are advantageous during primal conflicts, but not so much for nuanced disagreements.

While anger's reaction may be beneficial at times, problems arise when it becomes uncontrollable or becomes a common emotional state.

Long-Term Effects of an Angry Personality

Long-term anger can have serious physical and psychological consequences.

Adrenaline from anger significantly stresses the cardiovascular system and frequent stressing can increase the risk of stroke and heart attack. Stress hormones from anger also cause airway inflammation and, according to a Harvard study, reduce lung capacity over time.

Anger can also psychologically cause a self-reinforcing negative life outlook. Existing in such a state has known long-term limiting effects on someone's life path. Negative reactions often result in negative consequences that fuel more negativity. Because of this, chronic anger has been shown to increase anxiety, depression, and shorten lifespan. All of these stunt one's ability to innovate and progress in the world.

Readapting Away From the Anger Response

There are several ways to redirect anger into an advantageous instinct rather than a life hinderance. Anger, consciously or unconsciously, often masks less favorable emotions such as fear or pain. Therefore, the source of anger may actually be one of instinctual fear. By practicing self-evaluation instead of immediately reacting to anger in uncontrolled outbursts, one may be able to determine the subconscious reasons behind the emotion and become more in touch with their natural survival instincts. In this way, anger can be utilized in its protective capacity. For example, excessive anger may signal an unhealthy relationship or simply be a signifier of a moment of feeling unheard. The lessons learned by investigating your anger, rather than trying to avoid it altogether, can put you more in tune with powerful evolutionary human advantages.  

Furthermore, chiropractic has been shown to reduce the anxiety and low-grade pain that could be exacerbating bouts of unhealthy anger. Walk into a clinic of The Joint Chiropractic today for an easy evaluation and affordable treatment.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Pleasanton, Calif.

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