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Health & Balance

Why Anger Is the New Sex

Switch off the Housewives they're making you crazy. Joanne Chen on how to keep your temper in an angry age.
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WHAT'S MAKING YOU MAD continued...

And according to University of Minnesota researchers, even cell-phone communication is fraught with risk. Chatting as we run errands may make us feel like great multitaskers, but the reality is that it means we take longer to react. Add poor sound quality and other distractions into the mix, and you have a recipe for misinterpretations and unintended interruptions - all of which, researchers say, lead to "hurt feelings, conflict, and misunderstandings." What's more, the fallout from this is often hardest on women: Says Ray Novaco, Ph.D., professor of psychology and social behavior at the University of California, Irvine, women relive angry incidents more, and stay angry longer, than men do.

And then there's the media. News networks, once reliably neutral and unemotional, now inflame public sentiment with sensationalized coverage of the conflict du jour, be it General McChrystal's attacks on Obama's team or the latest Tea Party shoutfest. Broadcasters, embattled by competition from the Internet, now cater to niche audiences, making the nightly news feel like a personal attack. How else to explain the transformation of MSNBC from an outlet for unbiased news coverage to one whose sole purpose seems to be feeding the flames? Or the fact that instead of Campbell Brown's levelheaded reporting at 8 p.m., CNN will be serving up one of politics' most divisive hotheads, Eliot Spitzer? Clearly, if you want people to tune in to the news these days, you need to give them something to shout about.

It's as though news divisions have stolen a page from reality TV - once just a simple pleasure, but now a major force feeding the anger in the air, with ratings through the roof. Any TV producer knows that a heated smackdown between two women gets more viewers - and blogs - buzzing than a hot tryst, so we're treated to scenes like the one on last year's Real Housewives of New Jersey season finale, in which a wife furiously flipped over a table at a local restaurant. Then there's Jillian Michaels' vein-popping screaming sessions with charges on The Biggest Loser, a show so popular that Michaels has been awarded a second reality show all her own.

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