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Anger Control for Men

Why we get angry — And why uncontrolled anger is a serious health threat
By
WebMD Feature

Life provides men with an endless supply of things to get angry about. There’s the sullen waitress who refuses to look in your direction while you wave desperately for the check. There’s the oaf who drifts across the road without ever using his blinker. There’s the dropped call, the tepid shower, the gum on the bottom of the shoe.

While it’s perfectly natural to get angry about any of these things, anger comes to some men more naturally than others. For the hot-tempered, the pettiest annoyance results in out-of-control anger. And some guys, despite the fact anger is listed among the deadly sins, genuinely like having a hot temper. It can be a source of pride and a badge of masculinity. Even if you’re not busting heads every weekend at a roadhouse, you might enjoy indulging your angry side. You might feel that anger helps you succeed and inspires respect.

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But there’s a downside to the manful, short-fused Type A personality. “In researching people with this disposition, we found that anger and hostility may actually be lethal,” says Charles D. Spielberger, PhD, a distinguished research professor of psychology at the University of South Florida who’s been studying anger for 25 years. And he means lethal to the person who gets angry, not the one on the receiving end of the anger. The evidence that anger can detract from your health is mounting all the time. And of course, uncontrolled anger in men can leave your marriage and your career — not to mention your crockery — in pieces.

So what is this emotion that we all share but rarely think about? How do we know if our anger is out of control — and what is it doing to us?

Understanding anger

Is anger just an emotion? While we think of it that way, it’s really much more. “Anger is both psychological and physiological,” Spielberger tells WebMD. When you lose control of your anger during a traffic jam or at your son’s soccer game, your nervous system triggers a number of biological reactions:

  • Levels of hormones, like cortisol, increase.
  • Your breathing gets faster.
  • Your pulse gets faster.
  • Your blood pressure rises.
  • As you heat up, you begin to sweat.
  • Your pupils dilate.
  • You may notice sudden headaches.

Basically, your body is gearing up for intense physical activity. This is the “fight” part of the “fight or flight” response. If we’re exposed to something stressful, our bodies get ready to do battle or run away.

Spielberger says that anger is common because it has an evolutionary advantage. “Anger isn’t just a human emotion,” he says. “Fear and rage are common to animals too. They developed over eons to help creatures fight and survive.”

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