Anger Control for Men
Why we get angry — And why uncontrolled anger is a serious health threat
Don’t have a coronary, dude! Health risks of uncontrolled anger
The problem is that, nowadays, your body’s full-blooded physical response to
anger isn’t always so useful. It might have come in handy when our ancestors
were trying to club a cave bear to death. But it really doesn’t help much when
you’re standing in a line at the DMV.
In fact, uncontrolled anger is worse than useless: It’s bad for you. Several
studies have found a link between anger and disease. For instance, a large
study of almost 13,000 people found that those who had high levels of anger —
but normal blood pressure — were more likely to develop coronary artery disease
or have a
heart attack. The angriest were three times as likely to have a heart
attack as the least angry.
So how does anger turn into disease? Your body’s physical reaction to anger
is intended for the short-term — it gives you the immediate boost you need to
survive. But if this explosion of hormones is triggered too often, you can
suffer long-term effects. Anger’s stress hormones may contribute to
arteriosclerosis, the build-up of plaques in the arteries that can cause heart
attacks and strokes. These hormones may also increase levels of C-reactive
protein (CRP), which causes inflammation and may also contribute to
cardiovascular risk. One 2004 study in Psychosomatic Medicine found that
people prone to anger had levels of CRP twice or three times as high as others.
Anger can even cause electrical disturbances in the heart rhythm.
Anger has also been linked with
depression. People who report being frequently angry are less likely to
take care of themselves. They’re more likely to smoke, drink to excess, and eat
badly, and they’re less likely to exercise. While it’s hard to say that in
these cases anger is the cause, it’s certainly linked with a lot of unhealthy
behaviors. Anger can also be an expression of feelings of helplessness or
Controlling your anger
But Spielberger doesn’t want anger to be demonized. It’s not evil. “Anger is
a natural, human emotion,” Spielberger says. “There’s nothing abnormal about
He points out that when it’s correctly channeled, anger can be constructive.
It can drive people to speak out and solve problems. It’s the impulse behind
much great literature and music. The white hot anger of the righteous has often
been a powerful, positive force in our world. But the problem is that for every
man who uses his anger constructively, there are a dozen brawling knuckleheads
who waste their lives making appearances in the local paper’s police
Since anger is natural, what are we supposed to do with it?