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Women's Health

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Get Well. Get Angry.

Why expressing rage may be good for your health and mind.

Anger and Health

Other research supports Cox's conclusions. Studies -- including one published in Annals of Behavioral Medicine in the fall of 1998 -- have linked suppressed anger to serious medical problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, gastrointestinal complaints, and even certain cancers.

Researchers have even found a link between unexpressed anger and depression in women, says Dana Crowley Jack, EdD, a psychologist at Fairhaven College at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash.

When women do get angry, they tend to get especially livid -- the ranting, raving, seething, smoking kind of anger -- at the people they love most. Why? There's more at stake in these relationships, Jack says. But take heart: Research has shown that dealing effectively with someone who provokes anger is much more likely to strengthen rather than weaken the relationship. Indeed, experts say that constructive anger may be the only effective way to problem-solve in a partnership. "Anger is a wonderful, helpful, restorative emotion," says Jack. "It can be used to get rid of obstacles in a relationship. It really does work for that."

Even getting angry at your kids can bring you closer together. "Expressing your anger is an opportunity for you to speak clearly and honestly and enhance your relationship with your child," Cox says. "Unless kids see their parents or role models expressing anger, they won't know how to do it themselves." Telling your kids exactly why you're angry can help you work out a solution that's acceptable to both of you. However, make sure you're directing your anger in the right place -- if you're furious with your boss, don't take it out on your son.

So go ahead, say the experts, acknowledge that anger, and let other people know what you're feeling. When women are conscious of this strong sensation, says Cox, they have a better chance of using it in a constructive way. Anger is just a bodily reaction, a signal that a wrong has taken place, something needs correcting, or the demands on a woman exceed her ability to handle them. "We don't have choices about when we feel it," Cox says. "But we do have choices about what we do with it."

It may help to remember that getting cross -- even furious -- can have positive consequences. "Think of some of the social change groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving or the National Organization of Women," suggests Jack, author of two books, Silencing the Self and Behind the Mask, that address women's anger. "These social movements came about because women were just outraged."

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