When you get angry, it can be difficult to think about anything other than the source of your anger. This is a natural defense mechanism, meant to provide you with the adrenaline you need to hold your own in a fight, but modern society rarely requires the levels of rage many people are capable of reaching. Besides helping you forge stronger social connections and avoid alienating others, anger management therapy may also expand your lifespan. These four examples are just a few of the ways excessive anger affects your body, both for better and for worse.
Increasing Immunoglobulin Production
Studies have found that individuals who commit acts of violence against their domestic partners also have higher levels of immunoglobulin A, an essential molecule produced by white blood cells to fight harmful bacteria and viruses. This positive effect of anger expression may have first evolved as a way to prevent infections after a fight, but today it has the effect of rewarding violent behavior through physical well-being. This may reinforce aggression in individuals already prone to it and encourage repeated episodes.
Flooding You With Stress Hormones
Researchers studying the relationship of aggression and stress in rat brains discovered that increasing either stress or anger levels in the rats led to an overall increase of both. This helps confirm the long-suspected idea that anger is closely related to stress, since rat brains function very similarly to human ones. Chronic stress, like that experienced by most anger management patients, can lead to a number of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, acid reflux and muscle tension.
Increasing Your Chances of Stroke
People who experience intense anger are 14 times more likely to experience a stroke within the following two hours than another individual experiencing positive emotions. This may be tied to escalating blood pressure as your adrenaline system kicks in and slowly winds down again. Although the long-term relationship between anger and stroke is less well understood, it is clear that your are jeopardizing your health every time you allow yourself to lash out.
Making it Easier to Get Angry Again
Unfortunately, all of the stress hormones and negative side-effects of anger can linger in your system for days after the initial incident, making you more prone to anger in the future. This can lead to a self-perpetuating loop of aggression that can be nearly impossible to break out of without professional help. For the sake of your health and the health of those around you, attending anger management sessions may be the only way to learn how to redirect your anger, break the stress cycle and find new ways to channel that energy toward something more productive.