Imagine feeling nervous, stressed and worried most of the time, or so fixated on a particular perceived threat that it paralyzes you with fear. Living in this constant state of stress, it seems reasonable that you would become frustrated, irritable and even angry, right?
For adults and children suffering from an anxiety disorder, this is a very real consequence. In fact, when left unacknowledged and untreated, anxiety can evolve into anger.
What Triggers Anger?
In many cases, anger is the result of witnessing, or being the victim of, a real or perceived injustice. Your mood simply boils over in reaction to a person or event that annoys or agitates you especially if that person appears to be the blame. However, anger is also triggered by underlying emotions. For instance, profound sadness or guilt can lead to anger, as can fear and anxiety. Blocked goals can cause anger especially if the block seems to be unnecessary, unjustified or avoidable. The more unnecessary, for example, the more potential anger.
Here are some other potential correlations between anxiety and anger.
- Fight vs. Flight
Anxiety is based in fear, which is widely known to trigger the body’s fight or flight response. Rather than flee, some people with anxiety feel the desire to fight, which can manifest as anger.
- Lack of Assertiveness
Anger can be the result of feeling pent up emotions that a person is unwilling to express or deal with in a relationship. The fear of the confrontation could lead to avoidance and anxiety.
Anxiety disorders cause a tremendous amount of irritation, which makes adults and youth more prone to angry outbursts. This is particularly true, if the person experiencing the anxiety believes others are contributing to their stress.
- Loss of Control
Anger is a natural response for many people when they feel they are no longer in control. Since anxiety can essentially take over a person’s life and leave them feeling weak and powerless, anger is a common reaction to this perceived loss of control.
- Anger as the Cause of Anxiety
Conversely, anger can actually be the cause of anxiety. Those with anger issues may experience very deep anxiety as they worry about their ability to control their anger.
Treating Anger and Anxiety
If anxiety is having a negative impact on your relationships, it is important to talk to a healthcare practitioner or mental health professional. There are treatments that can help you manage your anxiety and improve your communication and functioning in your interpersonal relationships.
Medication is also often an essential part of anxiety treatment. While the medications prescribed for anxiety, like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, are not curative, they can help decrease your symptoms and help you feel better as you rework your anxious thoughts and behaviors with your therapist.
Medications are often most effective when they are used in conjunction with psychotherapy.
There are a number of different types of therapy that can be useful in the treatment of anxiety disorder, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy, and exposure therapy. Such therapies can also be helpful for improving communication in relationships.
A therapist who specializes in a type of talk therapy called cognitive-behavioral therapy can help you devise strategies on how to reassure yourself and take thoughtful action on your own, instead of needing your partner for comfort each time you are anxious.5
If you find yourself being overly distant in your relationships, cognitive behavioral therapy, also with other types of therapy, such as psychodynamic psychotherapy, may be helpful. A mental health professional can help a person explore past and present relationships and the emotions surrounding those interpersonal connections.
A therapist will also help you understand how anxiety impacts your relationships. For instance, exploring your emotions more deeply may be a good strategy for someone who tends to be avoidant.