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Why Anger can be Bad for Your Body, and How to Manage It

By Pam Dewey • anger, feeling angry, managing anger, controlling anger, upset, mad, frequent anger, long term impact of anger on the body, impact of anger on the body, learning to control anger, how to manage anger • February 02, 2023

Feeling anger is a normal part of the human experience. You might get mad when you disagree with your partner or are cut off in traffic. You may also feel upset when you see someone treated unfairly. Not all anger is bad.

However, frequent anger can be potentially harmful to your body. You’re likely heard of the fight or flight response, which helps you escape when you’re in danger. It’s also how your body reacts when you feel mad. Anger causes your body to increase blood pressure, heart rate, breathing and blood flow to your muscles. Your body also slows down less-urgent body functions that deal with digestion, growth and parts of the immune system. According to The New York Times, this “can trigger gastrointestinal discomfort, malabsorption of food and loss of appetite.” It can also put you at a greater risk of getting sick because your immune system protects you from infection.

Anger can cause chronic and long-term consequences

Frequent anger can also cause long-term health consequences. Since your heart rate and blood flow increase, it can be hard on your heart. That’s particularly true for people who already have heart conditions. The New York Times states, “So if you’re already living with conditions that affect the cardiovascular system such as high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms or high cholesterol, moments of extreme anger may leave you more vulnerable to a sudden heart attack.”

Other research finds that angrier people are more likely to have other chronic conditions. Self Magazine states, “For example, a 2019 study that followed 226 older adults for one week found that those who had higher levels of self-reported anger were more likely to have higher levels of inflammation and a higher risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, osteoarthritis, diabetes, and even certain cancers.”

“People often forget the connection of our mind as a part of our body. Caring for all parts of your body is very important,” says Fraser Mental Health Professional Sarah Davis.

Here are a few ideas to help you manage your anger.


When you’re upset, your breathing automatically quickens. It makes sense that slowing down your breathing will relax your body. Try taking 10 deep breaths. Or, count to 10 and then take several deep breaths, focusing on inhaling deeply and exhaling deeply until you feel calm.

Reflect on your feelings

The next time you’re mad, ask yourself if you’re overreacting. Maybe you’re frustrated about something that happened earlier in the day, and you’re now taking it out on someone else. Psychology Today also suggests monitoring your feelings throughout the day. The magazine states, “It’s much better to take your emotional temperature throughout the day and to address your feelings before you lose control of them. Self-monitor: do you feel your heart begin to race, are your muscles starting to tense? These are all indicators that you are beginning to become angry.” Once you recognize how anger feels in your body, you can learn to step away from the situation, or stop yourself from reacting this way.

Take a break

Taking a break from the situation is helpful for several reasons. In Self Magazine, Counselor and CEO of Antara Counseling and Wellness Anusha Atmakuri states, “‘Anger is often the first layer of emotion, protecting or masking other emotions like disappointment, overwhelm, hurt, hunger, guilt, or shame.’ By physically moving away from the situation — say, going into another room, heading out for a brisk walk, or cutting a call short — you’ll give yourself some space to start unearthing those layers, which will help you recognize why you’re mad and what you may need to feel better.” Maybe you’re upset because you’re feeling overwhelmed at work. Walking away stops you from making an angry retort to a friend or loved one, when it has nothing to do with them.

Try exercise

Exercise releases endorphins and serotonin, which can improve your mood. Moving your body, in general, is a good release. Think about how you feel after a good run, dance class a yoga session. You certainly feel more healthy and happy than you do after yelling at someone.

Adjust your body

There is another way you can move your body to release negative feelings. Therapist Lola Wang uses a dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) technique called “Willing Hands and Half-Smiling” to help “the tension and energy lift off” of her.

In Self Magazine, Wang describes it, “For ‘willing hands,’ she places her arms alongside her body, keeping them straight or bent slightly at the elbows. She then turns her hands outward, unclenched, with her fingers relaxed and palms facing upward. To practice ‘half-smiling,’ she tries to relax her face, letting go of her facial muscles and tilting the corners of her lips upward, adopting a serene facial expression.” She says it is hard to stay angry when making this pose.

Anger can be a healthy way to express your feelings. However, if anger is your default reaction, it’s not good for your physical or mental health. Figure out what is causing your anger, and examine whether you might be overreacting. Notice how your body feels when you get angry. You may also need to cool off before you can assess the situation; that’s okay, too.