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Understanding the Physical Effects of Anger

As you work on recovery, hopefully with help at an alcohol or drug treatment center, you are also going to learn about the effects of anger. You may have already read that it’s natural to be angry, but also that it’s important to leave anger behind you.

The effects of anger have a great deal of impact on your body. Whether you’re feeling anger at yourself or resentment toward the people who pressed you to go into treatment, that anger creates a stress that triggers all kinds of physical symptoms.

Think about the last time you got really angry at somebody.  Anger affects the body in very much the same way as stress, and the symptoms you experience are the same as the symptoms that cave men experienced eons ago from the stress of facing a saber-tooth tiger.

  • Your breathing rate increases so that your body will have enough oxygen.
  • Your heart pumps faster in order to send oxygenated blood to all your limbs.
  • Your muscles and spine stiffen so that you can put up a good fight.
  • Your body’s adrenal gland pours adrenaline into your bloodstream to give you enough energy for the fight.
  • Cortisol is also dumped into the bloodstream to boost your blood sugar level.
  • The pupils of your eyes dilate so that you can see your enemy better.
  • Even the hairs on your arms or the back of your neck  stand up—in the days of the cave man, who was a little hairier than today’s average guy, this made him look more threatening to his enemy.
  • You can even develop hives, caused from hormonal histamine generated in response to stress that accumulates between the endothelial cells of your skin.
  • That extra histamine production can churn up your stomach acid.  

Work Anger Out of Your System

The best way to get rid of these physical symptoms is to take a brisk walk. Even if you only take a hike around the parking lot at the drug treatment center, you are going to bring your body’s heart rate and respiratory rate back to a normal level from the exercise. The extra biochemicals in your system as well as the histamines accumulated beneath your epidermis will move into your bloodstream toward eventual elimination.  In fact, if you exercise regularly, your body will become conditioned to eliminating the harmful biochemical and stress hormones so that you can recover from anger more quickly.

Deep Breathing

You can also learn how to control and eliminate anger through deep-breathing practice.

  • Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor
  • Place your hand on your diaphragm muscle, which is immediately above your waistline.
  • Inhale slowly, counting to 7. With your hand, you can feel your diaphragm move out.
  • Hold your breath until you count to 5.
  • Release your breath, on the same slow count of 7. Now you feel your diaphragm move back into place.

Just like taking a walk, the deep-breathing technique will help you calm down when you feel angry, and practicing it regularly will help you to get rid of anger even more quickly. Ask your substance abuse counselor if there are classes in yoga or meditation as well as some physical activities that you can participate in as part of your treatment.  You might feel good if you tell yourself that anger is natural, but you will feel even better if you learn how to control it.

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