AnxietyAnxiety And Anger: Understanding The Connection And Managing Symptoms

Anxiety And Anger: Understanding The Connection And Managing Symptoms

Anxiety and anger are common emotions that can have a significant impact on a person’s mental health and well-being. While anxiety is often characterised by feelings of fear, worry and discomfort, anger is a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure or hostility. These emotions can be interrelated, influencing each other in complex ways that affect our behaviour and mental state. Understanding the relationship between anxiety and anger is crucial to developing strategies for managing them effectively.

Managing both anxiety and anger is essential for maintaining a healthy balance in our personal and social lives. High levels of stress and anxiety can exacerbate feelings of anger, while uncontrolled anger can lead to increased levels of anxiety. By increasing our awareness of these emotions and the triggers that cause them, individuals can learn to better control their responses. Mental health professionals often emphasise the importance of recognising the causes and patterns of these emotions in order to foster healthier relationships and improve self-esteem.

Key Takeaways

  • Anxiety and anger are related emotions that can affect mental health and behaviour.
  • Awareness and control of these emotions are essential for personal and social well-being.
  • Professional guidance can be beneficial in managing these complex emotional states.

Anxiety And Anger: Overview

Anxiety disorders are complex conditions often characterised by excessive and persistent feelings of worry and fear. These feelings can activate the body’s fight-or-flight response, releasing hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline that prepare the body to confront or flee from a perceived threat. While this response is vital for survival, constant activation due to anxiety can be detrimental.

  • The fight response: In the context of anger, the fight response is particularly notable. Individuals may experience a heightened state of arousal and become more aggressive as a symptom of their anxiety.
  • Flight response: Others may avoid confrontation and withdraw, reflecting the flight aspect of the response.

Periodic stressors are a normal part of life, but for people with anxiety disorders they can trigger more intense reactions. The relationship between anger and anxiety suggests that anger can be both a response to and a contributor to anxiety. Interventions such as cue exposure therapy have been used to help patients reduce anger reactions by coping with triggering environmental stimuli.

Understanding the complex relationship between these emotional responses is essential in addressing the needs of people with anxiety disorders. Studies, such as one discussed in a research article, have examined different dimensions of this relationship, helping to inform treatment approaches.

Patients struggling with both anxiety and anger can face a cyclical challenge, as each can exacerbate the other. Effective treatment often requires a multifaceted approach, including therapy and, in some cases, medication, to help regulate the emotional and physiological symptoms associated with them.

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How Are These Two Emotions Connected?

Anxiety and anger are closely related emotions, often triggered by similar situations and sharing many physiological and psychological characteristics. Understanding this connection can shed light on how they affect an individual’s health and well-being.

Part Of The Human Condition

Human beings are hardwired to experience both fear and anger. These emotions are survival mechanisms that are activated in dangerous situations. Anxiety often serves as a precursor to anger, alerting an individual to potential threats, while anger typically triggers a more active response to confront the threat.

Same Physiological Symptoms

The physiological symptoms of fear and anger are remarkably similar. During episodes of either emotion, you may experience an increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and a surge in stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. These reactions are part of the body’s fight-or-flight response, which prepares it to deal with perceived threats.

Same Psychological Roots

Psychologically, anxiety and anger can have a common root: a sense of threat. Whether this threat is real, perceived or reflects a deeper psychological issue, both emotions focus the mind to quickly assess and respond to the situation. Uncontrolled anger, as described by the American Psychological Association, can be a healthy response to threats if managed properly, but can be harmful if left unchecked.

Effect On Health

Chronic experiences of anxiety and anger can be detrimental to health. The prolonged stress response associated with these emotions can lead to conditions such as headaches, pain, high blood pressure and heart disease. In addition, research has explored the relationship between chronic anger, stress dysregulation and deterioration in lung function, indicating the interconnectedness of the body’s stress response systems.

Causes Of Anger In Anxiety

Causes Of Anger In Anxiety

People with anxiety often experience anger as an emotional response. This anger can manifest as a result of the persistent and overwhelming feelings of stress and irritability associated with anxiety disorders. One of the main causes is a sense of loss of control over one’s environment or emotions, which can lead to frustration and then anger.

The stress of trying to manage anxiety symptoms can lead to a lowered threshold for irritation, so that even minor triggers can cause disproportionate anger. In addition, the internalisation of anxiety can sometimes lead to aggression as a defensive mechanism. People with anxiety may display aggression as a way of protecting themselves from perceived threats.

Another contributing factor is the shame associated with anxiety. If people are embarrassed about their anxious reactions or panic attacks, they may react with anger to distract from their vulnerability. Also, the physiological arousal that characterises anxiety can be similar to that of anger, blurring the boundaries between the two emotions.

For those struggling with anger related to anxiety, treatment such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been shown to be effective in managing these intense emotions. CBT can help identify the underlying causes of anger, teach coping strategies and improve anger management skills, which can reduce both the frequency and intensity of anger episodes.

How Can I Manage Anger And Anxiety?

Managing anger and anxiety involves a combination of physical and psychological strategies designed to reduce stress and improve control over emotions.

Physical Exercise

Regular exercise is a powerful stress-reliever that can help manage symptoms of anxiety and anger. It reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as cortisol, and stimulates the production of endorphins, which are natural mood-lifters. Activities such as running, swimming or even just taking a brisk walk can improve overall health and lead to lower blood pressure, contributing to a calmer state of mind.

Mindfulness Practice

Mindfulness increases awareness and provides a way to ground oneself in the present moment, which can be particularly helpful in managing anxiety. Engaging in mindfulness exercises allows individuals to observe their thoughts and feelings without judgement, which can help with anger management and reduce the intensity of the fight/flight response.

Breathing Exercises

Slow and deep breathing are powerful techniques for activating the body’s relaxation response. Practicing controlled breathing can help reduce anxiety and anger. A systematic review suggests that slow breathing may improve heart rate variability and respiratory sinus arrhythmia, and may have beneficial effects on the nervous system.


Massage therapy can be used as a method of stress reduction, helping to manage symptoms of anxiety and anger. Through progressive muscle relaxation, massage can reduce muscle tension, potentially reducing the physical manifestations of the fight/flight response and promoting a sense of calm.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for a range of emotional problems, including anxiety and anger. This form of therapy helps people identify and change destructive thought patterns that contribute to negative emotions. Working with a therapist, a person can learn coping skills that enable them to better regulate their emotions.

CBT For Black Girls And Women

Targeted approaches such as CBT for Black girls and women address the unique cultural and societal challenges that can affect their mental health. Specialised therapies can provide tailored strategies for stress and symptom control, promoting awareness and better anger management techniques for those facing specific stressors.

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When to Talk With A Doctor

Individuals may consider consulting a health professional if symptoms of anxiety disorders significantly interfere with their daily life. Common signs that warrant attention include persistent worry, physical symptoms such as a rapid heartbeat or tremors, and an inability to control feelings of anxiety. It’s particularly important to seek help for generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) or panic disorder, where anxiety can be overwhelming and frequent.

  • GAD is characterised by chronic anxiety for no apparent reason.
  • Panic disorder involves sudden, intense attacks of fear, often with physical symptoms.

It’s advisable for patients to talk to a doctor if anxiety symptoms persist:

  • Last longer than six months: A prolonged period is a strong indicator that a medical evaluation is needed.
  • Interfere with relationships: Anxiety that interferes with interactions with friends or family may require professional intervention.
  • Interfere with a sense of security: Constant feelings of fear or expectation that something bad will happen can reduce quality of life.

Physical health is also affected by anxiety. People with conditions such as insomnia or fibromyalgia may find that their symptoms worsen as their anxiety levels increase. For people who experience chronic pain along with anxiety, discussing the relationship with a therapist could provide relief and alleviate symptoms.

In addition, anxiety often co-occurs with other health problems, such as tension-type headaches, where the prevalence of anxiety and worsening headache symptoms are of particular concern. Understanding how these conditions relate and influence each other is essential for comprehensive care.

Assessing and treating anxiety isn’t just about managing mental health, it’s about your overall wellbeing. Choosing to see a doctor is a proactive step towards regaining a sense of control and improving health outcomes.

Frequently Asked Questions

The FAQs cover a range of issues, from strategies for managing anger and anxiety to understanding their impact on mental health.

How can you manage the symptoms of aggressive anxiety?

Managing symptoms of aggressive anxiety often involves recognising triggers and using coping strategies such as deep breathing, regular exercise and mindfulness. Consistency in these practices is crucial to reducing the frequency and intensity of anxious reactions.

What are effective anger and anxiety management strategies?

Effective anger and anxiety management can include cognitive restructuring, relaxation techniques and improving communication skills. It’s also helpful to seek advice from a professional who can tailor strategies to the individual’s specific needs.

Are anger and irritability indicators of stress-related problems?

Yes, anger and irritability can be indicators of stress and other underlying problems. Recognising these emotions as potential signs of stress can be the first step in addressing the underlying causes and seeking appropriate treatment or coping mechanisms.

How can you support someone who is experiencing anger due to anxiety?

To support someone who is experiencing anger due to anxiety, provide a calm presence, listen without judgement, and encourage them to seek professional help. Patience and understanding can make a big difference.

Can excessive emotional reactions be related to underlying anxiety?

Excessive emotional reactions are often a sign of underlying anxiety. It is important to understand that these reactions may be the person’s way of coping with overwhelming feelings and not necessarily a direct reflection of the situation at hand.

How is anger related to mental disorders?

Anger is intrinsically linked to mental health disorders and can be a symptom of depression, anxiety and personality disorders. It can both influence and be exacerbated by these conditions, so a comprehensive approach to treatment is needed.


Research suggests that emotions such as anger and anxiety affect cognitive and neural functions. Anger is associated with increased attention to anger-related stimuli and impulsivity, with neural links to the amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Similarly, depression, anxiety and anger affect cognitive abilities, particularly memory and executive function. During stressful times, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, professionals such as nurses experienced increased anxiety.

This anxiety also influences how anger is expressed. Managing these emotions means understanding and managing them, not suppressing them. The findings highlight the need for further research to understand the long-term cognitive effects of emotional states and to develop effective management strategies.


  1. American Psychological Association. “Anger: The unrecognized emotion in emotional disorders.” PsycNET, 10.1111/cpsp.12139. Link.

  2. American Psychological Association. “Control anger before it controls you” APA. Link.

  3. Springer. “The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy” Link Springer, 10.1007/s10608-012-9476-1. Link.

  4. Mayo Clinic. “Mindfulness exercises” Mayo Clinic. Link.

Mark Willson, holding a Ph.D., functions as a psychotherapist in Washington, D.C. His specialized fields encompass addiction, anxiety, depression, as well as sexuality and interpersonal connections. Dr. Willson holds the distinction of being a diplomat for the American Board of Addiction and Anxiety, further serving as a certified counselor and addiction specialist.

Aside from his personal professional endeavors, Dr. Wilson has engaged in roles as an author, journalist, and creator within substantial medical documentary projects.

Isabella Clark, Ph.D., held the position of a professor within Emory University’s School of Medicine, working in the Department of Mental Health and Nutrition Science. Alongside this role, she served as a research associate affiliated with the National Research Center. Dr. Clark’s primary area of research centers on comprehending the mechanisms through which adverse social encounters, encompassing prolonged stress and traumatic exposure, contribute to a spectrum of detrimental mental health consequences and coexisting physical ailments like obesity. Her specific focus lies in unraveling the reasons behind the varying elevated susceptibility to stress-linked disorders between different genders.


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