Internalized Anger Exacerbates Anxiety

According to a study by Sonya Deschênes of Concordia University and colleagues at Ryerson University in Toronto, and published in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, the powerful emotion of anger tends to go hand in hand with symptoms of anxiety, and when anger is internalized, it can be a very strong predictor of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) .

On top of that, internalized anger can have major health consequences in people already struggling with aspects of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. In this patient population, the emotion of anger is more than that, it actually makes their mental illness worse.

Deschênes first noticed a strong but unexplained link between anger and anxiety:

"This was surprising to me because irritability, which is part of the anger family, is a diagnostic feature of Generalized Anxiety Disorder."

Generalized Anxiety Disorder causes sufferers to experience worry at uncontrollable levels such that it gets in the way of one's ability to live one's life. These patients tend to worry about everything from disasters to day-to-day problems to the extent that they can't think about anything else.

In this study, Deschênes and colleagues examined how certain aspects of anger contribute to and exacerbate GAD, specifically "hostility, physical and verbal aggression, anger expression and anger control" and how they were dealt with in a cohort of under just four hundred GAD-diagnosed participants.


They concluded that 131 participants with GAD symptoms experienced very high levels of anger and that aspects of anger were associated with worry and anxiety. Additionally, hostility and internalized anger made their GAD symptoms worse.

"When a situation is ambiguous, such that the outcome could be good or bad, anxious individuals tend to assume the worst. That often results in heightened anxiety. There is also evidence of that same thought process in individuals who are easily angered. Therefore, anger and GAD may be two manifestations of the same biased thought process."

To that end, anger could complicate GAD treatment.

"If anger and hostility are contributing to the maintenance of symptoms, and these are not targeted during treatment, these people may not be benefiting as much from that treatment. It's my hope that, by furthering our understanding of the role of anger in GAD, we can improve treatment outcomes for individuals with this disorder."

Source: MNT
Photo: Pixabay

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