Anger triggers physical responses that can be detrimental to your health. Wondering how to prevent them?
When you get angry, you trigger a chain reaction in your body. We followed the path of anger and tried to find out how it affects your health, memory and even the way you speak.
In addition to more truncated movements, your hands may also start shaking in anger, which is the result of a larger amount of adrenaline.
A set of almond-shaped neurons called the amygdala triggers the first feelings of anger when you are faced with something that is distracting you. The amygdala plays an important role in processing emotions and triggers an alarm when something makes you angry, thus telling other parts of the body that they need to do something.
The feeling of anger is immediately transmitted to the frontal lobe of the brain, especially to the left, which is responsible for experiencing the emotions associated with closeness. This also explains why it is difficult to avoid quarreling – we are not programmed to distance ourselves from situations, events and people that make us angry.
Part of the chain reaction triggered by the amygdala is also that the sympathetic nervous system diverts blood away from less important organs such as the liver, stomach, and intestines, and directs more blood to the heart, muscles, and brain. This prepares your body for a ‘fight or flight’ and is also an explanation for why you are more grumpy and tense when you get angry.
The blood vessels also constrict, which raises blood pressure. If the outburst of anger is sudden enough, it can even increase the risk of blood clots.
The adrenal glands, which, as the name suggests, are above the kidneys, respond to the stimulus of the amygdala and accelerate the production of adrenaline. This process has a powerful effect and results in a whole range of physical processes. Unlike stressful periods, the amount of the hormone cortisol in the blood drops, which is why it is difficult to remember the small details of an argument later. Cortisol decline is associated with poorer memory.
The extra adrenaline in your body causes your heart to beat faster. This, together with the effect of anger on blood vessels, blood pressure and a higher risk of clots, means that the risk of heart attack is as much as 8.5 times higher in the two hours after the onset of severe anger.
Adrenaline can also affect your speech. Maybe in anger you speak faster and louder without even realizing it.
Seven different facial muscles instinctively contract to form what scientists call a ‘universal angry expression’. This involves drooping eyebrows, pursed lips, and dilated nostrils, and was created to intimidate an opponent, as an angry person looks as if he or she is capable of inflicting great harm if he or she does not receive the desired reaction or result.