Suppressing Anger Shown to Jeopardize Heart Health

Anger is typically a strong emotion that can have an important impact on physical wellness, and learning to control anger is an important part of emotional maturity – something that can prove to be essential for maintaining positive overall health. Bottling up anger, a response that many people employ to deal with the emergence of this powerful emotion, can cause even greater problems, an effect recently explored in a study performed at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. Hoping to discover how different reactions to anger may affect those with pre-existing heart conditions, the researchers worked with a group of over six hundred participants who had coronary artery disease, and the study followed their progress over the course of about six years.

The study examined different coping styles, particularly the tendency to suppress feelings of anger rather than to seek professional help or to confide in others. The experience of significant feelings of anger was assessed through the assignment of personality type D to some participants. This personality type is associated with anger and negative feelings, and was shown to be a much more present factor among those participants who experienced a major heart attack or who died during the course of the study. Anger was associated with much higher rates of heart attacks and death until researchers accounted for the presence of other factors such as high blood pressure. Suppressed anger, however, retained its link to the increased likelihood of death and coronary issues, suggesting that bottling up anger may literally be bad for heart health.

Working with a therapist or other professional to develop both short- and long-term methods of managing anger may prove to be life-saving for those who have already experienced troubles with their heart health, and ensuring that healthy processing and release of anger is both learned and practiced may help a greater number of people avoid developing such issues in the future.

© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Sharon

    April 24th, 2010 at 12:41 PM

    It’s never healthy to bottle up anger. My family is a “get it off your chest and forget it” type family. We say what we think and we mean what we say. Some of my friends are horrified by that but I think it’s much better all round for your physical and mental health.

  • jason

    April 24th, 2010 at 3:21 PM

    These results finally provide solid evidence to what many people already know implicitly. Anyone who has ever bitten their tongue remembers the considerable stress they faced when they held feelings inside. Given all the negative health effects of stress on the heart, the results are hardly surprising.

  • Katherine

    April 24th, 2010 at 7:17 PM

    All my life I was taught to not voice anger. My father considered it unladylike. Subsequently it’s hard for me to do so in adulthood, justified or unjustified. I don’t want to damage my heart and will take this study seriously.

  • Austin

    April 25th, 2010 at 5:10 AM

    So getting it out is better for you? I knew it!

  • Keiron P.

    April 25th, 2010 at 8:05 AM

    So,does this mean that it is actually better to let out feelings of anger?If so,then there should be a proper channel to do so and getting such feelings of anger need not be to shout out at someone or to vent it out over someone.

    So a person having feelings of anger should actually talk about the reason of such feelings to another person and try his best to resolve the issue.

  • Toni

    April 26th, 2010 at 3:07 AM

    There are people who walk around with anger in their hearts and while you may not know them personally this is just something that you can tell about certain people just by looking at them. It is in the way they interact with other people, even in the way that they carry themselves. These are people that I have honestly looked at before and thought that this person is going to have a heart attack soon. There are simply too many ways that repressed stress and anger can have a negative impact on our minds and our bodies- I agree that it is good to let it all out every once in a while and discover ways to let it all go. Please don’t direct it at other people but find a productive way to release some of that anger and I know that you have to feel stronger and healthier.

  • Natalie F.

    April 26th, 2010 at 6:57 AM

    It is logical to believe that if any feeling of anger is suppressed,it may cause emotional and psychological problems in a person.But to know that it can actually have a profound effect on the health of a person’s heart is just surprising.They say you should try and control your feelings of anger and not lash out at someone else,and now we learn of this…What are we to do?!

  • Dana

    April 26th, 2010 at 3:25 PM

    Thank you for giving me something I can show my husband. He’s the world’s worst about keeping it to himself when he’s aggravated or angry.

  • viola

    April 27th, 2010 at 1:39 AM

    suppressing feelings of any kind,be they about anger or any other, can be dangerous and fatal.this is because we have been gifted with sensory organs and other things not only to intake things around us but also to express our feelings and put our views across.forcibly keeping these things to ourselves will definitely be harmful.

  • Georgia

    April 27th, 2010 at 2:52 AM

    Of course this is true and I think there have been many of us who have known this for a long time. The trick is getting someone who is so accustomed to holding everything inside to realize that it is ok to let it all out. If you have gone through your whole life keeping in all of that anger and emotion just because you read one article about how important it is to show those feelings does not mean that you are easily going to be able to do that. It takes time for change to happen and some people are not able to do that so readily. This may take months or more of counseling to realize that it is ok to share your anger and emotions and to do so in a way that can be positive for you and for the other people in your life.

  • Catherine Boyer

    April 27th, 2010 at 9:55 AM

    Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn has written a lovely book called “Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames” which I often recommend to clients. We’re human, we have anger — it’s not about not having anger but rather about our relationship to it and what we do with the energy of it. His book gives a really nice way of working both within oneself and also working with those we love, who are often the ones we most often get angry at.

  • Dana

    May 2nd, 2010 at 5:29 PM

    Thank you for the book recommendation, Catherine! I discovered an excerpt from Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames at the Barnes & Noble website. I’ll share the link here for others. It’s a good read.

    http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Anger/Thich-Nhat-Hanh/e/9781573229371#EXC

  • Catherine Boyer, MA, LCSW

    May 3rd, 2010 at 4:39 AM

    You’re welcome! I think it’s a good book to read a bite at a time and chew over.

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