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The Effects of Anger on the Brain and Body
In the ever-changing field of neuroscience, scientists agree on a few main points when it comes to anger and how it affects the body and more importantly the brain. The basic argument is that harmful responses caused by anger are transmitted from the brain leading to damage of the body. Scientists stress this specific emotion can hurt more than help but by using the right outlets to handle it, the individual can develop psychologically. Anger can lead to potential repercussions in the long run. For example, the motivation to get even with someone who has hurt you or a loved one is high at first but “can tether you to the past in a way that overshadows any potential positive outcome that motivation might bring” (Cox). My view is that while anger is natural, dealing with anger in a positive way is crucial rather than attempting to rid the feeling all together. People know that being angry is essentially not good for you, but why? It is imperative to realize that this emotion has effects on the brain we normally don’t think of, such as diseases and mental distress. To truly understand the neurological aspect of rage, it is first necessary to comprehend how anger can affect the brain directly. When the brain senses harm, billions of nerves begin to release signals to every organ in the body. Specifically, when the brain recognizes anger, it releases the stress hormones: adrenaline and noradrenaline. These hormones control heart rate and blood pressure, which means if these chemicals are at a heightened amount in the body, it can lead to increased heart rate, blood pressure, and intense breathing (Vassar). Anger comes from the reptilian part of our body called the amygdala, which is located above the hypothalamus of the brain, and in times of anger, the prefrontal cortex becomes less active leading to violent behavior and poor judgement. When the amygdala detects no anger, the prefrontal cortex, where logic resides, leads to no effect in its thinking and judgment (Hendricks et al.).
Assistant Professor of Counseling, LaVelle Hendricks, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Counseling, Same Bore, and more explore the idea of anger and its effects it can have on our brain. Their claim is that anger not only causes elevated blood pressure and heart rates, but it also repressed anger can have harmful effects to our body and brain. For example, Science News published an article about a woman who got her amygdala surgically removed because of epileptic seizures; however, “they discovered that [the surgery] eliminated her ability to perceive signs of anger and fear in other’s voices” (Hendricks et al.). This exemplifies that this structure in the brain is crucial to understand the effects anger has on our bodies. Keeping this in mind can allow others to comprehend what occurs in their brain when anger strikes leading to a more cautious lifestyle. The professor’s point is that anger affects the brain before it affects any other part of the body, meaning that the brain is the ultimate location where anger can either be dealt in a positive or negative way. It can lead to either healthy habits dealing with anger or deleterious habits repressing anger. Ultimately, they explain that anger is damaging psychologically and physiologically, regardless of the degree of the emotion (Hendricks et al.).
The author’s approach to deal with anger is useful because it shed lights on the two sides or the debate as to why anger may be beneficial or harmful. The evidence used in the publisher’s argument is based on their own logic, but they include historical examples, such as the Civil Rights movement, to explain that the anger of the African-Americans caused the massive change in racism we talk about today. Given this information from, it is important to realize that anger is a necessary emotion. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to fight for what we stand for or even correct other mistakes. Rage can become extremely harmful when it comes to enacting revenge, which is why recognizing anger and how to deal with it is helpful in the long run.
Doctors at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School, including Sarah Garfinkel, Emma Zorab, and more, conducted an experiment in order to see how anger can play a role in cognitive thinking and mental capabilities. Their basic argument was that their test subjects were going to have a more challenging time attempting to perform mind tasks, such as unscrambling words, if they were presented with the word ‘ANGER’ before the task, instead of the word ‘RELAX’. They carried out this experiment by taking a sample of eligible samples with relatively similar classes, such as having individuals with the same level of education in one trial, as well as a fair divide between male and female (Garfinkel, Sarah N., et al.). The subjects then received groups of unscrambled words that would either have the word ‘ANGER’ or the word ‘RELAX’ before each unscrambled term. After the experiment, the committee found that the individuals having the word ‘ANGER’ before their words, had higher blood pressure as well as needing more time to complete all of the words; the individuals that had ‘RELAX’ before the words had significantly lower blood pressure and higher cognitive abilities indicated from the scans of their brains. The doctors point concluded that “anger is fundamentally negative” and the emotion causes a clouding of judgement as LaVelle and others had also claimed. From this experiment, it became evident that being introduced to anger, even as simple as can have a major impact on psychological thinking and decision-making. The doctor’s approach to this subject is insightful because it presented a direct correlation of higher degrees of anger and decreased levels of judgement. From the evidence of the study, it is evident that being introduced to anger, even as simple as can have a major impact on psychological thinking and decision-making. The manner in which the experiment was conducted was well thought out because of the practical implications coming out of the experiment. While these findings may seem to be of use only to the emotion of anger, they should, in fact, begin a series of questions of how different emotions and situations can affect the brain and body.
In light of these findings and information, it becomes evident that anger can have damaging effects on the brain. Cases of heart disease have become more prevalent due to the pressure and prolonged stress on the brain. The clouding of judgement and logic from anger is also a major result of this emotion. With the repression of anger comes even more pressure on the brain to keep it together, when in reality it stunts the development of the body. From clinical research, it is evident that anger may also hinder cognitive ability because of the lack of stimulation in the prefrontal cortex. The main takeaway is that anger is natural and a part of life, but by knowing the reasons and negative impacts behind it, it becomes obvious that coping with these feelings are more beneficial for individuals in the long run.
- Cox, Caroline. “Ever Wanted to Get Revenge? Try This Instead.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 July 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/07/19/smarter-living/how-to-turn-toxic-emotions-into-positive-actions.html.
- Garfinkel, Sarah N., et al. “Anger in Brain and Body: the Neural and Physiological Perturbation of Decision-Making by Emotion.” Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, vol. 11, no. 1, 7 Aug. 2015, pp. 150–158., doi:10.1093/scan/nsv099.
- Hendricks, LaVelle, et al. “The Effects of Anger on the Brain and Body.” National Forum Journal of Counseling and Addiction, vol. 2, no. 1, 2013.
- Vassar, Gerry. “How Does Anger Happen in the Brain? – Lakeside.” Lakeside, 10 Jan. 2018, lakesidelink.com/blog/lakeside/how-does-anger-happen-in-the-brain/.
Caroline Cox, a writer and editor, zeroes in on the reason why revenge seems so attainable and desirable when anger heightens. By using Dr. Lanzi as a citation, she concurs that when something close to our heart “is harmed or threatened in any way, it is instinctual to want to do something about it; it’s a primal instinct to want to exact revenge when we’re wronged” (Cox, 2018). This relates to the idea that because the amygdala detects anger causing the prefrontal cortex to cloud the persons judgement and logical reasoning as Hendricks and Bore explained. Cox’s point is that we cannot control the thoughts of revenge anger gave us, but the part that is controllable is how to respond to them, such as seeking a healthy outlet, whether that be therapy or confiding in someone (Cox). This view is ultimately important because it teaches society the moral side of revenge and anger with techniques on how to cope with it as well.
Caroline Cox’s approach to dealing with anger is practical because she describes what we truly want when anger strikes. The evidence used in her argument includes a wide variety of people from psychologists to public speaker and even figure skaters. What I found interesting in her article, was when she brought up the fact of the “revenge body”, where “someone’s undergoes a makeover (which often includes losing weight) in retaliation against an enemy, bully, or erstwhile romantic partner” (Cox). Cox brings up examples of people, such as celebrities, to portray how they got their own form or revenge. Implementing these specific kinds of examples, Cox was able to refute the side that revenge can be carried out, which was an effective, but interesting way to do it. While her claims may be applicable to people who are craving revenge, they should, in fact, be important to anyone who may be touched by anger so that our judgment is not affected. From Cox’s ideas, ways of learning to deal with anger and revenge are important so that we can explain scientifically and morally why anger and revenge is harmful.
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