Anger and Anxiety–Highway to Hell

posted in: Stage 2, Stage 2: Step 1


There is an intense relationship between anxiety and anger. Understanding this interaction is perhaps one of the most important concepts that will have a major impact in calming down your nervous system.

  • The are first of all, the same entity. Anxiety is the sensation generated by your autonomic nervous system’s response to a threat. Stress hormones are elevated and when a given situation doesn’t resolve (chronic pain), more of these chemicals are secreted in an effort to regain control. The result is anger, which is anxiety with a chemical kick.
  • Anxiety and Anger are universal. Few human beings are able to rise above them because they are survival emotions.
  • Anxiety represents a feeling of vulnerability and helplessness. The intention is to be so unpleasant that it compels us to take action to decrease it. So, we are hard-wired to avoid this emotion at all costs.
  • Anger feels powerful. It is a fast, effective response that masks anxiety. It also gives you the extra boost to assist you in solving the problem that is causing your anxiety.

The Disconnect of Anger

But what happens to your thinking when you are angry? The blood flow to the frontal lobes of your brain is diminished and you are flooded with a barrage of angry, irrational thoughts. It is temporary insanity.

  • Anger both masks the feeling of anxiety and turbocharges the negative circuits that produce it.

Give Up Your Anger?

Not only is it deadly for your quality of life, but the interaction between anger and anxiety makes treatment difficult. In essence, you are being asked to give up your anger so you can experience anxiety. Raw anxiety is an unpleasant feeling. It is this interaction that may be the root cause of why it is commonly thought that you cannot really be open for change until you “hit bottom.” In other words, the anxiety is so out of control that it can no longer be contained by either functional or dysfunctional means.

I often asked my patients that what is your day like when you are angry? Forget about your pain. It isn’t a great day. So regardless whether you are in pain or not, anger will compromise your capacity to enjoy your day. You are in Hell and you may be so used to being there that you might not even know it. Take a deep breath and think about this scenario for a while………

Video: Anger Fueled Anxiety – “The Highway to Hell.”