Anxiety and Anger

By: Jenna Savage

The relationship between anger and anxiety has been brought up within research studies in the past. Many of these studies have determined that the two are related, but previous research has not yet arrived at a conclusion regarding the relationship between the two. After seeing the lack of conclusive work on the relationship between anger and anxiety, Concordria University researcher Sonya Deschênes, Ph.D., and her colleagues decided to explore the effect that anger has on Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which is an affliction that causes a person to worry excessively over minor and everyday things, to the point where it interferes with his or her daily life. According to PsychCentral, the study has been published in the journal Cognitive Behavior Therapy.

During the study, the researchers gathered 380 participants and tested their GAD symptoms and their responses to angering scenarios. They then evaluated the responses according to two criteria — striking out when frustrated or keeping the anger inside and not showing it to others. Of the 380 participants, 131 exhibited signs of GAB. Those 131 participants had higher levels of anger associated with their anxious feelings. The study also determined that the more an individual internalized his or her anger, the more severe that person’s GAD symptoms would be.

The researchers theorize that ambiguous situations, which is a situation where an outcome can be good or bad, leads people with GAD to assume the worst. This, in turn, adds to their feelings of anxiety. The evidence seems to point to anger operating in a similar manner: when people who are easily angered face ambiguous situations, they assume the worst and feel angry. It is therefore possible that the symptoms of GAD and anger both result from similarly biased thought processes.

This is an area that requires further research. Traditionally, GAD is treated by working to reduce anxiety. However, if anxiety and anger do manifest themselves in this way, then treatment for those who have GAD may need to focus on the symptoms of anger and hostility as well. Because if the anger is not targeted during treatment, it can influence GAD symptoms and prevent patients from fully benefiting from therapeutic techniques.

If you find that you’re trouble by persistent worries or that you are irritable in addition to anxious, take a look at our recent article, “When Is Anxiety a Problem?” It explains some signs and symptoms that people with GAD and other anxiety disorders experience. When in doubt, however, you should always visit your doctor. Only a medical professional can diagnose your symptoms.