Healthy Anger: Let It Out or Keep It In?

When it comes to health, the best thing is not to get angry in the
first place. Once triggered, however, is it better to argue, shout,
and bang your fists – or silently seethe? Some research suggests
outwardly expressing anger only increases angry feelings and may lead
to future heart disease. But holding anger inside is also associated
with increased risk of heart disease. So what should you do?

New research suggests the answer: stay flexible. In a recent study,
116 healthy men were surveyed to determine their usual style of coping
with angry feelings. Men who were at either extreme -almost always
holding their anger in or almost always expressing their anger
outwardly – had significantly higher total cholesterol and “bad” LDL
cholesterol levels than men who were flexible in dealing with anger.

The health damaging effects of anger expression may be more due to
rigidity, not being able to adapt to changing situations. The healthy
approach appears to be staying flexible – changing your behavior based
on needs and circumstances. Sometimes it may be healthy to express
anger and let off steam – preferably in a direct, nonviolent,
assertive manner. In other circumstances, holding it in may be safer
and less damaging to your relationships as well as your heart.

For More Information:

Engebretson TO, Stoney CM: Anger expression and lipid concentrations.

International Journal of Behavioral Medicine 1995;2(4):281-298.

Mental Medicine Update, Vol. IV, No. 3. This previous issue of what is now The Mind/Body Health Newsletter explores the importance of defusing anger and hostility.

Excerpted with permission from the Quarterly Newsletter, Mind/Body Health Newsletter. For subscription information call 1-(800)-222-4745 or visit the Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge website.

David S. Sobel MD Written by David S. Sobel MD

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