Studying the relationship between anger and anxiety


Anger is more than just a powerful emotion. It is also an agent that exacerbates emotional disorders like Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

No one had studied the anger-GAD relationship

Researcher Sonya Deschenes noticed that while existing studies showed a link between anxiety and anger, the relationship was not well understood. “This was surprising to me because irritability, which is part of the anger family, is a diagnostic feature of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD),” she noted.

GAD and anger may share the same thought process

According to Deschenes, “When a situation is ambiguous, such that the outcome could be good or bad, anxious individuals tend to assume the worst. That often results in heightened anxiety. There is also evidence of that same thought process in individuals who are easily angered. Therefore, anger and GAD may be two manifestations of the same biased thought process.”

Internalized anger predictor of GAD

The researchers looked at how hostility, physical and verbal aggression, anger expression and anger control contributed to GAD. They found that people with GAD had higher levels of anger, and its various dimensions were associated with worry and anxiety. Internalized anger contributed to the severity of the disorder, suggesting that heightened levels of anger are uniquely related to GAD. Internalized anger is a stronger predictor of GAD than other type of anger.

Anger could get in the way of GAD treatment

It could be that symptoms of anger get in the way of treatment for anxiety, like cognitive-behavioral therapy. “If anger and hostility are contributing to the maintenance of symptoms, and these are not targeted during treatment, these people may not be benefiting as much from that treatment,” Deschenes explained. “It’s my hope that, by furthering our understanding of the role of anger in GAD, we can improve treatment outcomes for individuals with this disorder.”

Sources: MedicalNewsToday, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy


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