Mental Health

Keeping Your Cool: The Strategies and Benefits of Anger Management


Merny Schwartz, Ph.D.

Private Practice,

Medically Reviewed On: September 20, 2013

There are fairly good statistics on the number of people who suffer from anxiety, depression, and other emotional problems as well as the personal and economic costs associated with them. We do not, however, have reliable statistics on anger, though the incidence of "Road Rage" and other threatening public outbursts would indicate that it is an issu to contend with. Furthermore, while anxious or depressed individuals often seek out professional help, angry people rarely do. Our society often identifies anger as a normal, healthy emotion that should be expressed, not held in. It is considered a normal and expected response to a wide variety of events.

Some research in the past few years, however, has suggested that anger presents a serious threat to one's health; and my own professional opinion is that anger of all kinds is detrimental to mental well-being.

Held In or Let Out, Anger is Harmful

The conventional wisdom is that anger, if used constructively and expressed rather than held in, is a healthy emotion. But while it may sometimes look good and play well with our friends, anger is now known to be quite detrimental to us physically and psychologically.

Medical Concerns

Almost everyone remembers when the research about Type A personalities was made public. It showed that men who were controlling, workaholic, and intense are more likely than others to suffer from heart disease and other stress-related illness. In the October 27, 1997 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, a top medical journal, a report by Duke University research team filled in an important piece of previously missing information about Type A personalities. The team's question was, "What specific personality characteristic causes physical illness?" The answer it found: Anger. The Duke University study showed that cognitive/behavioral stress reduction sessions lowered the level of both anger and anxiety in patients with chronic heart problems, and that their physical improvement was related specifically to a reduction in their anger.

Futhermore, while it is generally agreed that holding anger in causes stress and physical illness, recent research shows that people who express anger often actually experience more physical symptoms and illness than those who hold their anger in.

Psychological Concerns

As a cognitive/behaviorist, I do not subscribe to the Freudian definition of depression as "anger turned inward." However, I do believe that anger can be psychologically debilitating. People often see themselves as a being strongest and most assertive when they are angry. Actually, the opposite is true.

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