In humans anger serves the same purpose as in animals, meaning mobilizations of all physiological functions for defensive or aggressive purposes. The problem is that anger might be productive and might be destructive.
Putting aside for a moment social consequences of destructive anger, let us focus on the health consequences for the person who is angry.
Productive or destructive consequences of anger on the health depend on a few factors and the most important of them are: the target of your anger; the length – is your anger brief or chronic, and if you go to sleep angry or not. If anger is toward the achievement of a personal goal, brief and leads to a successful resolution – it is great and healthy.
But, if your anger is about that you have no control over something and is chronic – you are in trouble. When you are angry at your boss the adrenalin is shooting to your heart, not his or her.
Chronic anger increases blood pressure and heart rate, increases pressure inside your scull (intracranial pressure), makes breathing irregular, induces chronic muscle spasms, decreases insulin activity and produces multiple other symptoms.
In short – chronically intensive anger destroys your health. If you are already not in the best health, say have heart problems you are at risk for more heart troubles.
Many cultures, religious systems and health programs suggest “forgiving.” And the current science supports this notion. When people say “I will rather die than forgive”- these people might really die.
What we did not know before sleep medicine was born, that sleep has a significant effect on the anger response. Sleep is a state of activation that will magnify any pre-sleep emotions, thoughts and problems. If you worry before sleep – you will wake up depressed. If you think about how to solve a scientific puzzle – you might get a chance to wake up with a solution. But, if you fall asleep very angry, you have a chance to wake up with heart attack, stroke or do not wake up at all. Recent studies demonstrated that angry feelings before sleep increase heart arrhythmias and produce dangerous blood pressure spikes.
On the positive note, angry dreams are good for health and produce appropriate emotional channels for ventilations of bad feelings, and they are great stress relievers. Research by Dr. Rosalind Cartwright demonstrated that if divorced women have angry dreams about their Ex’s, these women recover faster from the post-divorce depression than those who feel victimized.
If you are really angry, find the way to ventilate it before sleep. Do not sleep with it!
Beware of your own anger and try to find the ways for the appropriate release before sleep time. Remember, that strong anger before sleep will behave as a killer and will “catch” you as the target in your sleep.
Make your sleep to be your healer – stop anger before it will stop you!