Anger may play larger role in anxiety disorders, study shows

December 4, 2012

Anger is a powerful emotion with serious health consequences. A new study from Concordia University shows that for millions of individuals around the world who suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), anger is more than an emotion; it's an agent that exacerbates their illness.

Concordia graduate student Sonya Deschênes investigated the subject after conducting a literature review for her PhD research, supervised by Michel Dugas. While some of the studies she came across showed that anger and anxiety were linked, she noticed that this relationship was poorly understood. "This was surprising to me because , which is part of the anger family, is a diagnostic feature of (GAD)," she explains.

GAD is a serious affliction characterized by excessive and uncontrollable worry about everyday things. It often interferes with a person's ability to function normally. Individuals suffering from GAD typically anticipate disaster, and are overly concerned about everyday issues, such as health, money, and relationships.

Deschênes and her colleagues at Concordia and Ryerson University in Toronto looked into how specific components of anger contribute to GAD. They examined hostility, physical and , anger expression and anger control. The team assessed more than 380 participants for GAD symptoms and their tendency to respond to anger-inducing scenarios, by testing responses to such statements as, "I strike out at whatever infuriates me" and "I boil inside, but I don't show it."

The study, which was recently published in , found that in the 131 participants who exhibited GAD symptoms, higher levels of anger and its various dimensions were associated with worry and anxiety. Furthermore, hostility and internalized anger contributed to the severity of their GAD symptoms.

This suggests not only that anger and anxiety go hand in hand, but also that heightened levels of anger are uniquely related to GAD status. What's more, internalized – boiling inside without showing it – is a stronger predictor of GAD than other forms of anger.

Deschênes acknowledges that more research is needed to understand why anger and anxiety tend to co-occur – and she intends for her doctoral research to proceed in this direction. According to Deschênes, a possible explanation for the link is that, "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."

Deschênes also argues that symptoms of anger could get in the way of the treatment for , which can be done with a technique called cognitive-behavioural 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," Deschênes says. "It's my hope that, by furthering our understanding of the role of in GAD, we can improve treatment outcomes for individuals with this disorder."

Explore further: Worrying can impact interpersonal relationships, study finds

Related Stories

Worrying can impact interpersonal relationships, study finds

July 26, 2011
Most people worry from time to time. A new research study, led by a Case Western Reserve University faculty member in psychology, also shows that worrying can be so intrusive and obsessive that it interferes in the person's ...

Study finds exercise reduces anxiety symptoms in women

January 19, 2012
Approximately 3 percent of the U.S. population suffers from excessive, uncontrollable worry that reduces their health and quality of life. The condition, known as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, is difficult to overcome and ...

Recommended for you

Your mood depends on the food you eat, and what you should eat changes as you get older

December 11, 2017
Diet and dietary practices differentially affect mental health in young adults versus older adults, according to new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Certain books can increase infant learning during shared reading, study shows

December 11, 2017
Parents and pediatricians know that reading to infants is a good thing, but new research shows reading books that clearly name and label people and objects is even better.

Twitter can reveal our shared mood

December 11, 2017
In the largest study of its kind, researchers from the University of Bristol have analysed mood indicators in text from 800 million anonymous messages posted on Twitter. These tweets were found to reflect strong patterns ...

New therapy can help schizophrenia sufferers re-engage socially

December 11, 2017
A new therapy aimed at helping young people suffering from schizophrenia to reconnect and engage with the world around them has had promising results, according to a new University of Sussex-led study.

Infant brain responses predict reading speed in secondary school

December 11, 2017
A study conducted at the Department of Psychology at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland and Jyväskylä Centre for Interdisciplinary Brain Research (CIBR) has found that the brain responses of infants with an inherited ...

Study provides hope that schizophrenia isn't as deep-rooted in affected individuals as previously believed

December 8, 2017
A schizophrenia patient's own perceptions of their experiences—and confidence in their judgments—may be factors that can help them overcome challenges to get the life they wish, suggests a new paper published in Clinical ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.