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Anger is one of the basic emotions. It is an inherited response, and is common to all mammals and a number of other animals. It happens when we are threatened, offended, wronged, or denied something we really want or need. Rage is the strongest form of anger.

Psychology of anger

Anger is a normal emotion. It involves a strong, uncomfortable and emotional response to a provocation.[1] Anger leads to: [2]
 • cognitive (appraisals),
 • tension and agitations
 • behaviours like withdrawing or antagonism.

Anger is a bit like a pressure cooker: we can only apply pressure against our anger for a certain amount of time until it explodes.[3]

People show anger to others by their face, what they do with their body, not trying to understand or help other people's problems, and sometimes acts of aggression or force in public (e.g. punching a wall).[4] Animals and humans might try to scare- by making loud sounds, trying to make their bodies look bigger, by showing their teeth, or by staring.

When we face a challenge, our response may be anger or fear. There may be a difficulty in deciding whether to face the challenge, or walk away. In animal behaviour terms, we face the choice of a fight or flight response.

Hormones and body changes

Being angry changes the human body by making the heart beat faster, increasing blood pressure (the pressure made by the blood at right angles of the walls of blood vessels) and increasing amounts of the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline (chemicals which send messages to parts of the body to make changes).[5]

Being angry makes the levels of the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline in the body go up, although this does not last for very long. Adrenaline quickly makes the body ready to act when there is important trouble by increasing the supply of oxygen and glucose (needed to make energy) to the brain and muscles, while slowing less important things the body is doing, like digesting food.[6]

Noradrenaline is released during stress. It goes to areas of the brain which control attention (how much you think or concentrate) and reactions. It is very important when the body chooses "fight-or-flight" (attacking or running away). Then it increases heart rate, takes glucose out of storage so it can be used, and increases blood flow to muscles.


Anger may be passive anger or aggressive anger. These two types of anger have some characteristic symptoms:

Passive anger

Passive anger can be expressed in various ways. Basically it means being angry, but not facing the issue at hand.

  • Turning one's back in a crisis, avoiding conflict, not arguing back.
  • Obsessive behavior, such as needing to be inordinately clean and tidy, making a habit of constantly checking things, over-dieting or overeating, demanding that all jobs be done perfectly.
  • Indirect aggression, such as stockpiling resentments that are expressed behind people's backs, giving the silent treatment or under the breath mutterings, avoiding eye contact, putting people down, gossiping, anonymous complaints, poison pen letters, stealing, and conning.
  • Self-blame, such as apologizing too often, being overly self-critical, inviting criticism.

Aggressive anger

The symptoms of aggressive anger are:

  • Bullying.
  • Selfishness, such as ignoring others' needs, not responding to requests for help, queue jumping.
  • Threats, such as frightening people by saying how one could harm them, their property or their prospects, finger pointing, fist shaking, wearing clothes or symbols associated with violent behaviour, tailgating, road rage, slamming doors.
  • Unjust blaming, such as accusing other people for one's own mistakes, blaming people for your own feelings, making general accusations.


  1. Videbeck, Sheila L. (2006). Psychiatric mental health Nursing (3rd ed.). Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 
  2. Novaco, Raymond (1986). "Anger as a clinical and social problem.". Advances in the study of aggression (New York: Academic Press.) 2. 
  3. DeFoore, William (1991). Anger: deal with it, heal with it, stop it from killing you. Health Communications. 
  4. Michael Kent, Anger, The Oxford Dictionary of Sports Science & Medicine, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-262845-3
  5. "Anger definition". Retrieved on 5 April 2008. 
  6. Epinephrine - Online Medical Dictionary

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