Tag Archives: angry

hormones

How Stress Hormones Can Change Your Brain

When we are angry, we don’t feel very good, and that tends to make us do or say things that we later regret. We also might get so flustered that we lose track of what made us angry in the first place. We feel out-of-control. There is a reason for that. It has to do with the stress hormones our bodies release when we are angry—cortisol. 

Our post yesterday talked about the process in which our bodies and brains react when we get angry. Today we are talking about the impact these hormones have on our bodies once they are released. 

Elevated Cortisol

When our cortisol levels are elevated, our brain neurons take in too much calcium through their membranes. The calcium causes the cells to go haywire and fire too quickly, resulting in their death. 

Too much cortisol leads to a loss of neuron activity in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, ultimately impairing your judgment. So rather than saying, “let’s talk about this,” you are saying “I hate you.” It’s not productive and you will probably regret it later. 

This is a great time to walk away from the situation, take a breath and calm down. Easier said than done, I know. 

Too much cortisol can also kill neurons and keep your brain from producing new ones. This is why it can be hard to remember what you should be saying, or what you wanted to say, in the heat of an argument. It also makes it harder to form short-term memories. So, later when you talk about the argument you had with your husband when he got home from work, you might not remember it exactly the way it happened. 

Decreased Serotonin

High cortisol levels lead to a decrease in serotonin (the happy hormone) levels. A decrease in serotonin adds fuel to the fire. It makes it easier to feel angry and more physically hurt. It also can explain why you might act aggressive or depressed when angry. They go together. 

Recognizing how these hormones can affect you, can make it easier to bounce back from an angry situation. If you know your serotonin levels are decreasing you can take steps to try to get them back again. A licensed counselor can help if you need some healthy coping mechanisms.

For a visual explanation of this process, visit https://www.nicabm.com/brain-how-anger-affects-your-brain-and-body-infographic-part-2/ 

healthy relationships after chaos

Having healthy relationships after growing up in chaos

When you are a child raised in an emotionally chaotic environment you learn how to survive in that situation. I am talking about children who are raised in untrustworthy situations where they have become accustomed to the fact that even when things don’t feel right nothing they say or do is going to make things better. 

In many cases, these children have learned that expressing discourse of any kind is a bad thing. They learn to shut their feelings down and ignore the bad they might be feeling inside. This is because as children we know that we need our parents or other caregivers to survive. They give us what we need, so we have to keep things as livable as possible. 

Stuck in Old Patterns

Now, this sort of behavior might work for a child but as an adult keeping your feelings buried and not listening to them, leaves us stuck. As an adult you can’t keep silent, it doesn’t allow us to grow or develop any real intimacy with others. It also doesn’t keep us safe as it did as children. 

By not acting on our own self-protective instincts we end up in harm’s way, consumed by fear, obsessively thinking about what we dislike about our world, and carrying overwhelming feelings of resentment. We become mad at ourselves for not being able to change our situation. 

Rediscover Healthy Relationships

When you have spent your whole life ignoring your nervous system, how do you then recover and allow yourself to develop healthy relationships? 

The first step to any change is to recognize what is happening inside of you. How are you feeling when? What causes you to react in a certain way? Then confront those feelings. Instead of pushing them down, react. Stand up for yourself. Speak your thoughts. Remind yourself that this behavior no longer takes care of you, and allow yourself compassion and gratitude for the fact that you once did exactly what you needed to survive. 

Let Go of Toxic People

Then, ask yourself what you need to know and hear from others in your life. If those people can’t provide what you need, then understand it is ok to let them go. You don’t need to hold on to another out of fear. Find the courage inside of you to speak your truth and to acknowledge what you need. You may not have gotten what you needed as a child, but you don’t have to live like that anymore. The time is NOW to take care of you. 

You can make changes for the better. The power is within you. Seeking help from a licensed professional can help you to identify these feelings within and confront them head-on. A mental health professional can guide you and help to give you the tools to make positive changes. 

men symptoms depression

Men Show Depression & Anxiety Differently

Men and women have different ways of reacting to feelings of anxiety or depression. Where a woman might cry or voice feelings of nervousness or unrest, a man might react in an angry outburst, alcohol-abuse, or even muscle aches and pains.

Difficult to Diagnose

This significant difference in reactions often makes it difficult to diagnose men. Many times they choose to not seek help and those around them don’t recognize the signs.

Often we think of men as jerks when they have a big emotional reaction to something that seems insignificant, when in fact they could be reacting that way because they are nervous or anxious. Men who are depressed have more issues with controlling, violent or abusive behaviors and inappropriate anger, according to the Mayo Clinic. Men tend to turn to escapist behaviors, like spending more time at work or sporting events. They might avoid coming home or attending group events.

Many men also find it difficult to display emotions like sadness or to find a release like crying, and instead hold those feelings deep inside resulting in muscle aches or pains, headaches, and dizziness.

Unhealthy Coping

All that holding in makes it hard to process feelings, leading many men to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol or drug abuse, or turning to risky behaviors like reckless driving. Rather than dealing with their mental illness or admitting they are struggling with some hard times, they drown their feelings turning themselves numb. It is no question that these behaviors are unhealthy and often contribute to relationship failures, job loss, and other personal problems.

Scientists don’t know the exact reasons why depression/anxiety symptoms show up differently in men than women, but it is likely due to many factors — brain chemistry, hormones, life experiences, and learned behaviors, to name a few.

Help is Available

Because men display symptoms differently than women, we must have conversations. Learning and recognizing the different ways men may display symptoms of mental illness, can lead to more men getting the help they need.

anxiety anger

Anxiety Can Make You Angry

It happens to those of us with anxiety all the time. The little things that are part of our everyday environment set us over the edge. That feeling of not being able to see straight, or “seeing red” as it is sometimes referred to, can be triggered by the most innocent of things. A compounding of the day’s responsibilities, a slight unraveling of the day’s schedule, the inability to get something done, an interruption at a busy time, it can be like the flip of a switch. 

Anxiety can make you angry. 

The other day a friend shared a personal story with me, and with her permission allowed me to share it as an example of this very thing. This friend, a mother of two young children, had woken up at 5 a.m. (as she does every day) to complete her mounting to-do list. She wanted to get in her workout, fold the laundry, shower, wash the dishes, send a couple of emails, get the kids fed, etc. all before getting the kids off to baseball practice. The list was set. It seemed manageable. All was well. That is until the dog ate the kids’ breakfast, the mom ran out of shampoo, the kids got into an argument, the dishwasher was full, and all of a sudden the mom was running out of time. Those feelings of being overwhelmed crept up on her, then her child asked her if they could go to the park after baseball…and she lost it. 

It seems so simple. So innocent. Yet those moments of anger are a frequent part of living with someone with anxiety. It is not that the mom wanted to be angry with her child for asking about going to the park, it is just that it felt like one more thing added to a mounting to-do list. Could that laundry wait? Those dishes wait? Yes. But, with anxiety, it can be hard to think in those logical terms (even for the most logical of people). It is not that we want to be an angry person. We want to be a place of solitude for those we love. We want to be a safe landing zone, not something to be feared. Anxiety makes that difficult. 

After that moment went down, her kids looked at her in fear and she felt awful. She was full of guilt, overcome with emotion and started on her usual string of apologies. She didn’t mean to lash out, yes she would take them to the park. And, her kids, used to the drill, gave her grace. They forgave. They hugged her. They told her they loved her. She asked if they were ok. 

This is one of the ugly sides of anxiety. It is hard. Acknowledging these issues, getting help from a licensed professional, learning coping mechanisms, stepping away from the situation, all of these are positive steps in the right direction. Nobody wants to be an angry person. We all want to be calm and level-headed. If you are an anxiety sufferer, allow yourself some grace. Try to say “yes” more often. Give yourself breaks. Apologize to those you love. Talk to them, explain to them why you may have reacted the way you did. Teach them the beauty of forgiveness.

Relating to our previous post on how managing your anxiety, especially as a parent, is important so that you don’t pass it on to your children, taking the difficult step to acknowledge your anger as a symptom of your anxiety is also crucial.

undermining

Ask Mabel: How do I communicate with my husband in front of our kids without undermining him?

Dear Mabel, 

I am reaching out to you again for your guidance and support. I have an issue with my husband and the way he addresses our children when he is angry. He can get to the point where he looks and speaks very terrifyingly at them, and my heart just breaks. They are fearful and he drowns himself in shame afterward. This morning he was yelling at my six-year-old daughter and she was dysregulating in all kinds of ways as a result, which was pushing him even further into his anger. I felt compelled to jump in and protect her, which often results in him feeling betrayed by me and upset that I am making him a “monster” in front of the kids. 

Today we were able to talk afterward and I told him that I feel like I need to protect them and his feelings when I intervene because I am in flight-or-fight mode myself. It is usually very hard. I am stuck. What language can I use in these moments to communicate that he needs to stop without undermining him in front of the kids? This is a heavy day for our family. 

Sincerely, Amy from Florida

Mabel: Hi Amy, I am so sorry to hear of your struggles. There are a few ways you can approach this situation. You can have a family meeting when calm, where you all make an agreement that when things escalate you each are empowered to call a time out and take a break. Make a plan that you can all follow. If you are all following the same plan together that would take the shame out of it. I also suggest you look at the Zones of Regulation curriculum for some help on the language for self-regulation and emotional control. 

Together, you two can come up with a plan, or code word, for timing out and determine how long the timeout should last. Come up with something you can both agree on. Determine what you can do when he is in that state to deescalate the situation. 

This is a quick bandaid. Long term, you need to have a discussion about what he wants to do about this and go from there. Seeking some help from a licensed mental health professional could also help the two of you to work together as a team in these situations.