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April 12, 1991 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1991-04-12

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Warning: Anger Can Be Harmful To Your Health

by Mary Beth Barber
Susan came home to her
apartment after a long, rotten
day. Another student had
knocked into her, forcing Susan's
notebook to fly open, and she had
spent ten minutes picking the
pages out of the mud; an
instructor didn't agree with her
theme on a paper and gave her a
low grade even though the paper
was well-written; the man at the
snack bar had given her root beer
instead of diet coke; and her best
friend had been 20 minutes late to
meet her to study. Susan planned

harming their health.
Dr. Mara Julius, an
epidemiologist at the University's
School of Public Health, has
spent thirty years analyzing the
effects of chronic anger in
individuals over 18 and recently
made public her findings to the
scienctific community. She used
an anger coping scale developed
by Dr. Ernest Harburg to test
people in high and low stress
neighboorhoods in and around
Detroit. But while Dr. Harburg
investigated highly stressful
situations, Dr. Julius investigated
families in a low stress

a PMM- --, M6 , -


problem." While most people
may be taught to stay calm in
angry situations, or feel the need
to explode irrationally, both can
be detrimental. The "anger-
reflective" manner of coping is
the healthiest.
Anger may affect people on a
daily basis, in addition to later
health complications. "It's not
disease-specific," Dr. Julius
postulated. Besides the higher risk
for heart disease and possibly
cancer, both anger-in and anger-
out individuals may have a
greater risk for minor diseases,
like the common cold. "The
immune system goes down, and
you catch the infectious diseases
Admitting anger is the best
way to mimimize its effects.
"Denying that you are angry is
the worst possible," she said.
"Suppressing emotions, whatever
you're feeling - love, hate, anger,
anxiety - puts you in the worst
Dr. Redford Williams, a
researcher in behavioral medicine
at the Duke University Medical
Center, discovered that the way
adults in their early twenties
react to anger can directly affect
their health in the future.
"Researchers found that those
who had scored high on the
hostility scale as college students
tended to have elevated levels of
the harmful form of cholesterol,
and abnormally low levels of the
protective type," the New York
Times reported last December.
The Fat
The-stress hormones released
when someone is angry, such as
adrenaline and noradrenaline, can
raise blood pressure, quicken the
heartbeat, and dilate the pupils.
Normally another hormone,
acetylcholine, counteracts the
harsh effects of the stress -*
hormones. -
But some individuals with
chronic anger do not produce
enough of the 'anti-stress'
acetylcholine. Arteries harden
from the constant rises in blood
pressure, leading to heart disease.
And recently stress hormones
have been shown to damage the
kidneys and liver, and o release
too much fat from fat stores,
possibly leading to the high
cholesterol levels.
Chronically angry people are
not necessarily crazy, muttering
lunatics living on society's
fringes, Dr. Williams told the
Times. They may not even realize
they have a problem. "They may
be even rather proud of being
hard-nosed and tough-minded," he

But Dr. Julius suspected that
the health dangers may be more
obvious than altered hormonal
levels. Subconsciously, angry
individuals attempt to suppress
anger by indulging in activities
that give them temporary
pleasure and are routinely
"I like to eat," she said, "and
when I get upset I will eat more,
and gain weight. People who
smoke smoke more. People who
drink drink more, or do drugs.
They exaggerate their routine
because of emotional
aggravation, and that is the
mechanism for ill health." Even
something as subtle as coffee can
be harmful. "Coffee drinking
under stress can aggravate (the
problem)," she said.
For college students, she
suggested developing good health
and behavioral habits.
"If you are anger-in or anger-
explosive-out, try to learn the
anger-reflective, meaning try to
cool off and see what might cause
the anger. Behavioral traits can be
"In terms of exams, you can't
avoid them," she continued. "You
can try to not get involved too
much. Sort of a detachment, or
tone down the level, or so some
sort of activity you find
pleasurable, what works for you.
Reading? Exercise? A nice bowl
of ice cream? It's not healthy, but
sometimes you weigh your ills,
and a bowl of ice cream before an

exam is much better than being
One of the most interesting
findings was that women who
suppressed anger were much more
at risk than men. But keep in
mind, Dr. Julius said, that most of
the households in the study were
the typical '50s-style "Leave it to
Beaver" family. She theorized
that while the men in such
families were out of the house and
able to escape family-related
stress for nine hours a day, the
women were constantly in
situations where they could not
vent their anger. They forced
themselves to surpress their
anger, especially when
surrounded by, their children. It is
impossible to argue or reason
with a crying two-year-old.
In addition, the women were
dependant on the men to a certain
degree, especially financially. Dr.
Julius theorized that this
dependency increased the
women's urge to suppress anger
toward their husbands. "Their
emotional involvement in the
marriage was much higher than
the man's."
While Dr. Julius recommended
expressing anger, sometimes that
is impossible. Blowing up at a
boss or yelling at a professor will
only worsen the problem. Yet
suppressing anger goes against
our bodies's mechanism.
See page 7

on eating her leftover Chinese
food, relaxing in front of the
television, and spending a quiet
evening sacked out on the couch.
But when she entered the
stereo was blasting, there was a
stack of dishes in the sink, and her
roommate was eating the last of
the chicken chow mein. Susan
clenched her jaw and dropped her
backpack into her room.
"I had the rest," said her
roommate. "I hope you don't
Susan started attacking the
mess in the sink and answered her
roommate the same way she had
answered all day, just as she had
been taught to. "No problem."
People like Susan who deny
that they are angry may be doing
more harm to themselves than a
tightened jaw. There is evidence
that individuals who suppress
their emotions instead of
expressing them, as well as those
who irrationally blow up at the..
smallest of incidents, could be

neighborhood to see the effects of
mild, daily stress and anger on
health. Origionally the scale
categorized individuals as "anger-
in" or "anger-out."
"Imagine you are in a situation
in which you are being accused
unjustifiably for something you
haven't done," she explained.
There were three gertral
responses. "Yes, I get angry; no, I
would not get angry; or yes, I
would get angry and then feel
guilty for feeling angry."
The first reaction is common
among "anger-out" subjects,
while the latter responses are
characteristically "anger-in." But
after his initial study, Dr.,
Harburg added a third category,
"These are the people who do
not deny that they are angry," Dr.
Julius explained, "and either have
the ability to cool off right away
and see what the underlying
problem is and attack the
problerti, or they have to go out,
cool off, and come back to the

" "Anger-in": not showing anger at all, but fuming inside.
The most harmful type of anger reaction.
" "Anger-out": primal screams, jumping up and down,
getting really emotional and showing it.. Also dangerous.
" "Anger-reflective": not denying anger, but either having
the ability to cool off immediately or leave the problem and
cool off, then return to the problem and analyze it. The most
healthy way to deal with anger.
* Don't deny you are angry, or any emotion whether it be
love, hate, anger, or anxiety. Count to ten and then speak, but
don't internalize the feelings.
* Beware of over-exaggerating unhealthy habits in stressful
situations, especially smoking, overeating, drinking, drugs and
L Look for healthy ways to vent anger or stress, such as
exercise, reading, or other enjoyable activities that are healthy.
" Try to not get too involved in exams or classes. Have a
realistic detachment, or tone down the level. Maybe do some
sort of activity you fiid pleasurable before or after an exam. "A
nice bowl of ice cream? It's not healthy, but sometimes you
weigh your ills, and a bowl of ice cream before an exam is much
better than being over-anxious." - Dr. Julius.


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April 12, 1991



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