Dr. Gregory Jantz

Self-Medicating Anxiety Through Anger

May 31, 2014

Rarely do people just feel anxious. Most often, their anxiety is coupled with other addictions or issues that are either related or coping mechanisms to deal with the anxiety. Anger, for example anger can be both a consequence and a coping mechanism. When you are anxious, you feel more keyed up and less peaceful. When you’re anxious, you can become out of sorts and angry. Anger is a consequence of anxiety. But if used intentionally, anger can become a coping mechanism for anxiety.

When you are anxious, you often look to certain routines to help mitigate the worry and fear. Anything that disrupts you routine can be seen as a threat to your safety, a threat responded to with anger. Both anxiety and anger produce and use adrenaline. When that adrenaline is routed from anxiety to anger, the anxiety takes second position. Anger becomes predominant. Anxiety may have started off as the primary response to a given situation, but anger can quickly land in the driver’s seat. Anxiety may have produced the adrenaline, but it can be hijacked and used by anger. Anxiety leaves you feeling out of control and vulnerable. Anger makes you feel powerful. Compared to each other, anger can appear the clear winner.

Let’s use Bill as an example. While spending his day off at his son’s baseball game, Bill received a call from his supervisor. Bill took the call, even though he really didn’t want to. Sure enough, it was as bad as he thought. He’d have to go back in to work; something about a hitch in the production line. Arguing would be pointless because he knew he’d go in anyway. With so many people out of work, Bill needed the job. He just couldn’t risk saying no. Fear for his employment seemed to couple with his anger at having to leave the game and head back into town. No one understood what it was like worrying all the time about his job and the weighty responsibility to take care of his family.

Bill was furious as he walked back to the stands. Instead of explaining the situation calmly to his wife in the stands, he funneled his upset into an angry steam of excuses and expletives. As he walked through the parking lot, his mental battle raged. Whenever the worry surfaced, he felt sick; whenever the anger surfaced, he felt strong. Bill knew it was better to go with the anger. As he got to his car, so engrossed in his internal fuming, Bill missed the wave his son gave him from the dugout.

Anger, like all short-term fixes, may divert you from feeling fear initially but leaves you susceptible in the long term. The physical attributes of anger are much like those of anxiety. They are the fight-or-flight responses talked about earlier. Once the anger dissipates, the body is still in a heightened state, just waiting for the fear to reassert itself. Anger is not peaceful; it is not calming. It produces no sense of serenity. It provides no hedge of protection against anxiety. Anger and anxiety are physically related, and a person is able to move from one state to the other easily. Anger doesn’t dissuade anxiety for long. Instead, it keeps the doorway open for anxiety to return at a moment’s notice.

Whether you are struggling with an unstable job in an even rockier economy like Bill, a tumultuous relationship, or some other source of anxiety, it is important to be aware of unhealthy coping mechanisms. Anger is a common outlet to avoid the feelings of nervousness and upset, causing its own slough of negative repercussions. Seek the help you need today to address the anxiety in your life, and you may discover amazing relief from other negative feelings.  Call The Center • A Place Of HOPE today at 1-888-771-5166.

The content of this post was derived from Dr. Gregory Jantz’s book Overcoming Anxiety, Worry, and Fear.