People with anxiety disorders frequently experience intense fear of potential threats and dangers. This could be crowds or social events for someone with a social anxiety disorder, whereas, for someone with a generalized anxiety disorder, their fear could be of a wide range of possible scenarios, like losing their job, harming their friendships, or getting into an accident.
It is like a chicken and egg situation…which came first, the anger which caused the anxiety or is the deep-rooted anger a symptom of anxiety?
Let us examine the latter first. We know that anxiety symptoms like heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and nausea are brought on by certain thoughts. This is because the fight or flight response is triggered when the mind considers a potential threat. When anxiety is experienced, some people “take flight” and avoid potential dangers, while others experience the “fight or flight” response. They may become enraged as a result. This usually happens when a person feels stuck or is having trouble understanding and expressing their feelings. My question is always, when did that start? What is at the heart of a symptom is where we can find the clues to the answers to change.
It is true that anxiety disorders can often make people angry. Experiencing anxiety can become frustrating about how the disorder is affecting someone’s life. In most cases, they will lash out at themselves and the anger will be internalised. This may be accompanied by such phrases as, ‘I’m an idiot/stupid/useless/failure,’ etc.
Is irritability a sign of anxiety?
When someone is anxious, they are more likely to be irritable than usual. It is a frequent symptom of numerous anxiety disorders. The individual may experience feelings of stress and exhaustion as a result of their body and mind being overwhelmed by worry. They might not be able to ignore or dismiss things as easily as they normally would because of this. In turn, this may accelerate their irritability and anger. Irritability can have many reasons but if it is a regular occurrence, this should be a sign that something else deeper needs attention or healing.
Anxiety can cause anger-related feelings of guilt, shame, and embarrassment. Anxiety can lead to anger-related feelings of anxiety. The individual may be afraid to get angry in the future as a result of this. As a result, they may stifle their rage in the company of others because they are concerned about being judged, endangering their relationships, or hurting the feelings of others and that can lead to passive-aggressive tendencies, feeling like the world is not fair or out to get them or manifest as a chronic illness.
What though, if anger comes first?
During the path of life, we are exposed to many environments and social situations. We make deductions and draw beliefs about the world in accordance with how safe we feel. If some of those interactions growing up included witnessing anger being used to the detriment of themselves or others, this will alert the neural pathways into action. However, what is frequently learnt is; scary situation + I can not escape + I cannot defend myself = the world is dangerous and I must retreat because I have no options.
It is my opinion that this is the origin of the anxiety, that this is the origin of the internalised anger. The anger-related feelings of guilt, shame and embarrassment are more incorporated in these early events whereby the child is made to feel this way by the people around them.
In all cases of current uncomfortable issues that people wish they didn’t have, sifting through the symptoms will always land back to earlier events and early learnings and beliefs about themselves and their survival in the world, past, present and future.
Anger is frequently present in anxiety but it will always have a reason for being there, anger is not always there because of the anxiety but rather anxiety is there because of the anger.