When Anxiety Triggers Anger

I clench my teeth and my fingers come tightly together. This must be a flashback of a time when someone (or myself) must have triggered me into an angry fit, or it’s a reaction to someone saying or doing something that is triggering this emotion in me — it’s uncontrollable anger I feel piercing my veins.

It could be that insensitive joke my friend made about my careless choice of outfits.

Or the remark my mother made about me ending up alone.

Or it’s my friend’s ignorance on an important topic.

Or I could be annoyed with myself when I remember the time I was friends with a few bullies.

Or maybe it’s remembering that guy I dated years ago who I couldn’t trust.

Or it’s when I finished that large pizza and then a box of donuts and was mad at myself.

Or maybe it’s that religious family member who judged me for not believing in religion.

Or maybe even the boy who took away my self-esteem.

Anxiety brings out one of my biggest insecurities which is the lack of control over my emotions and this results in very fiery reactions.

While some of the reasons why I lash out can be understandable, there are just too many of them. Whether they are small or big , they are exhausting and make me feel guilty and ashamed after the angry phase passes. Having casual discussions with someone can also be challenging because I never know when something could trigger me into an angry fit.

One specific incident when I was overcome with explosive anger was when my friend arrived late to the airport and we had to rush to make it on the flight. I yelled at her on the plane and a flight attendant had to intervene — I was so embarrassed after that and felt like a lunatic on the loose. Even though we had a good vacation and we are still friends, it’s something I still think about. My condition keeps me caged up in such moments and I feel enormous guilt afterwards.

I can’t say I have overcome it, but my advice to someone else who goes through something similar is to try and exercise “focusing.” It’s very important to keep my mind occupied on a certain activity that stimulates my brain positively. I personally can’t do mindfulness exercises, so instead what works for me is writing about a specific angry moment in the form of a story and then try to analyze what triggered me and why. It gives my mind another perspective on the incident and let’s me reflect in a more positive way. When I’m in a conversation that could potentially trigger my outburst, I either excuse myself for a few minutes to cool off or I make myself wait for at least 10 seconds before responding and then try to communicate in a more calm manner. This doesn’t always work and I still end up having some embarrassing fits, but it has improved over time with practice. And on the days when my mind spirals into an episode of ugly reminders and angry feelings, I go to bed early and hope I wake up the next day with a higher dose of vitality to fight off those invasive thoughts.

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Thinkstock photo via AntonioGuillem

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