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21 Ways to Cope With Anxiety-Fueled Anger

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When you think of anxiety, what symptoms come to mind? A pounding heart and sweaty palms? Maybe shortness of breath, feeling like you can’t sit still or focus on any one thought.

Out of all anxiety symptoms, one we don’t often think or talk about is anger. Whether anxiety makes you uncomfortably irritable or you experience all-consuming rage, anxiety’s link to anger is common, yet often unspoken. When my own anxiety strikes, every little noise makes me want to scream. In times like these, I’ve thrown things or lashed out at loved ones. It feels uncontrollable, like something else is bursting out from inside me.

This kind of irrational anger feels shameful, but it can be overcome with self-compassion, understanding and sometimes therapy. If you experience anger as a part of your anxiety, know you are not alone. There are healthy ways to cope with it, and it’s nothing to be ashamed about. Rather, it’s a difficult symptom of an already exhausting disorder.

That’s why we asked our mental health community to share what they do when anxiety-anger strikes.

Here’s what they told us:

1. I just don’t talk. I keep quiet and ignore everyone and everything around me. Probably not the best way to cope but it gives me time to calm my thoughts and be more rational.” — Lauren A.

2. I remove myself to my room or a place where I can be alone. When I get really anxious I tend to snap at siblings or family members over the smallest thing” — Emily M.

3. My anxiousness is usually from becoming overwhelmed. This then turns into a lot of anger. Anger about little things, past things and present things. One coping mechanism that works for me is taking a shower. The feeling of the water in my head is mindful which then helps relax me.” — Heather L.

4. Pause and remind myself anger is because I can’t identify what I’m really feeling (and likely won’t until I’m able to remove myself and process) so I try my best to dial it down and get away as quickly as is acceptable.” — Rebecca C.

5. I tell the people around me I need some time alone. Most often, my husband and kids are the subjects at which my anxiety and, as a result, anger, would be directed. I can feel the explosion coming as the irritability starts to fester, so I quickly take a step back and go to a quiet room by myself. I explain to my kids (and husband) that I am not angry with them, it’s my anxiety. This way, they know that nobody has done anything wrong. My son (6 years old) also has an anxiety disorder, so he is taking his cues from me and has started going into his room if he feels rage bubbling up.” — Krissy P.

6. I don’t know if it’s anger, but definitely irritation. I focus on my breath a lot. In through nose, hold, out through mouth. Big ‘belly’ breaths.” — Kristina M.

7. I take a cold shower. When people splash water on their faces when nervous or upset, it feels like it resets our system and allows us to literally cool down. So when I experience anger and/or anxiety, I take a cold(ish) shower. Even the simple task of showering can make me feel so much better.” — Sara P.

8. I just work through it. I have learned to tell the people around me that my anxiety presents as anger and remove myself from the situation until I feel better.” — Joanie R.

9. “Grounding essential oils. They don’t ‘cure’ what is going on, but alongside eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, they are a saving grace.” — Anna F.

10. If I can’t remove myself from the situation, I do my best to acknowledge that it is really anxiety I am feeling and not anger and then identify what is causing my anxiety. If my anger is directed towards someone who is aware of my anxiety, like my boyfriend, I tell him I am feeling anxious so he knows I may be a bit on edge.” — Kristen M.

11. I listen to music and I run. It’s the only thing that takes my anger away. I always express my anxiety through anger because it hides how emotional I actually get. I put my headphones in, lace up my sneakers and shut the world out.” — Hannah S.

12. I have a journal app (Writeaday) on my phone. I usually have my phone on me, so when my anxiety skyrockets the fastest way to express my anger in a healthy way is writing my thoughts out in that journal. Then, I can write a positive response to what I wrote, a way to rewrite/reframe my experience.” — Dynne L.

13. I find that my anxiety can make me super tired all the time, and that’s usually a good part of the reason I am angry. So instead of responding with anger, I usually just sleep, and when I wake up I feel more mellowed out.” — Tiffany A.

14. I go for a walk. I find it helps if I get away from people so I cannot snap or lash out at them. A long walk often clears my head, and usually by the time I get back I’m not angry anymore. It doesn’t work every time, it depends on how anxious I am.” — Benji Y.

15. Being with my dogs really helps. They can tell I’m upset and try to make me feel better.” — Emily W.

16. Walk away while listening to some angry loud rock songs. Just walk and walk, rest for a minute or two then walk again without a clear destination.” — Jennilyn A.

17. I retreat, sit with it and then try to channel it into research and/or writing. I’ve learned so much about my conditions and symptoms during anger-fueled research sprees, usually sparked by frustration at how unwell I am when compared to what support is(n’t) available. Lately, I’m more likely to share what I find to hopefully help others learn too.” — Laura H.

18. I clean the house. If my anxiety spikes and I get really angry, I’ll start cleaning. It keeps me focused on something besides what I’m angry about or what’s causing my anxiety. Plus, I get a clean house, which makes me feel better too.” — Breanne A.

19. I write a ton. I fill pages of my journal with all the terrible things. Kinda sad, but it works. I try not to reread them, but it’s helpful to look back on if I need to reference it.” — Kirstin B.

20. I tend to play video games like Resident Evil, Drakengard or Bioshock to vent. Or I’ll clean my house. It helps to occupy my mind on something else and I calm down pretty quickly.” — Seirla I.

21. Once I realized my anger was usually caused by anxiety rather than bipolar disorder, it became easier to manage with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It allows me to recognize what triggers the anger and decide if there is something I can do about it. If you can solve the problem causing the anxiety, taking action alleviates the anger.” — Shaun S.

What would you add?

Getty image via vadimguzhva

Originally published: February 16, 2018
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