What Is Suppressed Anger?

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Everyone gets angry occasionally. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), anger is a normal human emotion that everyone experiences from time to time. Anger can range from faint annoyance to outright rage.

Anger can be triggered by people, events, objects, situations, feelings, or memories. For example, a traffic jam, a pushy coworker, a broken zipper, or the memory of a rude comment can make you angry.

People react to anger in different ways. Some people express their anger verbally (shouting, cursing, arguing, or yelling), whereas others express it physically (throwing things, breaking objects, hitting walls, or getting into fights). However, some people don’t express their anger at all, and choose to suppress it instead.

Suppressed Anger

Suppressed anger is when you experience anger but do not express it—in either constructive or destructive ways, says David Klemanski, PsyD, MPH, a psychologist at Yale Medicine.

This article explores the characteristics and impact of suppressed anger, as well as some coping strategies that might be helpful.

Manifestations of Suppressed Anger

While there is no specific set of symptoms or characteristics of suppressed anger, there are some of the potential ways it could manifest, according to Dr. Klemanski:

  • Substitute emotions: Some people might substitute other emotions for anger. For instance, they might feel sad, depressed, anxious, guilty, or ashamed, rather than feeling angry.
  • Numbness: Some people may deny their emotions to the extent that they may feel numb or shut down entirely.
  • Passive aggression: Some people seek to avoid experiencing anger in order to avoid conflict. However, they may employ passive-aggressive behaviors instead. For instance, they may often pass sarcastic or snide comments, appear perpetually hostile and cynical, criticize everything, put others down constantly, or try to get back at people in indirect ways without telling them why they’re upset.
  • Outbursts: After suppressing their anger for too long, some people eventually explode and have a major outburst of anger.

Impact of Suppressed Anger

Suppressing emotions can be harmful to physical and mental health. Below, Dr. Klemanski explains the impact of suppressing anger.

It Puts the Body in a State of Stress

On a physical level, suppressing emotions, anger included, can lead to physical stress on the body.

Anger is a biological response to perceived threats, so your body goes into a hyper alert state that is designed to help you survive. In this state, your blood pressure and heart rate increase and your body releases certain hormones, which give you a burst of energy.

Frequently bottling up anger can put the body in a prolonged state of stress that can lead to health issues such as hypertension.

It Affects Emotional Processing

All of our emotions are messages to us. Each time we overlook an emotion, we lose the opportunity to reflect, learn from it, and develop insights into our priorities and values.

Managing emotions is critical to optimal mental health.


Ignoring or suppressing emotions can create issues whereby people don't adequately learn how to express themselves in critical moments or when emotions are experienced with greater intensity than usual.

Suppressing anger can prevent people from appropriately regulating, processing, and expressing their emotions.

It Can Lead to Mental Health Conditions

Anger can be a particularly intense negative emotion that might come from feeling disrespected, diminished, shamed, or belittled, or feeling a loss of power or control. 

Ignoring anger and the issues that caused it can lead to other mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, or even controlling behaviors related to habits, food, substances, etc.

It Can Damage Relationships

Suppressed anger can also wreak havoc on your personal relationships. It can cause you to act in ways that might be contrary to your personal values, thereby impacting your boundaries and your ability to be genuine and authentic with others.

According to the APA, people who suppress their anger often have difficulty with relationships.

Coping With Suppressed Anger

If you tend to suppress your anger rather than expressing it in a healthy manner, it may be helpful to see a mental healthcare professional who can help you cope with it. Dr. Klemanski outlines some of the treatment approaches that may be helpful:

  • Mindfulness: Mindfulness can be a healthy approach to developing awareness about when you experience an emotion, how intensely you experience it, and how you manage that emotion in the moment. Mindfully observing what triggers your anger and how you characteristically behave when you're angry can help you express your emotions more constructively.
  • Emotional management: Learning emotion management skills can be useful, including educating yourself about your emotions, understanding how emotions show up in your everyday life, and identifying triggers to your emotions. It can also be helpful to learn how to both acknowledge and accept your emotional experiences rather than trying to rid yourself of them, so that you can learn how to manage them when it counts.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: Using principles of cognitive behavioral therapy can also be useful, such as learning to replace unhelpful thought patterns with helpful ones, as well as practicing skills and strategies for managing intense emotions when they occur. Research shows that cognitive behavior therapy techniques can effectively treat anger and aggression.
  • Journaling: It can be helpful to maintain a journal where you note down things that made you angry, how they made you feel, and what you did at the time. This can help improve your emotional awareness.

A Word From Verywell

Sometimes we get angry for valid reasons, whereas other times we get angry for trivial reasons. However, regardless of the cause, it’s vital for us to be able to regulate our emotions and express them in healthy ways. While having angry outbursts isn’t the answer, it’s important to learn how to set boundaries and communicate negative emotions constructively.

Suppressing anger can harm our relationships and affect our mental and physical health. If you tend to suppress your anger, it can be helpful to start being more mindful about what causes you to feel angry, how you respond in those situations, and how it affects your life and your relationships. A mental health professional can help you work through some of the anger-related issues you’re facing.

7 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Psychological Association. Understanding anger.

  2. American Psychological Association. Controlling anger before it controls you.

  3. National Library of Medicine. Learn to manage your anger. MedlinePlus.

  4. American Psychological Association. How to recognize and deal with anger.

  5. Kim AS, Jang MH, Park KH, Min JY. Effects of self-efficacy, depression, and anger on health-promoting behaviors of Korean elderly women with hypertension. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(17):6296. doi:10.3390/ijerph17176296

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By Sanjana Gupta
Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.