Anger and Stress: Why It's Important To Manage Them Both!

Explore the Causes and Effects of Anger and Stress

angry woman with crossed arms sitting on couch
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Anger management and stress management work in similar ways. This is partly because anger and stress have a similar makeup, in that they both have a psychological component. They can both affect us in very negative ways and that it is why it is important to understand their relationship.

Prolonged exposure to anger and stress can take a toll on our physical health.

Beyond that, we can also develop negative habits that become more difficult to control over time. Either of these effects can result in more stress and more bouts of anger.

In order to begin managing the negative effects of stress and anger, we need to look at how they affect our lives. Stress can lead to anger and, likewise, anger can lead to stress. Neither is healthy, but we shouldn't try to eliminate them, instead attempt to control them by learning positive strategies.

With both anger and stress, the following are generally true:

Perception Affects Anger and Stress

Certain events can trigger anger or stress in many people. The degree of anger or stress that is experienced has to do with how a person perceives and interprets what is happening to them.

For example, two people can be cut off in traffic. One person might interpret the gesture as a lack of respect, a threat to their physical safety or as a hostile gesture.

This makes them angry. Another person may figure that the offending driver didn't see them or might be wrapped up in their own thoughts, and let the event roll off their back.

In both cases, there was a stimulus, a belief, and a response. The belief, or interpretation, of the stimulus is what led to the different responses.

If this sounds familiar, cognitive restructuring may be helpful for you.

Some People Are More Prone To Anger And Stress

Some people have inborn personality traits that make them more susceptible to anger and stress. Some of these tendencies can be seen early in life, but these tendencies can be softened.

  • Some people are naturally more observant than others. This can make them more likely to notice things that might make them angry—things that may go unnoticed by someone else.
  • Some people are naturally less comfortable with change, which can also cause stress and anger in certain situations.
  • Other people have a low tolerance for frustration and get more angry more easily than others. 

Learn more about personality traits that are prone to stress.

Attitudes Cause Anger and Stress

Our habitual thought patterns, which can be somewhat altered with practice, contribute to our experience of anger or stress.

Some people tend to interpret things negatively as a matter of habit. They may attribute someone else’s error to malicious or unkind motives, for example. They may take one negative event as a sign that more negative events are to come, which can contribute to anger and stress.

Learn more about attributional style and optimism vs. pessimism.

It’s How You Handle Anger and Stress That Matters

Anger and stress are natural experiences. The way we deal with anger and stress can make the difference between healthy and unhealthy levels.

With stress, for example, we can’t always prevent stressful events from occurring. However, managing stress through breathing exercises, journaling or other stress management techniques we can learn to neutralize the effects of stress.

Likewise, we can’t always prevent anger from occurring, but we can work through our anger in healthy ways so it does not become a problem. The other option is to try and “stuff” anger or express it in negative and unhealthy ways.

That is when anger does become a problem.

Learn about anger management and healthy ways to handle anger.

Miers AC, Rieffe C, Meerum Terwogt M, Cowan R, Linden W. The Relation Between Anger Coping Strategies, Anger Mood and Somatic Complaints in Children and Adolescents. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, August, 2007.