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woman mad at phone

Why Does Everyone Seem So Angry All Of A Sudden?

Posted on April 26, 2022 by Henry Ford Health Staff

Unruly airline passengers, disorderly customers, reckless drivers—there have been some disheartening stories (to say the least) of people acting out in public. So what gives? Why does it seem like everyone is filled with such rage?

“In the context of this prolonged pandemic, people are experiencing a broad range of difficult emotions, including anxiety, worry, sadness, despair and guilt,” says Lisa MacLean, M.D., a psychiatrist at Henry Ford Health. “But one emotion stands out above the rest and that is anger. Anger is a normal reaction to stress. It’s a sign of our distress and an example of our suffering. We have all experienced social isolation, a loss of routine, increased fear and prolonged uncertainty, grief and loss—even grieving the way things used to be.”

Anger in the short term is normal, understandable and even adaptive. It can signal to us that something is wrong and needs to be addressed. “If no one had felt anger about the pandemic, we may never have developed life-saving vaccines, or instituted masking and social distancing requirements,” says Dr. MacLean. “We know these two things have saved countless lives. We need to care about the world around us and work toward improving it— and sometimes we need anger to help motivate us.”

That said, prolonged, uncontrolled anger is associated with long-term health effects, including increased risk for hypertension, worsening pain management, increased anxiety, weakened immune system and headaches. Suffice it to say, prolonged anger is detrimental to you and those around you.

How To Manage Your Anger

If you are in a situation where you sense your anger growing, Dr. MacLean recommends using the STOP technique to calm yourself down:

  1. Stop
  2. Take a break
  3. Observe
  4. Proceed thoughtfully

As you proceed thoughtfully, ask yourself a few questions: what made you so upset? Is there something about this person or situation that really angered you? Can you think of even-keeled ways to respond that would be more effective?

“In this moment, you can acknowledge that you don’t know what issues or problems other people are dealing with,” says Dr. MacLean. “And if you embrace compassion, empathy and grace, you are more likely to have a positive impact than if you respond with anger.” 

There are times when your anger may be irrational—or a sign of a bigger issue. Here are a few ways to tell:

  1. If your anger arises without any specific trigger.
  2. If your anger is disproportionate to its trigger in its frequency, intensity and duration.
  3. If your anger does not subside after the offending person has apologized.
  4. If your anger occurs in a social context that does not sanction anger and aggression.

A few ways to blow off steam? Listen to music, dance, draw, do household chores, organize or exercise. To help you manage anger, you can also monitor your news intake, practice gratitude, celebrate the little things in life—and not least of all—seek help when you need it.

How To Respond To Anger

It can be alarming when someone else is directing their anger toward you. In this case, Dr. MacLean recommends learning to respond to anger—not react. “Instead of using aggression or suppression, practice healthy ways to express your anger though assertive but respectful communication,” she says. “In the moment, step away, pause—maybe even distract yourself—until you are ready to thoughtfully respond.”

Listening to someone explain their frustrations can help, too. Sometimes people just want to be heard.

And afterward, don’t let yourself ruminate over past situations—as we all probably know, it’s easy to get into a cycle of rehashing things over and over in our heads. Instead, redirect yourself when possible. Share how you are feeling with your support system.

“Sharing your feelings with others can be validating, helping you to know that you are not alone,” says Dr. MacLean. “Be clear about what you need—maybe someone to listen or help you problem solve.”

In the end, we all have to work toward radical acceptance—we don’t have to like what happens but we do need to accept our reality, says Dr. MacLean. And if these tips don’t work, you can always seek help through a mental health professional who can help you to process difficult emotions and learn healthy coping strategies.

Want more advice from our experts?
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To find a doctor or therapist at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-436-7936.

Dr. Lisa MacLean is a psychiatrist specializing in adult ADHD treatment at Henry Ford Behavioral Services in Detroit. She is the director of physician wellness for Henry Ford Health, using her expertise to help doctors optimize wellness and find balance by teaching them healthy coping strategies so they can better serve their patients.

Categories : FeelWell

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