Anxiety | Anger | CherryDTV
Men-tal Health Mental Health

Anxiety Can Show Up As Anger, Especially For Men

Anxiety is loosely defined as the persistent worry over everyday situations, and anxiety or panic attacks represent an acute and more intense form of this. As much as we think of anxious guys as passive types with gastrointestinal problems, anxiety often comes off as aggression.

In fact, therapists think of anger as a “secondary emotion,” meaning it’s usually a reaction to overwhelming primary emotions like fear, sadness, pain and helplessness. And when coupled with a loss of control, it sends men into fight-or-flight mode. And when fleeing is seen as a sign of weakness, fight becomes the only option for a lot of guys.  

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Anxiety and Anger

Externalised vs Internalised Behaviour

According to psychotherapy, at some point, we developed anger as a way to channel those helpless feelings into something that is righteous, energising and motivating, which is anger. Therefore, sometimes when we get anxious, we take that upsetting helplessness and throw a tantrum about it, which at least gives the illusion of doing something of action.

Experts refer to this type of rage as an externalising behaviour, as opposed to an internalising behaviour, which is essentially the distinction between lashing out and lashing in. Although anxiety and depression are both regarded as understudied and underdiagnosed conditions in men, one thing we do know is that this tendency to externalise emotions is a common symptom of both. Whether you’re screaming into a sea of traffic on the highway, or at your family or partner. There’s something temporarily soothing about indulging that rage instead of dealing with the more vulnerable option. 


Anger Can Become A Hardwired Anxiety Response

As much as it’s a human impulse to convert more difficult emotions into rage.. And I and plenty of other women have been guilty of doing the same. When so many boys are brought up to believe that primary emotions are a threat to their masculinity. There’s more pressure to go with the nuclear option. Given that cultural norms set the stage for viewing a male’s anger as a sign of power and strength. Anger is largely deemed acceptable and often preferable to a show of anxiety, fear or sadness. And the more men subscribe to this belief, the harder it is to reverse these explosive behaviours. Sadly, the more these neural pathways are used, the more hardwired and automatic the responses become.

Along with the fact that it’s still more socially acceptable for a man to beat his chest than to cry, there are biological factors to consider as well. Men have more testosterone, which makes them more prone to aggression, which is well-known. But a similar link to testosterone and anxiety frequently flies under the radar. Scientists suspect that the correlation between anxiety and aggression in males may have neurobiological roots, and occurs across two overlapping pathways in the brain. 


Studies have found that anxiety and aggression fall into two distinct buckets. Those with abnormally high anxiety who are prone to reactive aggression. And those with abnormally low anxiety who are prone to proactive aggression. The first group is associated with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The latter is linked with antisocial personality disorder, more commonly known being a sociopath. While men with too little anxiety do way more damage to others and society. Guys with too much anxiety harm themselves in ways that are subtle and can go undetected. Because anger can seem like an effective way to manage anxiety in the short term. If a situation at work makes you anxious and you yell at your employees. The situation will probably change, but at what cost? 

If anger works to get others to do what you want in a way that reduces the anxiety. Then the person may subconsciously learn to continue to use anger as a way of preventing anxiety discomfort. Men end up feeling the consequences of their actions such as the loss of self-esteem from people being scared of them. But don’t always connect them to the initial outburst. This has long-term ramifications on relationships as well as self-image. Which only makes anxiety and depression worse and not to mention, the constant rush of stress hormones is bad for your heart, your boners and many other aspects of physical health as well.

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So What Should An Enraged Dude Do Instead? 

For starters, the next time you see red, breathe and envision a red stop sign. This is the first step to emotional regulation, a skill practiced in dialectical behavioral therapy, a form of cognitive behavioral therapy designed for people who chronically lash out. Doing nothing seems easy any other time, unless you’re angry, then all of a sudden everything seems urgent. This is the result of being in fight-or-flight mode. Which unless you’re actually being chased by a lion, acting on it is rarely productive.  

The best strategy is to distract yourself and wait it out, a process that takes about 20 to 30 minutes on average, but can be expedited with healthier coping skills, like deep breathing, meditation and light exercise, such as doing a few push-ups, yoga or even going for a walk.


Make A List Of Your Anxiety Sensations

Since losing your temper can also feel like a very physical response, making a list of sensations experienced when angry can be helpful.
Do you get flushed?
Do you hear a negative voice in your head?
Does your heart race?
Once you become accustomed to your own anger sensations, you’ll be more likely to give them positive attention before the anger can escalate.


In the end, rage quits are purely a manifestation of toxic masculinity that have been conditioned into unsuspecting generations. Once we can become aware of harmful triggers and patterns of behaviour and make purposeful change we can be the catalyst for a happier world. But change begins with you first. Next time you think about being a Kyle and punching a hole in your fibro wall, take a deep breath and maybe jump up and down of the heels of your feet for a couple minutes. You may have a sudden change in feeling.

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7 Topics Couples Don't Want To Talk About, But Should. - CherryDTV January 12, 2022 at 1:02 pm



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