Anger and the Brain

Anger therapy is not a waste of time. Dealing with anger issues has never been more worth it. Did you know that science has looked extensively into anger and depression brain chemistry? The findings have been quite interesting. We are closer to knowing what causes anger in the brain. A Harvard study found that when subjects revisited tapes they recorded about events that made them angry or enraged they had measurable chemical reactions in the brain. Only when we unravel that can we know the way to anger management. Many people in the media and in the everyday world struggle with anger and rage and so I’m tackling this issue in hopes it might offer understanding and direction to open minded people who are concerned with their anger and rage.

Here is a somewhat long quote (for me anyway) that explains what happened in the Harvard study better than I could. It is fascinating:

A look into the brains of normal subjects revealed that anger increases blood flow to a reasoning part of their brains, an area over the left eye just behind the forehead, technically called the orbitofrontal cortex. This flow inhibits thoughts of rage. At the same time, blood flow increased activity in the amygdala, an almond-shaped knot of tissue deep in the brain that deals with emotion and vigilance.

Angry feelings arising in the amygdala are normally cooled by activity in the frontal cortex, part of the thinking region of the brain. However, in some severely depressed people a lack of both recognition and control of anger, can lead to violent rage.

“All of us get angry from time to time,” comments Darin Dougherty, an assistant professor who led the research. “At such times, feelings of wrath in the primitive parts of our brains seem to be balanced by inhibitions of our will to act on those feelings.” chemistry of anger

This process is like a miracle. Of course, the brain itself is a composite of so many apparent miracles it boggles any brain that seeks to understand it. Still we try. While one part of the brain is fed blood and reacts in anger, in unison other blood is fed to an area that controls inhibition that sort of keeps the angry thought under a lid. Of course, brain damage and mental illness can upset the balance of this process. This is why we see movies of people in mental hospitals screaming in rage without stopping. Somehow the delicate balance their brain was meant to have has been disturbed. When this is the case, there is anger management medication. In fact, many people find medical help with their feelings of uncontrolled anger through prescription drugs for anger treatment.

So what does anger in the brain mean to me and you? Once again, it points us to the truths of Phineas Gage: our mind is a delicate instrument that needs care to stay in balance. When we are getting angry often we should ask ourselves: “Is this chemical?” Is there something disrupting the balance between those two parts of the brain? If so, there are likely drugs that can help … see a psychiatrist or a psychologist that has a practice in concert with a psychiatrist. There are so many triggers that make us angry and even despondent.

If you feel the issue has more to do with behavioral issues such as a recurring annoyance in the form of a memory or if you are suffering from some of the cognitive distortions, get to a therapist and discuss those issues. Or, you can go to a book store or library and do your own study of the brain and anger. Personally, I would recommend going to a professional instead but just make sure you tend to the problem in some way. It should not be ignored.

Your brain is your lens to the rich pageant called life. Don’t let anger steal anything from you, there is no reason for that. Brain chemistry drugs can save lives when used properly.