Friday, May 13, 2022

What Causes Anger In The Brain

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A Lot Of Stuff To Digest

Root Causes of Anger Part 11 of 15 ANGER Causes Inflammation In YOUR Body

Perhaps we just may need to be aware that a lot goes on physiologically when we get angry.

What is important to know is:

  • anger involves a trigger to the emotions that so easily charges us up that we lose it, and
  • it will often take about 20 minutes before we can once again become more logical.

Just knowing that could really help us as we deal with our anger or someone elses. When we know someone is amygdala hijacked, then we should give him or her some time before we attempt to resolve or discuss what happened because it takes about that long for hormonal releases to decrease in intensity.

So, if you stay with me for the next post, we will talk about how this knowledge can be used to prepare for, prevent and recover from these angry outbursts. For now, lets just begin to observe how we see this in ourselves and others around us as we really begin to understand this is your brain on anger!

Gerry Vassar, President and CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

Some information taken from Understanding Anger, 2004, Diane Wagenhals.

Difficulty Controlling Emotions Or Mood Swings

Some people may experience emotions very quickly and intensely but with very little lasting effect. For example, they may get angry easily but get over it quickly. Or they may seem to be on an emotional roller coaster in which they are happy one moment, sad the next and then angry. This is called emotional lability.

The Underlying Causes Of Anger

This theory is supported by Sigmund Freud himself. He said that defence mechanisms exist to protect the personality when the ego is under siege. So, it is possible to see how anger is a natural response and serves as a pivotal psychological function.

Going back to Stosny, he describes this natural response of symptomatic anger as covering up the pain of our core hurts. These are feeling ignored, unimportant, guilty, devalued, etc.

This uncovers further theory which was explored by John Bradshaw in his shame-based identity studies. He said that in most cases, anger is a knee-jerk reaction to something that we feel we need to fend off which may threaten us in some way. And, that actually, this reaction is more likely to be due to underlying causes of anger, as opposed to provocation itself.

Some psychologists have moved the Freudian theory of ego threat into the anxiety sphere. In other words, if you have an underlying anxiety about something, it is more likely to manifest itself as anger. However, the defence mechanism is more likely to be of the anxiety itself not anger.

It is also possible for your past experiences to play a role in anger. Perhaps as a child, you were punished for expressing anger. Perhaps you have grown up thinking it is ok to act out your anger through violence.

Other instances, such as trauma or abuse, can also be one of the causes of anger. These underlying feelings manifest themselves as raw emotion.

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Benefits Of Regular Exercise In Mood Management

People who are stressed are more likely to experience anger. Numerous worldwide studies have documented that regular exercise can improve mood and reduce stress levels. This may be because physical exertion burns up stress chemicals, and it also boosts production of mood-regulating neurotransmitters in the brain, including endorphins and catecholamines.

What Can Be Done About Anxiety

How Anger Affects Your Brain, NICABM Info Graphic
  • Try to reduce the environmental demands and unnecessary stresses that may be causing anxiety.
  • Provide reassurance to help calm the person and allow them to reduce their feelings of anxiety when they occur.
  • Add structured activities into the daily routine, such as exercising, volunteering, church activities or self-help groups.
  • Anxiety can be helped by certain medications, by psychotherapy from a mental health professional who is familiar with TBI, or a combination of medications and counseling.

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Why Choose Amen Clinics For Treating Anger Issues

At Amen Clinics, we use brain SPECT imaging as part of a comprehensive evaluation to diagnose and treat our patients. This helps identify any dysfunction or damage in the brain, as well as any co-existing conditions, that need to be addressed. We also assess other factorsbiological, psychological, social, and spiritualthat can contribute to anger issues, violence, and IED. Based on all of this information, we are better able to personalize treatment using the least toxic, most effective solutions for a better outcome.

What Causes This Problem

  • Mood swings and emotional lability are often caused by damage to the part of the brain that controls emotions and behavior.
  • Often there is no specific event that triggers a sudden emotional response. This may be confusing for family members who may think they accidentally did something that upset the injured person.
  • In some cases the brain injury can cause sudden episodes of crying or laughing. These emotional expressions or outbursts may not have any relationship to the way the persons feels . In some cases the emotional expression may not match the situation . Usually the person cannot control these expressions of emotion.

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What Causes Anxiety After Tbi

  • Difficulty reasoning and concentrating can make it hard for the person with TBI to solve problems. This can make the person feel overwhelmed, especially if he or she is being asked to make decisions.
  • Anxiety often happens when there are too many demands on the injured person, such as returning to employment too soon after injury. Time pressure can also heighten anxiety.
  • Situations that require a lot of attention and information-processing can make people with TBI anxious. Examples of such situations might be crowded environments, heavy traffic or noisy children.

Is There A Test Or Self

How anger changes the BRAIN

A number of self-assessment tests are available online to help you to recognize any anger and anxiety issues you may be experiencing. If you take an online test, its a good idea to ensure that it was written and published by someone recognized as an expert in the mental health field.

Even if the test is offered by a reputable organization, you should never allow a self-diagnosis or an online test to direct your course of treatment. Individuals who think they might be suffering from anger issues should speak to professional counselors, family physicians or volunteers from local healthcare organizations.

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Why Do We Feel Anger

There are many common triggers of anger, such as when you are patient with someones negligence or brazenness, or when you notice that your opinion or efforts are not appreciated or ignored, or when discovering a lie, feeling betrayed by your partner or your friends, or before the provocations, mockery or injustice. Other causes of anger include memories of traumatic events that caused us pain or the feeling of helplessness and paralysis in front of abusive family members, partners or bosses.

Some triggers of anger have to do with ourselves. We can feel anger at not meeting our expectations or the expectations of others. Family taught us to expect from ourselves, from others and the world. Our personal history often fuels our anger reactions. For example, if we were not taught how to express anger properly, our frustrations can accumulate and make us feel very unhappy, such frustrations are simmering until they explode in a burst of irrepressible anger that often has terrible consequences. In other cases, changes in brain chemistry or underlying medical or psychiatric illnesses,

Dealing With Impulsive Anger Resulting From Brain Injury

When a person with a brain injury first wakes up from a coma, they are usually disoriented and confused and often they are agitated. They do not understand what is going on around them, and they are not truly responsible for their own actions. It is up to the people taking care of then to keep them safe, even if this means restraining them or using medications when absolutely necessary. As they recover, they gradually come to be able to control their actions. Their staff and families can then gradually teach them about the best ways to manage their angry feelings. Because a person with a brain injury’s anger thresholds or flashpoints have been lowered, they need to relearn how to manage the changed reactions. They need emotional rehabilitation in addition to physical and cognitive rehabilitation.

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Is Aggression Evolutionarily Adaptive

A belief in the innate aggressive tendencies of human beingsthat the ability to be aggressive toward others, at least under some circumstances, is part of our fundamental human makeupis consistent with the principles of evolutionary psychology. After all, the goal of maintaining and enhancing the self will in some cases require that we prevent others from harming us and those we care about. We may aggress against others because it allows us to gain access to valuable resources such as food and desirable mates or to protect ourselves from direct attack by others. And we may aggress when we feel that our social status is threatened. Therefore, if aggression helps with either our individual survival or in the survival of our genes, then the process of natural selection may well cause humans, as it would any other animal, to be aggressive. Human beings need to be able to aggress in certain situations, and nature has provided us with these skills . Under the right situation, almost all of us will aggress.

Caspi and his colleagues found evidence for a person-by-situation interaction regarding the role of genetics and parental treatment in aggression. Antisocial behavior and aggression were greater for children who had been severely maltreated, but this effect was even stronger for children with a gene variation that reduced the production of serotonin.

Mental Health And Anger

Anger Effects on Brain &  Body [Infographic]

Our response to angry feelings depends on finely balanced communication between several brain regions. When this becomes disrupted, peoples behaviour can become unexpectedly aggressive.

Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimers and particularly frontotemporal dementia, can result in damage to the brains frontal regions that inhibits our instinctive response to frustration and anger and also a breakdown in connections between this area and the amygdala.

Luca Passamonti, a consultant neurologist and researcher at the University of Cambridge, said: On average we know that people with frontotemporal dementia will become more aggressive, angrier, grumpier. It makes these feelings more manifest and the way of expressing it can become really impulsive.

Passamonti said this is likely to be a mixture of losing the ability to inhibit automatic responses to frustration, but also finding it harder to contextualise emotions and understand why you are feeling a certain way.

The way we process angry feelings also contributes to our mental wellbeing. Passamonti said that in some people, high levels of inhibition an unusually active frontal cortex can prevent expressions of anger, but result in people feeling depressed.

That constant feeling of threat means anger and aggression can be triggered far more easily. In the future, Baskin-Sommers said, interventions such as cognitive behavioural therapy could help people overcome early life experiences such as exposure to violence.

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Where Do Emotions Come From

The limbic system is a group of interconnected structures located deep within the brain. Its the part of the brain thats responsible for behavioral and emotional responses.

Scientists havent reached an agreement about the full list of structures that make up the limbic system, but the following structures are generally accepted as part of the group:

  • Hypothalamus. In addition to controlling emotional responses, the hypothalamus is also involved in sexual responses, hormone release, and regulating body temperature.
  • Hippocampus. The hippocampus helps preserve and retrieve memories. It also plays a role in how you understand the spatial dimensions of your environment.
  • Amygdala. The amygdala helps coordinate responses to things in your environment, especially those that trigger an emotional response. This structure plays an important role in fear and anger.
  • Limbic cortex. This part contains two structures, the cingulate gyrus and the parahippocampal gyrus. Together, they impact mood, motivation, and judgement.

Aggression Treatments And Relief

Often, feelings of aggression can be diffused through common coping mechanisms. However, when someone is chronically quick to anger, unable to control their anger, or is overly aggressive, it may be time to seek professional help. If someone becomes aggressive in the context of a traumatic injury or illness, they should be taken to a hospital for treatment as this may be a manifestation of that illness.

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Why Do People Hold Grudges

The common advice to forgive and forget can be well-intentioned but difficult to internalize. Many people hold deep grudges, even if they dont want to. This may occur because grudges come with an identity. With a grudge intact, people know they were wronged. There exists a kind of rightness and strength in this identity.

Still, grudges dont tend to make people feel better or heal their sadness or anger. Shifting focus away from the offender and to the event its consequences allows people to integrate the experience into their narrative and release their grudge.

The Brains Emotional Center


The cerebral cortex is the thinking part of the brain where logic and judgment reside. It is the outer portion of the brain and is divided into lobes. Think of the cortex as the strategy center of the brain.

The emotional center of the brain is the limbic system. It is located lower in the brain and is considered to be more primitive than the cortex.

When someone is experiencing and expressing anger, he or she is not using the thinking part of the brain, but primarily, the limbic center of the brain.

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What Can I Do

Rage is dangerous. Not only could you damage property or explode on another person, you are also a hazard to yourself. And I’m not just talking about bloody knuckles and black eyes. Excessive anger has been shown to raise blood pressure and even cause heart attacks.

If you believe that you are dealing with dysfunctional anger, it’s important that you seek professional help. A therapist will likely work with you to determine the source of your anger and provide you with behavioral techniques you can use to disarm the rage before you explode like a stick of dynamite.


Which Personality Traits Are Linked To Anger

Research suggests that the tendency to become angry is associated with high neuroticism and low agreeableness. Outside of the Big Five personality traits, a few habits and attitudes may be linked to anger. These include:


Focusing on things out of personal control

External regulation of emotions

External locus of control

Refusal to see other perspectives

Low tolerance for discomfort

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How We Know What We Know About The Brain

In the middle of the twentieth century, two things happened almost simultaneously that forever changed our understanding of the brain. One of those is the tragic accident of Phineas Gage.

Gage worked on a railroad when an 1848 accident sent a metal implement through his left cheek and out the top of his head – right through his brain. Had this been the end of the story, history would’ve forgotten Mr. Gage. However, Gage lived for several years after the accident. Following the accident, Gage’s doctor realized that he had changed. He had a short temper and seemed unable to tell right from wrong where before he had been a kind and upstanding citizen. Gage’s accident – and his remarkable survival – suggested for the first time that different parts of the brain have different functions.

Eleven years later and across the Atlantic, Charles Darwin published his book “On the Origin of Species.” The now famous work utilized years of research on Darwin’s part to cement what is now known as the theory of evolution. Before Darwin’s theory that humans evolved from less sophisticated animals, most people accepted that humans had always existed as they do now. While this didn’t prevent an understanding of how the human body works, Darwin’s theory did give us new and interesting questions about where we came from. This eventually leads to the school of psychology called Evolutionary Psychology.

What Is Anger?

What You Can Do About Anger

Anger Psychology And Anger Management

Anger After A Brain Injury

The science of anger

A brain injury can damage areas of the brain involved in the control and regulation of emotions, particularly the frontal lobe and limbic system. Other effects of a brain injury can lead to irritability, agitation, lowered tolerance and impulsivity, which also increase the likelihood of angry outbursts.

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Causes And Effects Of Anger

When you are angry, you can deal with your negative feelings through:

Expression: This is the act of transmitting your anger. The expression varies from a reasonable, rational argument to a violent outburst.

Suppression: This is an attempt to save your anger and possibly turn it into more constructive behavior. The suppression of anger, however, can cause your anger to turn on yourself or you can begin to express that anger through passive-aggressive behavior.

Try to calm down: This is when you manage to control your external behavior and your internal responses, and you use techniques to calm down and let your feelings subside.

Need Help Motivating Kids

If you are looking for additional tips and an actual step-by-step plan, this online course How To Motivate Kids is a great place to start.

It gives you the steps you need to identify motivation issues in your child and the strategy you can apply to help your child build self-motivation and become passionate in learning.

Once you know this science-based strategy, motivating your child becomes easy and stress-free.

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