John Schinnerer, Ph.D.
Guide to Self, Inc.
Recently, I received this comment on my anger management blog which stirred something deep inside of me…
I want to let you know that your online anger management course is very helpful to me. These tools to a better life are working. There has been a change in my outlook on life already. I AM EXCITED ABOUT DOING THIS. I want to be a better person and have a healthier life. This past March, I had a massive heart attack and almost left this world. I have realized through your teachings that some of my health issues have to do with my anger. I really did not know that my anger was even associated with or causing me problems – problems not only with my health but in my life. I was always thinking that my anger was someone else’s fault. This past week before I got on to your website, I blew up with my wife and was as mad as I’ve ever been. I was throwing things and saying things that I should not have said. I got mad because she was mad. Thanks to you I’ve realized that anger has a negative effect on my heart. Thank you for teaching me new ways of being. Please keep up the great work.’
This note was flattering and I’m pleased to be able to help men discover new tools to manage their anger.
Long-term Anger Has a Harmful Effect on the Heart
One of the major points that I’ve been emphasizing for several years now is that chronic, long-term anger has a harmful effect on the heart. The same holds true for chronic stress. Both long-term stress and anger are harmful on a number of levels.
Anger and Coronary Heart Disease
In a 2007 study published in the American Academy of Family Physicians, researchers concluded that men and women with high levels of chronic anger and stress are much higher risk of developing coronary heart disease. The study found that men with high levels of chronic anger and irritation were 1.7 times as likely to develop hypertension (high blood pressure). Individuals older than 50 years qualify as having hypertension if their blood pressure is regularly over 140/90 (i.e., at least 140 mmHg systolic or 90 mmHg diastolic). Individuals with chronic high levels of anger and annoyance were 90% more likely to progress from prehypertensive to coronary heart disease as compared to those with low to moderate levels of anger.
Stress and Coronary Heart Disease
Both men and women with long-standing levels of stress had nearly 1.7 times the chance of developing coronary heart disease as compared to those with low to moderate levels of stress. This means individuals with high levels of chronic stress are nearly twice as likely to develop coronary heart disease! This is entirely preventable by learning new ways of relating to stress and pressure. The authors suggest that high quality stress management and anger management programs are beneficial for preventing the progression from prehypertension to hypertension to coronary heart disease.
Negative Emotions In General Related to Coronary Heart Disease
Three major negative emotional states – depression, anxiety and anger-hostility – were implicated in coronary heart disease in 2005 in a study published in the Psychological Bulletin. These findings indicate that it is more of a general disposition towards negative emotions that may be more critical for the risk of heart disease than any one specific emotion.
A Predisposition to Negative Emotions
In my experience, I have frequently found an overlap between the existence of depression, anger-hostility and anxiety in many of my clients. Rarely do I work with someone who is merely angry, or solely anxious, or only depressed. More often, people have a difficult time dealing with all the major intense negative emotions (e.g. anger, sadness and anxiety/fear).
Hopefully, the word will continue to spread that a predisposition towards negative emotions (hostility, anger, anxiety and depression) harms the heart and puts individuals at a greater risk of coronary heart disease. By learning stress management tools, anger management tools, and tools to increase the frequency of positive emotions, this risk can be reduced significantly.
About the Author
John Schinnerer, Ph.D. is in private practice helping people learn anger management, stress management and the latest ways to deal with destructive negative emotions. He also helps clients discover optimal human functioning via positive psychology. His offices are in Danville, California. He graduated from U.C. Berkeley with a Ph.D. in psychology. John has been an executive, speaker and coach for over 13 years. John is President and Founder of Guide To Self, a company that coaches executives to happiness and success using the latest in positive psychology. John hosted over 200 episodes of Guide To Self Radio, a daily prime time radio show, in the SF Bay Area. Schinnerer’s areas of expertise range from positive psychology, to emotional awareness, to anger management, to executive coaching. He wrote the award-winning, “Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Emotion and Thought,” which is available at Amazon.com. His blog, Shrunken Mind, was recently recognized as one of the top 3 in positive psychology on the web (http://drjohnblog.guidetoself.com). His new video blog, Real Emotion, Real Happiness is on scientifically-proven tools for anger management and stress management.