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The Biology Of Anger
You’re driving on the freeway and starting to get irritated at the guy in front of you, who seems to think he’s driving through a school zone. Your irritation ignites the left cerebral cortex, which alerts a group of hypothalamic nerve cells deeper in your brain. These alerted cells quickly send signals down into the base of your brain. As you get increasingly pissed off, these signals trigger nerve cells that send outgoing messages to the adrenal glands on top of your kidneys that tell them to start pumping out cortisol, adrenaline, and other catecholamines into your bloodstream – preparing you for action.
When the adrenaline reaches your heart, your heart starts pounding harder and faster – fast enough to give you high-blood pressure. The activated neural center has also stimulated sympathetic nerves that constrict the arteries carrying blood to your skin, kidneys, and intestines, so the adrenaline – which has opened your arteries – can furiously redirect that blood into your muscles to instantly ready them for fight or flight. The shot of cortisol you got intensifies and prolongs the effects of adrenaline, which is also sustained – along with elevated blood pressure – by a parasympathetic nervous system that has been disabled by signals from the hypothalamus.
This is all as it should be, if the driver in front of you was changing lanes erratically and then braked suddenly as the car’s transmission fell to the asphalt. All of these biological changes in your body would be put to good use. The problem is that this series of biological events are often triggered simply by angry or hostile thoughts, when there’s actually no real threat – like when the driver in front of you is just moving slowly. Another problem is that there are serious physical consequences to these events.
The adrenaline and cortisol that suddenly kicks in shuts down your immune system. Meanwhile, a patch of cells on the smooth inner lining of your coronary arteries gets chipped or eroded by the blood that’s surging through your bloodstream. Then, platelets designed to repair the chip and stop the bleeding, clot around the damaged spot and stimulate muscle cells to migrate to the inner surface of the artery. These cells will grow and multiply there – inside your artery.
Making matters worse, the adrenaline has also triggered the emptying of fat cells into your bloodstream. If the tranny actually hit the pavement in front of you, this added fat would give you the energy you’d need to respond to the situation. But since you won’t be needing that fat, your liver will convert it into cholesterol. Then, this excess cholesterol will get absorbed into the clot of platelets at the spot where the artery was damaged.
Now, fast forward. Those cells at the damaged part of your artery, which filled with cholesterol, have hardened into atherosclerosis – which is plaque that can block the flow of blood to your heart. This is why angry men are at greater risk for heart disease, which often kills them. And these men aren’t necessarily physically aggressive. Just being prone to hostile thoughts and feelings can increase a man’s risk.
Anger management, and anger therapy or talk therapy, are effective in reducing or eliminating the negative effects of unhealthy anger.