It is not always anxiety the reason you do not feel well. Despite being on everyone’s tongues, anxiety is not the only feeling that impacts you negatively. If you have a difficult relationship with anger, you might have a habit of not acknowledging its existence in your body. Because anxiety is a fear-based feeling and fear is a high arousal emotion – like anger – it is prone to being mistakenly identified. In other words, if you do not tolerate your anger, you might call it “anxiety”. Those who do that, do not do it consciously, however. To help you understand what you are feeling and establish a healthy connection with your anger, keep reading to explore if are you feeling anxious or just plain angry.
Similarities between anger and anxiety
Anxiety, a fear-based feeling, and anger are both triggered by a perceived threat. You feel anxious/afraid or angry when you find yourself to be in some kind of danger. When that happens, your body gets ready to fight that dangerous thing, person or animal, freeze on the spot to deceive them or escape them. For that reason, anger and anxiety/fear have very similar physiologies. When your body is getting ready to fight, freeze or run away, your muscles tense up, your breathing becomes shallower, your heart beats faster and digestion is supressed. All your resources are mobilised for survival. Therefore, from a physical perspective, anxiety/fear and anger are similarly felt in the body.
Differences between anxiety and anger
While anxiety/fear and anger may be felt in similar ways, their triggers may not be the same. Anxiety/fear and anger are also experienced in different circumstances. Anxiety is a negative feeling over something that is yet to happen. Most people feel anxious before giving a presentation, for instance. They worry about their performance. That is anxiety. You have no means of knowing what will actually happen, but your anxiety puts you in a vulnerable position when it makes you focus on limitations and negative outcomes.
Anger, on the other hand, can be very empowering. You feel angry when you have a sense that you or your boundaries have not been respected. It is triggered to help you regain self-esteem and protect yourself and others. For that reason, anger is an emotional reaction to a threat. It is not there to anticipate it, although it does help prevent it – in the long run – because of its connection to self-assertive behaviours. Anger sends out a positive message of self-confidence and healthy power, when expressed in a functional, non-abusive manner.
To connect with your anger in an adaptive, functional way, resist the urge to repress it, soothe it or rationalise it. Feel it in your body – mindfully – and without judgement. Listen to its message and validate its importance in safeguarding your wellbeing, as well as of those who depend on you.