"I'm So Mad I Could Just..."
Out-of-Control Anger and Your Health
Laura Imperia, a 44-year-old registered nurse from Jacksonville, Oregon, isn't proud of her temper. "I don't get angry often, but when I do, it gets ugly," she admits. "A few years ago, I had just moved into a new house and I kept misplacing everything -- my keys, my cell phone, my address book. I felt so frustrated. I called a friend at home to ask her for help with something, but I got her machine."
Failing to get through to her pal, by any measure a minor setback, pushed Imperia over the edge. "I wasn't so much mad at her as just totally fed up with my own disorganization," she says. "I threw my phone across the room, screaming obscenities. But I hadn't actually turned off my new phone, so my entire tirade was all recorded on my friend's answering machine. When she came home and heard the message, she called me and timidly asked, 'Laura, are you okay?' I answered, 'Oh, you just got an example of one of my tantrums.' I had nothing left to do but say I was sorry and laugh at myself."
A rampage like this can certainly leave us feeling sheepish once we're no longer seeing red. But is there more serious, longer-lasting damage? Every other day it seems that we are faced with a new cautionary headline: Anger Causes Headaches, Anger Shown to Raise Blood Pressure, Anger May Lead to Cardiac Arrest, Depression, Stroke, Cancer, Asthma Attacks.... Heck, anger has even been linked to gum disease. In the family of human emotions, good old-fashioned fury is looked upon as an ugly stepsister with a nasty, catching case of the croup.
But it's a lot more complicated than that.