"Stories" from the Collective (YOU)

Anxiety... or Anger?

by Guy
(Cambridge, UK)

Anxiety is one of the most common conditions I see in counselling. But for what it's worth, I think that it often masks anger. Understanding it in these terms and addressing this underlying anger can therefore be a helpful way to beat anxiety.

The link between the two isn't immediately obvious, but I think it can be explained this way. A bit like stress, anxiety is your body's response to a perceived threat in your environment. That could be physical danger or, more commonly, work stress, problems with a relationship, money worries and so on. Anxiety and stress differ in that anxiety is disproportionate - it doesn't seem to fit the circumstances - whereas stress occurs in response to a trigger. Broadly, though, they're both your body's way of preparing you to address some kind of challenge.

Anger is your body's way of telling you something is wrong too. Anger gives you the tools to address a confrontational situation - perhaps giving you the courage to speak up or, in extreme circumstances, defend yourself or someone else. If you don't address the situation that caused it, instead denying it and pushing it to the back of your mind, that situation of course remains unchanged. You tell yourself you cannot fix it, thereby giving up the initiative that the anger gives you - telling yourself you are powerless.

Repeated for long enough, this leads to anxiety because it leaves you feeling that you have no control over your situation - the very definition of anxiety. Regaining initiative is vital to reducing that feeling of powerlessness and the anxiety that comes with it. Understanding where the anger comes from and directly addressing the situation that causes it is helpful in doing this, since it allows you to fix the source of the problem - not just its symptom. In these circumstances, anxiety can be diffuse and hard to get a handle on, but anger is often a helpful pointer to the real source...

Guy is a counsellor, author and founder of www.stressingout.org, a website dedicated to dealing with the common and related conditions of stress, depression, anxiety and low self-esteem

Comments for Anxiety... or Anger?

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May 03, 2013
Thank you!
by: Kate

Hello Guy

I've just read your post and found it very helpful - thank you. I woke up wondering if anxiety can mask anger, and having searched the question your article came up. I've pinpointed the issue causing the anger causing the anxiety, worked out what I want to do and now feel great and ready to enjoy my bank holiday weekend rather than mulling and ruminating over it. So thank you very much; I wanted you to know that because of people like you, people like me get to have a better quality of life.

All best wishes

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