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3 min read

Why am I always angry? Here is what psychology says.

woman struggling with anger issues

In the realm of human emotions, anger is considered one of the most severe. It's often considered unprofessional, unfair, and unproductive.

Of course, science says anger is both necessary and inevitable. If you're never angry, that's certainly a concern.

Even the professional mental health world—that's us—recognizes that anger is part of a healthy emotional landscape.

But if you're angry all the time or if little things set you off, it may indicate a deeper problem.

Let's explore the brain science and psychology behind anger and learn about why some people are prone to excessive amounts.

Here's a spoiler: If your prefrontal cortex isn't operating at its best, it could be causing your consistent anger.

Anger Resources On This Page:

The Brain Science Behind Anger

Why might my prefrontal cortex not be controlling my anger?

Therapy for Anger Issues in Austin: Williamsburg Therapy Group

The Brain Science Behind Anger

Anger is a complicated physiological process that occurs in a number of steps. From stimulus to cool-off, here are the steps that happen in your brain when you experience anger.

Step 1: A Stimulus Sets Off Your Amygdala

So you're driving on the highway, and someone in a lifted Chevy Silverado cuts you off and almost makes you crash. Time to get mad.

Almost instantaneously, your brain gets to work. Its first stop is the amygdala.

No bigger than a garbanzo bean (or a chickpea, if you like), your amygdala is the fear center of your brain. Anger and fear are two sides of the same coin.

Stimulated by the clown in the truck, your amygdala sets off a surge of hormones that affect the chemical balances in your brain. This causes the sensation of anger.

Step 2: A Catecholamine Cocktail

Once stimulated, your amygdala sends signals to the rest of your brain to start producing immense quantities of a neurotransmitter called catecholamine.

Catecholamine has a singular goal: to get your body ready for combat.

Catecholamine is basically nature's preworkout. It gives you intense bursts of energy and makes your muscles work harder. This process developed in the prehistoric era and gave our early, early ancestors an edge when fighting off predators.

It's also why a lot of people want to hit things when they get mad. With no saber-tooth tigers around to take the blow, the energy tries to escape in other ways. In our example, your knuckles might turn white as you grip your steering wheel and mumble a number of time-out-earning obscenities.

Of course, we're quite a bit more advanced now than we were back when we were cavemen, so we also evolved a method to control our anger.

Step 3: The Prefrontal Cortex

Once the stimulus that caused the anger is gone (our man in the Silverado takes an exit), we have to reign in our amygdala and catecholamines so that we don't boil over.

Enter the prefrontal cortex.

If your amygdala is Mr. Hyde, acting on impulse and ignoring everything else in favor of retribution, your prefrontal cortex is Dr. Jekyll.

The prefrontal cortex is the brain's logic and judgment center. It puts the brakes on runaway anger so that you can return to your old charming self before you arrive back at home.

With that, we have arrived at our original question: You might be angry all the time because your prefrontal cortex is too busy to control your anger.

Why might my prefrontal cortex not be controlling my anger?

Speak to a psychiatrist or psychologist about your specific anger management issues. This article is a general information guide.

There are a number of factors that can contribute to your uncontrolled anger. Let's explore a few of the most common and what you may be able to do about them.

It's Preoccupied

This is the underlying brain physiology that explains anger influenced by external situations.

For example, if you're going through a brutal work week or have a family member in the hospital, your prefrontal cortex may be so busy analyzing that situation that it's not prepared to control anger flare-ups.

To address this, consider going to therapy or journaling in order to take some of the mental load off. The less you have on your mind, the better your mind can cool itself off.

It's Hungry

Glucose, also known as sugar, energizes a lot of the brain's processes. If you have low blood sugar, your prefrontal cortex may not be getting the energy it needs to control your anger.

You've probably heard the term "hangry." It's real, so eat a candy bar and cool off a bit.

It's Depressed

Those with depression have been found to have diminished activity in the prefrontal cortex during bouts of anger, suggesting that the chemical imbalances in the brain associated with depression may also cause excessive anger.

Therapy with a licensed professional, along with certain medications, can help with this.

It's Damaged

In people with traumatic brain injuries to the prefrontal cortex, the anger response appears to be heightened and to last longer.

If you recently hit your head at all, you should see a doctor. If you recently hit your head and are feeling cognitive symptoms, you should go to the hospital as soon as possible.

Therapy for Anger Issues in Austin: Williamsburg Therapy Group

Barring a traumatic brain injury and low blood sugar, therapy may be able to address the reason for your uncontrolled anger.

If you're ready to try therapy, give us a call to get matched with a trusted, doctoral-level psychologist in Austin.

Feeling better may be closer than you think.

Book a Therapy Session in Austin Today

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