May 23, 2011
Anger is an unhealthy emotion. My patients continue to be stressed over work, the cost of gas, insurance; you name it, they get angry. While I can treat anxiety and depression, there is no easy answer when it comes to being angry.
Last week, I treated a patient who was clearly wronged by his neighbor. I know there are two sides to every story; but for the purposes of this story, let’s concede that he was wronged. The incident is long since passed but the emotional effect is near catastrophic. Patient X is not sleeping well. He is short tempered with his friends, co-workers, and his family. He has acid indigestion. His blood pressure is elevated for the first time in his life.
Patient X is experiencing the effects of chronically triggering his neuroendocrine system. His body, in response to a perceived threat, is pumping him full of hormones and neurotransmitters. It is trying to protect him from a non-existent threat. Instead, his body is harming itself. If X cannot pull it together, he will eventually deplete his neurotransmitters, leading to depression, fatigue, and pain.
Patient X has options. He can seek counseling, turn to his faith to find forgiveness, meditate or move. Patient X refuses all his options. His family and friends don’t know how to help. I continue to search for options. Medications are out of the question. Patient X does not like taking pharmaceuticals. Patient X, like so many angry people, thinks he is fine. It’s everyone else who is at fault.
Anger is like a fire; it spreads. “X” is angry every time he fills his gas tank. He feels that the petroleum industry is ripping off the public (I agree). He is angry when he has to wait in my lobby. He is angry if his kid accidentally spills his milk. The incident with his neighbor lit the fire and now it is roaring out of control.
A few days ago, a representative of NeuroSciences came to my office to teach me about a new series of tests her company offers. Her company has the capacity to test cortisol, serotonin, dopamine, and epinephrine levels, as well as many others. These neurotransmitters are the ones that Patient X’s anger is triggering. Through a collection of saliva and urine, NeuroSciences can calculate what X’s hormonal composition is and perhaps, armed with concrete evidence of the effects of X’s anger, I can help him find a solution. Perhaps, knowing that his anger is causing damage to his neurotransmitters and, his neurotransmitters are injuring him, he will accept counseling and medication.
The moral of this story is that anger is a harmful emotion. It is human nature to get angry. Anger has to be dealt with quickly, through whatever means is necessary, and then let go of. We live in a very complex and stressful world. There is a lot to be angry about. There are also a lot of reasons to feel blessed. Count your blessings every day. It will help when you get angry. (http://livewellthy.org/2010/11/23/blessings-list.aspx)