Anger can be a challenging emotion to work through.
Sometimes our anger can be frightening. Or, maybe we consider it inappropriate to even feel this way at all.
Not only that, when anger is misdirected, it often leads to poor choices, damaged relationships, and even violence.
So what’s really going on in the brain and body when anger is triggered?
We thought it would be helpful for you to have a way to visualize this. (And please feel free to make a copy of this to share.)
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- The first spark of anger activates the amygdala before you’re even aware of it.
Sources of anger
– FearNow the amygdala is ready to turn on the stress response system ibn your brain and body.
Scientists named this stress response system the “HPA axis” because it consists of the Hypothalamus, the Pituitary gland, and the Adrenal glands.
In this system, a chain reaction of hormones prepares your body to respond to stressors like anger.
Here is how it works:
- The amygdala signals the hypothalamus
- The hypothalamus signals the pituitary gland by discharging CRH (corticotrophin-releasing hormone).
- The pituitary gland signals the adrenal glands by releasing ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone
- The adrenal glands secrete stress hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.
When these hormones are produced, they quickly impact your neurons and cells. This is important because that impact usually isn’t a helpful one.
(We put a lot of work into creating these resources, so please include the copyright information and attribute to NICABM if sharing. Thanks!)
For more practical tools and strategies to help clients manage anger, have a look at this short course featuring Stephen Porges, PhD; Marsha Linehan, PhD; Peter Levine, PhD; Ron Siegel, PsyD; Pat Ogden, PhD; and other top experts.
Now we’d like to hear from you. What have you found helpful in working with anger? Please leave a comment below.