When I first opened up to a therapist about my symptoms of anxiety, I mostly focused on the fear and paranoia that I felt. Those things didn’t cover all the emotional difficulties that I had in my life but I felt like they were the most important. Despite that, I couldn’t understand so many of the strong feelings that I felt just because I didn’t even realize that they were related to my anxiety.
Of course, I felt nervous and worried, but I would also experience terrible bouts of rage that I couldn’t explain. I assumed that I just had a bad temper or that there was something else wrong with me. What I didn’t realize at that time was that anxiety doesn’t always show itself as fear, sometimes it looks like anger.
It’s not that I would wake up one day feeling extremely paranoid, then wake up the next feeling furious. These were two feelings that could blend together and merge or transform from one to the other.
One minute I could be worried that someone was hurt because they hadn’t replied to my call. Then the feelings of fear would fester and change into a blind rage, leaving me furious that they didn’t reply. It was mentally draining, and sometimes even physically exhausting too.
Understanding this change is not an easy feat. It’s taken me years to get my head around it, even with the help of my therapist. What I’ve learned is that anger is a way to help people feel in control of their anxiety. It’s a way to turn fear into a more mentally rewarding emotion. To understand that though, you’ll need to understand the meaning of both of these feelings.
The Root of Both Emotions
Every human emotion has its own underlying cause and evolutionary meaning. Originally, anxiety or stress was a way to signal to the human body that it’s in danger. Anxiety disorders happen when your mind thinks that there’s a threat nearby, even if there’s not.
On the other hand, anger stems from frustration. When things aren’t going the way that you want them to, you can react in fury. From an evolutionary point of view, it was a way for our ancestors to get a surge of hormones which could help them defend themselves and their loved ones. Nowadays, it also helps people to feel in control.
What My Anxiety Really Is
Yes, it’s true, sometimes my anxiety is shaking in fear. It can leave me unable to breathe or pacing from place to place trying to slow down my racing thoughts. Sometimes it’s less obvious and I can sit in silence, motionless, while my paranoia takes over my mind.
On other occasions, however, my anxiety just makes me seem like a terrible person with a short fuse. I’ll snap at the people around me because something seemingly tiny went wrong. Even worse than that, I’ll scream at the people that I love just because I can’t handle my own mind.
The biggest thing that I’ve learned from all this is that no matter what face I may show, I still feel afraid. Living like this is a nightmare. I’ve lost friends because of the way that I behave and doomed relationships before they’d even begun. Although I didn’t understand why I acted the way I did, I do now. At this point, all I can do is try and get a hold on my emotions and stop them from controlling me.
If you have anxiety that presents itself as anger, then please know that you are not alone. You’re not a bad person as long as you take the initiative and try to help yourself to get better.