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What makes people angry and aggressive?

Did you know that you may feel angry and irritable because of a vitamin deficiency? Find out more...

Written by Mita Majumdar |Updated : June 5, 2015 11:00 AM IST

Anger is a normal, healthy emotion and in itself it is not a problem. But when it makes you lose control of your behaviour and rationality, you need to find the reason for your anger and fix the problem. If you or anyone you know is suffering from anger or rage related issues, read on to understand why this happens and what to do about it.

Anger can either be passive or aggressive

Passive anger is difficult to recognize because it is repressed, and you may not even realize you are angry. Counselling is a good way to help you identify the object of your anger and help you deal with it. Here are 5 reasons anger is bad for your health.

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Aggressive anger is, however, far more dangerous because it can result in physical damage to you and others (and also property). You may be aware of your emotions though you may not always understand what is causing this violent rage. Sometimes it may be because of a condition called Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED). However, all types of aggressive uncontrolled anger are not IED.

There are a number of other physiological causes and diseases that cause your aggression and you may not even be aware of it.

Warning signs that your anger could be uncontrollable or aggressive

  • Constant and excessive irritability, rage, and periods of emotional detachment
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Difficulty organizing or managing your thoughts
  • Urge to hurt yourself or others
  • Heart palpitations, tightening of chest
  • Headache, pressure in the head or sinus cavities
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Fatigue
  • Tingling sensation

Why do we become aggressive and violent?

We don t know for sure whether uncontrolled anger and aggression are symptoms of certain diseases or a consequence of those diseases. But, research indicates that disturbance or change in the chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, can lead to violent outbursts and aggressive behaviour.

Neuroscientists have also found that damage to certain regions of the brain, such as the prefrontal cortex, amygdala (site for emotions, fear and stress) and the angular gyrus (involved in cognitive functions and language) can result in uncontrolled anger. (2) Here's how you can control your anger with Osho's simple trick.

Can diseases / disorders cause uncontrollable anger and aggression?

Life science researchers have long known that mental health disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, dementia and Alzheimer s disease manifest in uncontrolled anger and aggression.

They also know that physiological health issues such as high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, problems with digestion can cause your aggressive and sometimes violent behaviour. But, the question is does it work both ways? Does uncontrollable anger and aggression be the cause of some of these diseases?

Yes, believe experts.

Probable diseases and physiological causes of your uncontrolled anger and aggression

Brain injury

Uncontrolled anger and aggression is one of the common consequences of brain injury. Dr Jonathan Silver, a clinical professor of psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine says Aggressive or irritable behaviour is very common after brain injury. We know that depression is certainly a risk factor for aggressive behaviour, but it also stems from some areas of the brain that are injured.'

So, if you have an injury to the front part, the prefontalcortex, the result of thatis disinhibiting other areas of the brain. Things that you think about and not do without a brain injury, you will do without thinking after a brain injury .


A Korean study published in the journal Neurology reveals that inability to control anger or aggression (ICAA) is actually one of the major behavioural symptoms in patients with stroke. (2)

The neurologists found that 32 percent of the stroke patients they interviewed had ICAA and was closely related to motor dysfunction including speech disorder, emotional incontinence, and lesions affecting frontal cortex of the brain. Here are 6 lifestyle tips to prevent stroke

They suggested the aggressive behaviour was more because of the brain damage rather than distress over their condition.

Heart attack

Heart attacks and heart disease have been linked with depression and other emotional changes. Many people struggle to cope with their emotions even after years of having a heart attack. They can feel emotions ranging from anxiety and depression to rage, frustration, and loss of confidence. Beware angry outbursts could actually give you a heart attack!

Researchers have attributed the origin of heart disease and heart attacks to changes in the brain, serotonin pathways and inflammatory response. All of these, as we know, are directly linked with rage and aggression.


Chronic fatigue and depression are the most common symptoms of hyperparathyroidism. And experts believe depression can be caused by high blood calcium (over 10.0 mg/dL). Writes Dr James Norman in his Hyperparathyroidism Blog

Have anger management problems? Depression? Chronic fatigue? Better check your blood calcium levels! Today we operated on a 40 year old man from New Jersey. Although Robert is only 40 years old, he had open heart surgery last year with coronary bypass because his heart arteries are prematurely plugged (by calcium deposits!). He has been treated for chronic fatigue and depression on and off for the past 10 years, but not in the past 2 years. Robert s current problem is that he is having increasing troubles at work, with frequent bouts of anger and occasional rage directed towards other co-workers and sometimes clients. His wife left him 2 years ago because of his anger problem. During the divorce she told him 'You ve changed! You are not the loving man I married 14 years ago. You are angry, crazy, depressed, and mad all at the same time!'

Robert is slowly dying of a parathyroid tumor and hyperparathyroidism. (5)

Vitamin B 12 and iron deficiency

Lack of vitamin B12 can lead to irritability and aggressive behaviour along with fatigue, rapid heartbeat, insomnia, easy bruising and bleeding and stomach upsets. Research has established that vitamin B12 deficiency causes deterioration of the myelin sheath covering the spinal cord and nerves. This alters the brain function by disturbing dopamine neurotransmission. Result acute behavioural disturbance. On top of that if you have high serum folate levels, it can aggravate the symptoms. So can the lack of other B-vitamins such as niacin and thiamine. (Read: 10 reasons you really need vitamin B12)

You may be surprised to know that iron deficiency contributes highly to aggressive behaviour. Iron is highly concentrated in the dopamine pathways and its deficiency reduces dopamine transmission causing behavioural impairment. Here are some natural ways to increase hemoglobin levels.

Lead poisoning

Children are more prone to lead poisoning through lead paint in toys and are more sensitive than adults because their intestines absorb lead much faster. Also, the developing nervous system of a child is more vulnerable to toxic agents than the mature nervous system of an adult. (Read: What you need to know about lead poisoning)

A number of studies have established a link between lead toxicity and aggressiveness in children.

Food sensitivities

Research suggests that 70 percent of children with behavioural problems are because they are intolerant to certain foods, especially artificial colours and preservatives.


Some drugs too can be the reason why you get hyper at the least or no provocation! The National Institute on Drug Abuse, U.S, reports that anabolic steroids such as testosterone, when used in high doses increase irritability and aggression.

There are also cases where ADHD drugs cause mood swings and aggression in children, but as yet this has been reported only in less than 10 percent of children.

Antidepressants can sometimes cause uncontrolled anger in older adults. According to Dr Charles Raison, Psychiatrist, Emory University Medical School, One of the thorniest issues in all of medicine is how to tell whether any given medication is helping more than hurting any given patient at any given time. This becomes especially relevant in older folks who are often on tons of different medicines, all of which have their own side effects, and all of which can usually interact with one another. (Read: Antidepressant drugs all your queries answered)

One such drug according to him is Prozac, which could have side effects like hostile or angry feelings and impulsive actions.

How can you manage your anger and aggression?

The first and foremost suggestion from experts is that you reduce your stress levels. How? Walk, run, swim, do yoga, practice tai-chi or meditation or any activity involving exercise and relaxation. Breathing exercises are good to reduce your stress levels. 'You automatically breathe in more than out when you re feeling angry, and the trick is to breathe out more than in,' says Isabel Clarke, a clinical psychologist specializing in anger management.

Breathe out longer than you breathe in and relax while breathing out, she recommends.

Tips to manage your anger

  • Get creative to release tension. Writing, dancing, music and painting are all great stress busters.
  • Get enough sleep. (Here are 7 simple tips for a good night s sleep)
  • Discuss your feelings with a friend.
  • Try to let go of thoughts that make you angry.
  • Avoid alcohol and psychedelic substances. They will make your anger problems worse. (Here's what alcohol does to your mind and body)
  • And of course, the most important one get professional help if you are unable to control your anger.

Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured , said Mark Twain. He is absolutely right!

5 reasons anger is bad for your health

Control your anger with Osho s simple trick

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  1. Miczek KA, de Almeida RM, Kravitz EA, Rissman EF, de Boer, SF, et al. Neurobiology of escalated aggression and violence. Journal of Neuroscience. 27(44): 11803 11806 (2007)
  2. Kim J, Choi S, Kwon S, Seo Y. Inability to control anger or aggression after stroke. Neurology. 2002;58(7):1106-1108. doi:10.1212/wnl.58.7.1106.
  3. Phillip J, Robert A. Depression, anxiety, and cardiac morbidity outcomes after coronary artery bypass surgery: a contemporary and practical review. Journal of Geriatric Cardiology. 2012;9(2):197-208. doi:10.3724/sp.j.1263.2011.12221.
  4. Slade TB, Bharadwaj RS. A Case of Acute Behavioral Disturbance Associated With Vitamin B12 Deficiency. Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2010;12(6):PCC.10l00968. doi:10.4088/PCC.10l00968oli.
  5. Olympio K, Gon alves C, G nther W, Bechara E. Neurotoxicity and aggressiveness triggered by low-level lead in children: a review. Rev Panam Salud Publica. 2009;26(3). doi:10.1590/s1020-49892009000900011.

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