WE all know someone whose usual temperament could be described as angry. A study by the Mental Health Foundation showed that a third of those asked felt they had a close friend or family member who was angry most of the time.

Indeed these people may be us. In the same survey, over a quarter of those questioned admitted concern about personal anger issues.

Anger is a basic human emotion, similar to happiness and sadness. It is often the result of a feeling of injustice against the individual themselves; persons close to them, or even objects to which they hold value or importance. It may be due to an isolated event, for example something getting in the way of what you had hoped to achieve today. However it can be deeper seated. Examples of this include childhood or sexual abuse, or the loss of a loved one, after which the individual is unable to resolve their feelings.

In the immediate setting, anger stimulates the release of stress hormones including adrenaline and cortisol, which prepare us for “fight or flight”. Your heart rate and blood pressure increase rapidly and muscles become tensed. Controlled anger can be a productive emotion, spurring us on to change things for the better. However, our body’s immediate desire is to get rid of the excess stress hormones. Unfortunately this can end in aggression or even physical violence. Long term untreated anger has been demonstrated to increase your risk of anxiety and depression, as well as high blood pressure and heart disease.

While it may be easy to see anger in others, it is often more difficult to recognise personal issues. Sufferers may feel their behaviour is a result of the actions of those around them. If you are concerned you have anger management problems, it may be helpful to talk to those close to you whom you can trust, to get an idea of how other people view you.

The first step after admitting you have a problem is to find ways of dealing with immediate bursts of anger. Try counting to ten, rather than just responding in a way that you may regret and may struggle to undo later. Concentrating on deep breathing may assist with controlling your blood pressure and heart rate. If all fails, removing yourself from the immediate situation can prevent any conflict escalating.

In the medium term, focussing on your general wellbeing has shown to be beneficial. Try to identify some focus of enjoyment, be that exercise, meditation or indeed any hobby you find pleasurable. Avoid maladaptive coping mechanisms such as drinking to excess as this often only makes anger worse.

If despite these measures you feel your anger remains unchecked, you may consider counselling. This can help if you have deeper issues. If the anger is towards your partner, relationship counselling should be explored. Although it is important not to let your anger boil over, nor should you simply bottle it up as this is equally unhealthy for you and those you care about.

Ask Dr Zak

Question: I know I’m a heavy drinker and I’ve been epileptic for some years. I’m still having seizures which are upsetting for my children to see. I’m really keen to help myself – Martyn, 40

Answer: Well done on plucking up the courage. Alcohol directly irritates the brain making your chances of a seizure greater. If you are drinking heavily, please do not try to stop at once as this could cause a seizure itself. Try to reduce gradually, for example by one drink every two nights, until you are at a sensible level, at which point you could stop altogether if you felt you wanted to. You also need to take your anti-epileptic medication without fail. If despite sensible alcohol consumption and taking your medication, you still get seizures, you need to speak to your GP, who may amend your prescription, or refer you to the local neurology service

Question: My GP has said that I have raised blood pressure. I don’t understand why as I don’t smoke, drink very rarely and run three times a week – Dickie, 55

Answer: As you correctly identify, you are following all the current advice on measures to maintain a sensible blood pressure, so please do keep this up, and don’t think that your efforts have been in vain. Unfortunately, raised blood pressure is also in part due to the ageing process, and as we become older our blood vessels become stiffer and less able to relax. If left untreated, in the long term you will be at higher risk of heart attack and stroke. Yet by maintaining your healthy lifestyle, you are still contributing to your overall wellbeing as well as reducing your risk of any complications.

If you have a question for Dr Zak, please email: askdoctorzak@gmail.com

W: doctorzak.co.uk

T: @AskDoctorZak

Dr Uddin’s advice is provided in good faith and in accordance with currently accepted evidence. However, this content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should always seek the advice of a GP, or other qualified health provider, regarding a medical condition.