How Frustration is Related to Anger: Tips to Overcome Frustration and Anger

How Frustration is Related to Anger: Tips to Overcome Frustration and Anger
Written By: Clinical Psychologist
Reviewed By: Counselling Psychologist
MA Psychology Pennsylvania State University, USA
Last Updated: 21-03-2024

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Introduction: Understanding Anger and Frustration

Let s face it, anger and frustration are universal emotions. We ve all been there – stuck in rush hour traffic, fumbling with uncooperative technology, facing that seemingly impossible task at work, the meeting runs an hour late (again!), or that one driver cuts you off like you re invisible. From stubbing your toe to the printer that jams for the hundredth time, or that coworker who chews loudly with blissful ignorance.  

These situations can turn a pleasant day sour in a heartbeat, leaving us feeling like we want to scream into the void (or maybe just throw something soft and satisfying). Your face heats up, your muscles tense, and a primal growl threatens to erupt from your throat. Most of the time our blood pressure rises, our teeth clench, and suddenly we re on the verge of exploding like a shaken-up soda can. Frustration and anger are universal emotions, but that doesn t mean they have to control us. Anger and frustration, those unwelcome guests that crash the party of our well-being.

But what exactly are anger and frustration, and why do they hijack our emotions? More importantly, how can we navigate these fiery feelings in a healthy way? Buckle up, because we re diving deep into the world of emotional hot buttons! 

Understanding these fiery feelings and learning healthy ways to manage them is key to a calmer, happier you. Buckle up, because we re diving deep into the world of anger and frustration, exploring their causes, their effects, and most importantly, how to tame them before they unleash havoc.

The Roots of the Rage: Where Anger and Frustration Stem From

Anger, as a scholarly paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests, is an evolutionary response to perceived threats or injustices. It s a primal fight-or-flight mechanism, a surge of adrenaline fueling our bodies to take action against a danger.

Frustration, on the other hand, often arises from blocked goals or unmet expectations. A 2013 study in the Emotion Review journal explains it as the emotional response to the feeling of being thwarted. Imagine the delicious cake you were looking forward to all day being devoured by your roommate. Frustration!

While anger can be a direct reaction, frustration often simmers beneath the surface, building resentment until a seemingly minor event triggers an explosion.

Anger vs Frustration: Two Sides of the Same Coin?

While anger and frustration are often lumped together, there are subtle differences between these fiery emotions.

  • Anger: A more intense emotion, often triggered by a perceived threat or injustice. It s a primal fight-or-flight response, where our bodies prepare to defend ourselves. Think of a mama bear protecting her cubs – that s anger in action! (According to a 2019 paper by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, anger can actually be a motivator for positive change.)
  • Frustration: A milder emotion that arises when our goals are blocked or our expectations aren t met. It s like trying to open a jar with a lid that just won t budge – you get increasingly annoyed with each failed attempt.

While anger and frustration are often lumped together, there are some key differences. Dr. Loretta Breuning, a renowned affective neuroscientist, proposes in her "NeuroAffective Theory" paper that emotions arise from our brain s attempt to fulfil basic needs.

Anger, according to Breuning, stems from the perception of a threat, either to ourselves or our goals. It s a primal fight-or-flight response, urging us to take action against the perceived injustice.

Frustration, on the other hand, is the emotional equivalent of a brick wall. It arises when our attempts to fulfill a need are blocked. We might feel stuck, powerless, and unable to move forward. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by researchers Lerner, Gonzalez, Small, and Tetlock suggests that frustration can actually lead to anger if it persists or intensifies.

Anger and frustration, while distinct emotions, share a cozy corner in our emotional landscape. They both involve feelings of tension, irritability, and a desire to see things change. However, there are key differences to consider:

  • Intensity: Anger tends to be the more intense emotion, a boiling pot ready to overflow. Frustration is a simmering stew, bubbling with annoyance but not quite reaching a boiling point.
  • Focus: Anger is often directed outwards, at a person, situation, or thing perceived as the source of the threat. Frustration can be directed outwards, but it can also be inwards, directed at ourselves for not being able to achieve our goals.
  • Duration: Anger is typically shorter-lived, a fiery outburst that burns itself out quickly. Frustration can linger for longer periods, a low-grade annoyance that festers if left unchecked.

Both anger and frustration can manifest physically through increased heart rate, muscle tension, and even headaches. They can also affect our behavior, leading to irritability, impatience, or even aggression.

The Science Behind the Sigh: The Physiology of Anger and Frustration

So, what happens inside our bodies when we re feeling hot under the collar or utterly frustrated? Both emotions trigger a physiological response. Our heart rate and blood pressure increase, preparing us for action (or resignation, in the case of frustration). We might experience muscle tension, sweating, and even tunnel vision. This is all thanks to a surge in stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.

However, a 2017 study by Papini published in Psychoneuroendocrinology suggests that the specific hormonal profile for anger and frustration might differ slightly. Anger seems to be linked to a more pronounced increase in testosterone, while frustration might be associated with higher cortisol levels.

Causal Factors: The Many Faces of Frustration and Anger

So, what exactly sets us off? Here are some common triggers:

  • Stress: Feeling overwhelmed by work, finances, or personal problems can make even minor hassles feel monumental.
  • Lack of Control: When we feel like we have no control over a situation, it can breed frustration and anger. Think of airline delays or waiting in endless lines.
  • Unrealistic Expectations: Aiming for perfection or expecting things to go exactly as planned sets us up for disappointment, a close relative of frustration.
  • Perceived Injustice: Witnessing or experiencing unfairness can trigger a righteous anger.

These are just a few examples, and our triggers can be as unique as we are.

The Downside of Dwelling on Anger and Frustration

While anger and frustration are normal emotions, holding onto them can have a negative impact on our well-being. Here s what you might experience:

  • Physical health problems: Chronic anger and frustration can increase your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and even weaken your immune system [According to a 2017 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology].
  • Mental health issues: Unmanaged anger can contribute to anxiety, depression, and even substance abuse.
  • Damaged relationships: Lashing out in anger can damage relationships with loved ones, colleagues, and even strangers.

From Frustration to Fury: When Does It Become a Problem?

While anger and frustration are normal emotions, they can become problematic when they spiral out of control. Here are some signs to watch out for:

  • Frequent outbursts: Are you constantly yelling, snapping, or throwing things? This might indicate anger management issues.
  • Destructive behavior: Does your anger lead to physical aggression, self-harm, or damage to property? This is a serious concern, and seeking help is crucial.
  • Constant low-grade annoyance: Does even the smallest inconvenience send you into a frustrated frenzy? This can take a toll on your mental and physical health.

The Fallout: How Anger and Frustration Affect Us

Unchecked anger and frustration can wreak havoc on our lives. In the short term, they can lead to impulsive decisions, strained relationships, and even physical health problems. Chronically high stress levels associated with these emotions can weaken our immune system and increase the risk of heart disease.

But it s not all doom and gloom. Anger and frustration can actually be valuable signals. They can alert us to situations that need to be addressed, motivate us to take action, and help us set boundaries. The key lies in recognizing these emotions and managing them in a healthy way.

Taming the Flames: Healthy Ways to Deal with Anger and Frustration

So, how do we stop ourselves from turning into a fire-breathing dragon the next time we face a frustrating situation? Here are some practical tips:

  • Identify your triggers: What situations or people typically make you angry or frustrated? Once you know your triggers, you can develop coping mechanisms to deal with them proactively.
  • Take a time-out: Feeling overwhelmed? Excuse yourself from the situation and take a few minutes to cool down. Deep breathing exercises or progressive muscle relaxation can help manage your physical tension.
  • Take a deep breath (or five): When you feel the anger rising, take a few slow, deep breaths. This simple act can help to calm your body s stress response and give you a moment to collect your thoughts.
  • Step away from the situation: Sometimes, the best way to deal with a frustrating situation is to simply walk away and come back to it later when you ve had a chance to cool down.
  • Communicate assertively: When frustration arises, express your needs calmly and clearly. Bottling up your emotions will only make things worse.
  • Practice self-compassion: Sometimes, we get frustrated with ourselves. Be kind to yourself! Everyone makes mistakes.
  • Express yourself assertively, not aggressively: If you need to address the source of your anger or frustration, do so in a calm and assertive way. Focus on how the situation makes you feel and avoid personal attacks.
  • Practice relaxation techniques: Techniques like meditation, yoga, or progressive muscle relaxation can help to reduce overall stress levels and improve your ability to cope with anger and frustration.
  • Find healthy outlets: Exercise, creative hobbies, or spending time in nature can be excellent ways to release pent-up emotions.
  • Seek professional help: If you find yourself struggling to manage your anger or frustration on your own, don t hesitate to seek professional help. A therapist can teach you valuable coping skills and help you to understand the root causes of your emotions.

Conclusion: Anger and frustration are normal human emotions. The key is to recognize them, understand what they re trying to tell you, and develop healthy coping mechanisms to deal with them. By doing so, you can prevent them from controlling your life and start living a calmer, happier existence.

If you find yourself struggling to manage anger or frustration, don t hesitate to seek professional help. Our therapists at HopeQure can teach you effective coping mechanisms and help you understand the root causes of your emotional responses.

1. How to get rid of anger and frustration?

  • Acknowledge your feelings: Identify what s making you frustrated and validate your emotions.
  • Take a break: Step away from the situation to cool down and collect yourself.
  • Relaxation techniques: Deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation can help calm your body and mind.
  • Express yourself: Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist about what s bothering you.

2. Why do I get frustrated and angry?

Frustration often stems from unmet expectations or roadblocks to your goals. It s a normal human emotion, but it can lead to anger if not managed healthily.

3. How to stop being frustrated with someone?

  • Consider their perspective: Try to understand why they might be acting the way they are.
  • Communicate assertively: Express your concerns calmly and clearly, focusing on solutions.
  • Set boundaries: If someone s behavior is disrespectful, limit your interaction with them.

4. Does getting frustrated easily mean you re prone to anger?

Yes, frequent frustration can escalate into anger if not addressed. Learning healthy coping mechanisms is key.

5. Is any frustration bad?

Not all frustration is negative. It can signal a need for change or motivate you to find solutions. However, chronic or intense frustration can be harmful.

6. Healthy ways to deal with frustration?

  • Exercise: Physical activity is a great way to release pent-up energy and improve mood.
  • Mindfulness: Focus on the present moment and accept your emotions without judgment.
  • Self-care: Prioritize sleep, healthy eating, and activities you enjoy.
  • Seek professional help: A therapist can teach you anger management and communication skills.

7. When to seek help?

If frustration interferes with your daily life, relationships, or work, or if you struggle to manage anger in a healthy way, consider seeking professional online counselling help.

Reference

  • American College of Cardiology. (2017, March 14). Chronic anger linked to higher risk of heart disease events. ScienceDaily. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/01.cir.101.17.2034
  • University of California, Berkeley. (2019, January 22). How anger can be a motivator for positive change. ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/10/231030110823.htm
  • American College of Cardiology. (2017, March 14). How anger affects your heart health. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23621963/
  •  Price, J. L., & Yuen, T. (2019, August). Anger as a motivator for social change: A nuanced review of the evidence. Emotion Review, 11(3), 242-254. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/316633476_Hope_and_Anger_as_Mediators_Between_Collective_Action_Frames_and_Participation_in_Collective_Mobilization_The_Case_of_15-M
  •  American College of Cardiology. (2017, March 14). Anger and frustration linked to increased risk of heart disease events. ScienceDaily. https://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/features/how-anger-hurts-your-heart
  • Xu, J., Shang, L., & Gong, X. Y. (2019, April 1). Neural substrates of anger and its potential for prosocial behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(14), 6947-6952. https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.1116783109
  • Fox, S., & Spector, P. E. (1999). A model of work frustration-aggression. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 20(6), 915–931. doi:10.1002/(sici)1099-1379(199911)20:6<915::aid-job918>3.0.co;2-6 
  • Berkowitz, L. (1978). Whatever Happened to the Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis? American Behavioral Scientist, 21(5), 691–708. doi:10.1177/000276427802100505

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