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Anger Management and RA

I believe that among the many emotions those of us with chronic illnesses like RA have to contend with, anger is one of the most challenging.  Not simply because it is a tough emotion to deal with in general.  That is certainly true.  Rather it is the negative effects it is known to have on our health, both physical and mental.  If you stop and think about how your body reacts to anger you will recall that there are a number of bodily responses.  One is the “fight or flight” response where our heart races, our blood pressure goes up, our body temperature rises, etc.  Since there is no need to flee, this response, if left unchecked by anger, is not healthy.  Over time it can lead to anxiety, depression, insomnia, headaches, digestion problems, even heart attack and stroke.

The “RA anger” can be tough to recognize

Anger, as it relates to RA, can not only be tough to deal with, but may also be an emotion we fail to recognize.  There are so many emotions that confront us as we often struggle to manage a chronic disease like RA, that separating them, and dealing with them is yet another task to perform that may get shoved aside in the chaos.

That said, understanding where that anger comes from and then responding to it and managing it can be a significant step forward in our journey.

Anger as a result of the onset and ongoing nature of disease is, first and foremost, NORMAL. So if you have never felt any degree of anger about it, you may have passed through that stage blissfully fast, or perhaps have suppressed it.  The former is your good fortune, the latter, not so much.

RA brings on a gamut of emotions

I can openly admit that in the early stages of the disease there are a lot of emotions from fear to anxiety to depression and most certainly anger, that come together in a “stew of emotions”.  They are not always easily separated and do not necessarily appear as distinct and separate.  It is part of the process of RA management to address the emotional components of the disease.  To do so, will make your entire journey more deliberate and successful.

As to anger, there are nuances to this emotion as it relates to RA.  Not only was I angry at some point in the early stages, but to this day I have moments of being angry.  Everything as minor as being angry when I cannot lift the grocery bag and have to rely on someone else, to something major like having yet another treatment fail.

The thing is, there are healthy ways to channel this so that our health is not further compromised by anger. First of all, if you explode in anger that is a sign you are not handling it well.  If, every time you have an inkling of anger, you suppress it that is a sign you are not handling it well.  Rather, identify the anger BEFORE you react.  By doing that you immediately put the control of how to respond in your own hands and not that of unchecked reactions.  Once you identify it, calmly consider the source and the possible ways to contend with it.  For instance, if you are angry because your insurance has not approved a medication and both you and your physician know is the one you need, channel that anger into a plan of action.  Use that burst of energy to review how to address the problem.

Another useful way to channel energy is the physical response.  Many is the time that I have done an additional swim workout or another Tai Chi session to release the energy that arises from anger.  The serotonin replaces the cortisol and not only does that help you physically but also mentally.  The same is true of stress-relieving practices like meditation or massage.  They too flip the body’s response to one of positivity, wiping away the negative side effects of anger.

By taking anger and using it to manage our RA, we have transformed it into something useful.

The truth is, addressing anger in all of its glory, can make the anger work FOR you, not AGAINST you.


This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • suann
    11 months ago

    My anger comes in different forms, some times I Know its there, other times it comes from no where.. Like I dropped my cane on my foot at the doctors office a few weeks ago, rarely do I curse but it hurt so bad I said s.o.b. My grand daughter who is 17 got upset with me for saying it then my anger really took wings and flew…Today im trying to cook on grill, I cant keep it going while outside content anyway, I have 2 13 yr olds who one wants to show out in front of a friend grabs the others controller and breaks it..Instant anger, im going on how I dont go to their house and dstroy their things or to show out..Im still angry.. Little things I could deal with in life id like to break a face some time..I live with pain 24/7 from ra,oa,lupus,psa, fibro, just to name a few, I wonder am I angry because im in pain or angry because I cant do anything about it,, My anger makes me what to pack up and shag arse..Like these kids, they stay at my house knowing im not able to wait on them like I once did, they do nothing to help clean and im instant angry, I say im going to their house to hang with peace and quiet while they are here..Ive never been so quick to anger before. I dont like it, I feel petty childish at times…

  • jewel
    11 months ago

    Sue Ann, I feel your pain and frustration! I have had RA for 30 yrs. I am always in pain. It is frustrating to need help with everything but getting very little help anything. I find myself holding an anger inside that I don’t like, and also outburst, fortunately just to myself so far. But maybe it would be better if others knew my anger and frustration? I would give anything to be able to do things like I used to and to wake in the morning without my first thought being “pain”. I am so sorry for your pain and hope you can get some relief very soon.

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips
    12 months ago

    I agree that dealing with anger is the best way forward. I hope I can someday figure out the best way to deal with anger in general. Anger has possible and negative aspects it compels us some days and restrains us other days.

    RA, like most things, does both for me.

  • tckrd
    12 months ago

    While reading this O said to myself I have never been angry about having RD. Then you talked about being angry about not being able to do things, that I have been. Thank you for your insights.

  • rockcandi
    12 months ago

    One way I used to channel my anger into something positive was to do housework. Instead of exploding on someone who likely wasn’t the source of it and definitely deserve to be treated as such, I’d take my anger at not being able to carry groceries into the house and use it to put those same groceries away five minutes later. I did have to check my anger bc I realized after awhile that I would hold onto it bc the adrenaline I produced would cause most of my pain to “go away” and give me a burst of energy. Now I’m learning to not sweat the small stuff. This article helps me with the big stuff like anger at my insurance company. It’s a great suggestion to use it to come up with a plan of action and review how to address the problem. Thanks for another great article Nan!

  • mcadwell
    12 months ago

    Anger is the only thing that keeps me going! I am angry at my body but most of all I’m angry at the doctors that told me the pain was all in my head and refused to take x-rays (3 doctors). I’m angry at the doctors that didn’t listen to me. I’m angry at the doctors that treated me like a drug seeker. I’m angry at the doctors that didn’t read my chart – the important information that could have gotten me a diagnosis years before it happened. If it weren’t for my anger I would shrivel up and not be able to do anything. I will not give up my anger because it is now all I have.

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