When Anxiety Shows Up as Anger: The Fear And Anger Connection:


Fear And Anger Connection: When Anxiety Shows Up as Anger

Can anxiety cause anger? Yes it can! Fear and anger are linked in many ways, and this shows up when you are hit by anxiety and anxious thoughts. This connection might come as a surprise, but it’s true. This article is going to talk about the connection between fear and anxiety, what happens when anxiety turns to anger.


  • Fear and anger are both threat-based emotions.
  • Studies show activation in the amygdala during both fear and anger.
  • Anxiety often shows up as irritability making it more difficult to catch.

I sat with a friend at a local fast-food stop. I had a lot on my mind. We talked. The waitress asked if we were talking to her, and I said, “No.” We kept talking. She said, “I like your dress.” “Thanks.” No eye contact. “Can I take that barbeque sauce from you?” “Yes!” I half shouted in a clearly irritated tone.

She looked shocked. I felt awful (and a bit shocked myself). She hadn’t done anything more than try to be friendly.

Related: When Depression Is a Symptom of Buried Anger: Here’s How To Heal It

Fear and Anger

We often think of fear and anger as separate emotions. When I think of fear, I envision a frightened puppy with his tail between his legs about to run away. Anger gives me more of a picture of a bear about the charge at someone standing near her young. There are different action urges.

Yet, fear and anger are in ways similar. These emotions trigger survival drives meant to protect us in case of a threat by activating a sympathetic system, gearing us up to fight off a threat or run away.

Fear and anger have shared neurophysiology. The amygdala, an almond-shaped brain region, shows increased activity in both fear and anger (Whalen et al., 2001). Survival emotions are physical.

The two emotions have quite a bit of potential to cross, particularly during times of stress. We might start off feeling angry and then turn to fear. More often, we switch from fear to anger.

Sleep deprivation that can accompany anxiety-provoking situations might make this particularly likely, as sleep deprivation is associated with hyperactivation of the amygdala (Yoo et al., 2007).

Fear and anger and their connection to anxiety.
When Anxiety Shows Up As Anger: The Fear And Anger Connection:

Anxiety and Irritability

Anxiety is usually experienced as a lighter shade of fear. Similarly, irritability is a less intense kind of anger. Clinical levels of irritability are common in anxiety disorders.

While fear and other stereotypical manifestations of anxiety often elicit empathy, irritability is off-putting to those around us. We can become angry with ourselves for our irritation, thus beginning a pile of painful emotions.

Because most people do not associate irritability with anxiety, many people are not aware that their irritation is anxiety.

Related: Anger And Irritability: The Lesser Known Symptoms Of Depression

What Can You Do?

In the short term, self-care through sleep, getting enough to eat, managing stress, and exercise are often enough to manage the anxiety-irritability connection. It can be tempting to beat ourselves up when feeling anxious and irritable.

Still, being kind to ourselves is a first step. When we can find spaces of comfort, we are likely to switch out of that sympathetic system-driven fight-or-flight mode and into our comfort system.

For those struggling with clinically significant anxiety manifesting as anger, psychotherapy can also help. Practices such as those taught in compassion-focused therapy can assist over time in building a greater sense of safety.

Cognitive behavioural therapy is another path, approaching the thought and behavioural aspects of anxiety by targeting habits of thought that feed anxiety like catastrophic thinking.

The connection between fear and anger and what you can do to deal with it.
When Anxiety Shows Up As Anger: The Fear And Anger Connection:

In Closing

Fear and anger are highly similar emotions. In the same way, anxiety often shows up as irritability. When this reaches problematic levels, psychotherapy and self-compassion can help.


Whalen, P. J., Shin, L. M., McInerney, S. C., Fischer, H., Wright, C. I., & Rauch, S. L. (2001). A functional MRI study of human amygdala responses to facial expressions of fear versus anger. Emotion, 1(1), 70.

Yoo S-S, Gujar N, Hu P, Jolesz FA, Walker MP (2007) The human emotional brain without sleep–a prefrontal amygdala disconnect. Curr Biol 17: R877–R878.

Written By Jennifer Gerlach
Originally Appeared On Psychology Today
when anxiety turns to anger
When Anxiety Shows Up As Anger: The Fear And Anger Connection:

— Share —

— About the Author —

Leave a Reply

Up Next

5-4-3-2-1 Coping Technique for Anxiety: A Great Method to Calm Your Anxiety

Coping Technique for Anxiety

If you are looking for a simple but effective coping technique for anxiety, look no further: the 54321 anxiety technique is your answer!

This technique is one of the easiest relaxation methods you can learn. So, whether you’re feeling overwhelmed or facing a stressful situation it will help you stay grounded in the present moment by using your senses.

Whether you’re dealing with occasional anxiety or looking for new tools to add to your mental health toolkit, this technique can be a valuable resource. In this blog, we will explore how the 54321 anxiety technique works and guide you through implementing it in your daily life. 

Understanding Anxiety and Its Unavoidable Effects

Up Next

Music Therapy: How To Use Music For Emotional Healing?

Music For Emotional Healing: Benefits of Music Therapy

Do you ever notice how your favorite song instantly lifts your spirits when it comes on? Or how it can calm your mind at the end of a stressful day? Well, that’s the power of music. It is not just some words and sounds, it’s a powerful tool that can also heal us. So, let us explore ways in which we can use music for emotional healing.

Can we use music for emotional healing?

Music heals. This is a fact known for centuries and holds true even to

Up Next

Is Your Depression Causing Anger? 4 Crucial Reasons to Address It

Is Your Depression Causing Anger? Reasons to Address It

Do you find yourself caught in an emotional tug-of-war? Is your depression causing anger? If every little frustration feels like it could explode into rage and snapping at loved ones for no reason has become a common habit, learn the ways to help yourself with depression and anger.

As an effect of depression, anger is quite common because we get tired of managing our depressed moods and get frustrated. Eventually, this affects our psyche and generates byproducts like irritability which negatively influence our daily lives. 

In this blog, I will help you understand when depression causes anger and how to manage it.

Scientific Connection Between Depression and Anger

Up Next

7 Proven Ways To Process And Heal From Collective Trauma

Healing from Collective Trauma: Strategies for Coping

Facing trauma not only as an individual but as a part of a community is real. It can happen for multiple reasons but grave societal issues are the primary ones.

Hence, sometimes this trauma can be inherited from the family as well. This is a shared collective trauma that elderly family members may pass on to their children and it continues.

Suppose your grandparents faced tremendous trauma for a particular type of social issue that may happen frequently but does not become a grave matter always. Hence, this fear of loss may pass to your parents and come to you.

So, now you have trauma for this particular type of social issue, and whenever you see it is going to happen you become extremely traumatized and anxious. Therefore, sometimes you may be a part of collective trauma unknowingly. 

Up Next

Depression Without Suicidal Thoughts: 8 Signs That You Have Been Ignoring

Depression without Suicidal Thoughts: Signs To Identify

Have you ever felt like you are going through the motions of daily life but not really feeling present or engaged? Many people experience depression without the extreme of suicidal thoughts, and it’s often overlooked or misunderstood.

Most of the time depression is associated with visible signs of sadness. However, sometimes it does appear with hidden signs.  You might think, “I’m just tired,” or “It’s just a rough patch,” but these feelings can be more than that. Depression can manifest in subtle ways that we often ignore or dismiss.

In this blog, we’ll explore 8 signs of depression that don’t involve suicidal thoughts—signs you might have been ignoring.

Read More:

Up Next

Anxiety Attack vs Panic Attack: How They Differ and Why It Matters?

Anxiety Attack vs Panic Attack: Must-Know Differences

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by sudden intense fear? Well, it’s important to understand the difference between an anxiety attack vs panic attack. Because whatever you are feeling is serious for your health and you need proper medical attention.

In modern life’s fast-paced rhythm, intense emotional overwhelm can strike unexpectedly. While both involve intense feelings of fear and discomfort, they differ in duration, triggers, and symptoms.

Recognizing these distinctions empowers individuals to seek appropriate support and strategies for managing these distressing but manageable experiences in their journey toward mental well-being.

This blog is going to be a handbook for those who are struggling with identifying panic attack signs, coping with anxiety attacks, and managing them. Keep following.

Up Next

3 Hacks To Stop Negative Thinking: It Worked For Me!

Hacks To Stop Negative Thinking: Master Self-Regulation

As someone who struggled to recognize negative thinking in myself, it took some time to understand I was doing it as a self-defense mechanism. I felt like I “had to” think negatively to keep myself safe. After a series of negative consequences, I discovered three easy steps to help stop negative thinking.

Negativity is not just in your thinking but also in your bad habits. It is also the words and vibes of others that you absorb. Unfortunately, we do not always have a way out of it.

3 Actionable Hacks To Stop Negative Thinking

Understanding the “why” behind your actions, responses, reactions, and behavior is necessary for your well-being. Negativity can sometimes come from our incorrect way of dealing with situat