What Is Repressed Anger?

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  • Written By: Cynde Gregory
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 23 October 2019
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Even the most saintly of souls has felt a moment or two or pure rage. In general, people respond to anger in one of two basic ways. The first is potentially healthier, and that’s to express it through words or actions, as long as such expression is under control. The second method of dealing with rage is to shove it as far inside as is possible and ignore its presence. Repressed anger might seem the more polite response, but it can be dangerous enough to cause a heart attack or extreme emotional issues.

Most people would assign the range of human feelings into two categories. “Good” feelings are those such as happiness, affection, and love. Sympathy, most would say, is also a positive emotional response to another person. At the other end of the spectrum, so-called “unhealthy” emotions would include hatred, disappointment, and anger. In fact, the full range of emotions are neither morally good or bad in and of themselves. They simply are what they are.

The negative associations with anger aren’t based upon the emotion itself but upon unhealthy ways of expressing it. Lashing out physically or with harsh words might momentarily help someone suffering with rage to feel better, but it is not a healthy expression and can result in damaging relationships. Equally damaging, however, is repressing the anger so that others don’t have to experience it.


Repressed anger is redirected toward the self. By holding in negative feelings, many people feel they are behaving in a civilized manner. In fact, they might be momentarily easing what could be an uncomfortable social situation, but little else is resolved. Holdin in anger may rapidly result in depression or feelings of resentment. Over time, the anger can contribute to physical health problems; in fact, many researchers suggest there is a link between repressed anger and some types of cancer.

Anger is the manifestation of a sense of power, and when properly handled, it can be a healthy and positive response. Anger arises when an expectation or a desire is frustrated. It can erupt unexpectedly or build slowly as disappointment adds to disappointment. Unexpressed anger is often the result of feeling disempowered; it seems that expressing the anger is pointless, and so a person avoids it.

In fact, there are a number of good reasons why repressing anger is a bad idea. In addition to compromising physical or emotional health, repressed anger can also stymie healthy intimacy. Holding in anger isn’t the same as healing it; in fact, anger that has been stuffed can’t be healed. True intimacy is built upon honesty and trust, and anger that is being disguised as something else is, essentially, the kind of lie that can ultimately destroy feelings of closeness.


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Post 2

Repressed anger caused me to have some health issues. I know it was responsible in part for my high blood pressure, and probably my anxiety attacks, too.

I finally got counseling and talked about things that have happened to me and my anger about them, and I am dealing better with these issues, now, but I have to make sure I'm setting appropriate boundaries with people and not allowing them to take advantage of my lack of ability to say no to them. I feel better now, and know I am in better health because I have done the work I needed to do to get through these things and I feel better about myself as a person.

Post 1

In spite of the fact that my mom was something of a "rageaholic" when she was younger, I think she still has a lot of repressed anger towards her family, and it's just now coming out.

She's 85 and has had a tough life, where her family is concerned. She is not dealing with some of her past events very well. She didn't deal with the events when they happened, because you just didn't go to counseling or anything then. If it was available, which it usually was not. So now, she will start talking about these events and will become very upset. It upsets me because she has never been able to move on from some things. It's very sad that she was not able to get the help she really needed.

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