Why Do We Feel Anger?Anger over being ill is common and it may come and go, just as the IBD comes and goes. Anger at a chronic illness can be frustrating, because there is no real outlet for it. Anger at a person or an object might be dealt with in various ways, but an illness is intangible, and can't be reasoned with. A flare-up of the IBD may bring on feelings of anger, as might a diagnosis of an IBD-related complication, or the failure of a medication to quell symptoms.
When a diagnosis of IBD is made, anger may be one of the first emotions to surface. Anger at the body, anger at the disease, anger at the doctors, even anger at healthy people. IBD means a loss of some things that are perhaps taken for granted, such as feeling well or being able to leave the house. A chronic illness leaves a person vulnerable to many things, and that can result in strong feelings of anger.
Anger is an easily accessible emotion. In some cases, anger is what we allow ourselves to feel when other emotions are too painful to deal with. Anger can mask pain of all sorts, both mental and physical. But it can also be used in a positive way: to spark a person to action.
Dealing With Your Feelings of AngerMost of the time, anger is not healthy for us, but it can also be productive when channeled. Healthy or not, anger must be acknowledged and dealt with.
Anger may have a negative effect on your health. Unresolved anger is not beneficial to good health. Feeling anger about being diagnosed with IBD is normal and expected, but that anger also needs to be acknowledged. Once you can put a name to the feeling, you can begin to work through it and keep it from hijacking your life.
Recognize that IBD is the focus of your anger. Anger at the disease can wind up being misdirected towards doctors or even friends and family. The physicians who made the diagnosis or are treating the IBD are not the true cause of the anger. It is much easier to be angry at a person—and take out that anger on them—than it is to be angry at a disease. Remember that the people around you did not cause your IBD. In fact, they are probably the very ones who are working to help you heal.
Remember that IBD itself can cause irritability. Having IBD is going to mean that you will have some bad days. The good news is that everyone has bad days, and most people will be sympathetic if you let them know what's happening with you. When you feel anger coming on, remember that what you're feeling is being affected by the IBD. Learn to recognize when you're having "one of those days," and remember to take a few minutes for some stress relief before you act on your anger.
Avoid your anger triggers. Can you identify what is triggering your anger? Perhaps your anger is triggered by a long wait at the doctor's office or a well-meaning family member offering medical advice. Let the members of your healthcare team and others around you know what your anger triggers are so they can help you avoid them. A little bit of communication can go a long way towards avoiding the people, places, and things that spark your anger. If you absolutely can't avoid a situation that will provoke you, focus on finding a way to work through and diffuse your feelings.
Find a positive way to deal with your anger. There are many outlets for anger that you can explore. After you understand why you're angry, and what you're really angry about, you can start to diffuse it. Some ways of short-circuiting your anger are counting to 10 before you act on your feelings, deep breathing, and meditation. You can also work to avoid your anger triggers. If your triggers involve other people, such as health care personnel or family members, be sure to let those people know
If your anger overwhelms you, seek help. It's possible for anger to consume your personality, and to affect every part of your life. If you discover that your anger is causing problems in your everyday life or preventing you from managing your IBD properly, get help from a qualified professional. Your gastroenterologist or your internist will be able to recommend a mental health care professional who has experience in treating people who have IBD.