Handling the Anger Naturally Associated with End-Stage Renal Disease Improves Health Outcomes

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Many people who have Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) feel justifiably angry. Anger is a normal and healthy emotion and you should not feel guilty about experiencing frustration, but if it is not handled  appropriately  it can damage essential personal relationships and even your health. These feelings are the result of a perceived loss of control over your life including powerlessness to determine your diet, employment/income, medication regime, and physical and emotional reactions to treatment options.

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Anger that is sporadic and not appropriately expressed will trigger your body’s "fight or flight" response which will cause your adrenal glands to flood the body with stress hormones, such as cortisol. Your brain shunts blood away from the gut and towards the muscles, in preparation for physical exertion, increasing your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing.  As a result, the temperature of your body rises and skin perspires putting your mind on heightened alert. In real terms, mismanaged anger will affect your clear minded thinking and behavior patterns as well as stimulate high blood pressure, heart problems, severe headaches, skin disorders, and digestive blocks.

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Some consider anger to be a "bad" emotion, but suppressed anger is much worse. It is known to be a  leading cause of anxiety and depression. Eventually  you will have to let the "steam off" and will likely end up venting to a close person in your life which could serve to challenge  an important relationship. As a person with CKD, you must not allow your disease to define the kind of person you are. When your temper flares up, practice deep-breathing exercises, imagine a relaxing scene, or repeat a calming word or phrase, such as, "Take it easy." Do whatever it takes to encourage yourself to relax!

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Lightening up the mood with a little bit of humor can help to diffuse any confrontational situation. But do not use sarcasm because it can hurt feelings and make others defensive. Practical humor, however, can lower the defenses of both parties and open a free-flowing stream of communication.

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Forgiveness is a powerful tool to use. If you allow anger and other negative feelings to crowd out your positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice. But conversely, if you can forgive someone who angered you, you might both learn from the situation. It's unrealistic to expect everyone to behave exactly like  you want them to at all times.

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Although expressing anger is better than keeping it in, anger should be expressed in an appropriate way. Frequent outbursts of anger are often counter-productive.  Such outbursts are also stressful to your nervous and cardiovascular systems and can make health problems worse. Learning how to use assertiveness appropriately is the healthy way to express your feelings, needs, and preferences. Being appropriately assertive can also be effectively used in place of using anger in most situations.

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Again, anger is a normal and even healthy emotion but it's important to deal with it in a positive way. Uncontrolled anger should be avoided.  Understanding that you are the most powerful person on your healthcare team can be the first step in regaining a feeling of control in your life, and thereby reducing your potential for anger. Only you can choose how to conduct  and define yourself in-spite of the effects of CKD. You should feel free to talk to your healthcare team for support and advice to correct any issues you may have with controlling  angry feelings.

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References: 

Staff, Mayo Clinic. "Anger Management: 10 Tips to Tame Your Temper." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research

"Men's Health." Mental Health: Managing Anger

 "Anger and Chronic Kidney Disease." DaVita.