Are men actually angrier than women? What does anger in men look like, what causes it, and what can you do about it?
Anger is a primal emotion, largely controlled by your amygdala, one of the evolutionarily oldest parts of your brain. Your amygdala is partially responsible for regulating your emotions, particularly fear, anxiety, and anger.
There are all kinds of things that might cause you to feel angry, from something as simple as dropping your keys to something as potentially life changing as a car accident. Other common causes of anger include:
- stress or anxiety
- feeling frustrated or unappreciated
- problems at work
- relationship troubles
- financial woes
- traffic or long waits
- being treated unfairly
- violence against you or others
We all feel and express anger, from shrieking newborns to frustrated retirees and everyone in between. Where men and women often differ is in how they express, channel, and deal with their anger.
Sex and gender exist on a spectrum. We use the terms “women” and “men” throughout this article to reflect the terms assigned at birth. But your gender identity may not align with the categories and associated risk factors listed below.
A doctor may be able to help you better understand what dysregulated anger will look like for you.
Men are often thought of as angrier than women but multiple studies (like this and this) have shown that’s not the case.
Men are, on average, more likely to express anger through outward aggression, which could partially explain why men are often perceived as angrier than women. Society generally views anger expressed by men as more socially acceptable than anger expressed by women.
Anger causes short-term physiological changes in the body, which can contribute to other health problems over time for men.
Expressing, communicating, and resolving anger in a healthy way can
Just as a vast array of things might make you angry, the expression and intensity of anger varies widely. Many factors can affect the expression and intensity of anger, including:
- the cause of anger
- underlying anger issues or another condition
- socialization (how we’re taught to express anger)
- when and where you feel angry (at home, with kids, in public)
- your current mood (happy, frustrated, tired)
Generally, anger is most often expressed in one of three ways:
- Outward. An overt, external expression of anger or aggression noticeable to others. This might include:
- Inward. This type of anger is directed at yourself, rather than others, though someone or something else may have caused it. It might involve:
- negative self-talk
- self-denial of simple pleasures or even basic needs
- Passive. This type of anger is often expressed through indirect and subtle actions, including:
- subjecting someone to the silent treatment
- being sarcastic (depending on context), being intentionally unhelpful, and snide remarks (microaggressions)
Research has repeatedly and consistently shown that men and women experience anger and angry feelings with the same frequency and intensity. Similarly, men and women report similar causes of anger, such as:
- family problems
- money troubles
One notable exception comes from a study on anger in men as a response to perceived threats to their masculinity.
The study found that, among the study’s subjects these threats resulted in:
- greater discomfort in public
- ideologies promoting men’s dominion over women
The results of this study may be partially explained by differences in how men and women are socialized to think about masculinity and to process and express anger. According to psychologist Sandra Thomas, of the Greater Los Angeles area:
“Both men and women have been poorly served by the gender socialization they have received. Men have been encouraged to be more overt with their anger. If [boys] have a conflict on the playground, they act it out with their fists. Girls have been encouraged to keep their anger down.”
Anger itself is frequently presented as a masculine trait. Men tend to talk about their anger less and act out their anger more. On the other hand, men are less likely to hold onto feelings of anger for a long time.
A 2014 study shows that men and women can both benefit from guidance on healthier ways to express anger, but women were slightly more likely to benefit.
Research from 2013 suggests that there may be a physiological component to gender differences in expressing anger, with women having a much larger orbital frontal cortex, part of the brain involved in regulating angry impulses.
Frequent anger, especially outward hostility, can
- coronary heart disease
- road rage/accidents
- increased alcohol consumption
- high-consequence behaviors (especially in men)
- high blood pressure
Some healthier ways to channel anger include:
- exercising or playing sports
- engaging in healthy activities enjoyable or cathartic to you
- writing or journaling
- talking through your feelings
Healthy expression of anger can help maintain mental health. Anger doesn’t need to be seen as an inherently “bad emotion.” If you feel like you may have deeper issues with anger, you can reach out to a healthcare professional for help. If you’re not sure exactly what anger issues look like, you can start here.
There are a number of possible causes of increased anger in people, including:
Anger is an emotion we all feel. There are many different causes of anger. Anger varies in intensity, expression, and type. Men are often seen as angrier than women, but studies have shown men and women experience anger with similar frequency and intensity.
Men tend to express their anger through aggression and outward hostility. Women are more likely to turn anger inward, but they’re also more likely to talk through their anger. Many of the gendered differences in anger appear to stem largely from differences in the way men and women are socialized.
Frequent feelings and expressions of anger can lead to increased health risks. Learning about healthy ways to express and channel your anger can help reduce these risks. There are a number of conditions that may cause increased anger.
Anger itself isn’t your enemy, nor is it inherently bad. If you feel like anger is interfering with your daily life, work, or relationships, consider getting in touch with a doctor.