Dr. Kristin Schaefer-Schiumo| Manhasset NY

Lose That Grudge

As human beings we often want people to know when we're hurt and we want the responsible party to pay for their unjust actions. The question is, "Is that so wrong?" The simple answer...yes! It is now clear that holding onto anger and a desire for some sort of retribution has profound physical, emotional, and interpersonal consequences. I'd like to discuss why it's better to forgive than to hold onto that grudge.

Anger can make us physically sick.

The American Heart Association found that high levels of anger may increase the risk of coronary artery disease, particularly in older men, and the Mens Health Network has linked high levels of anger to increased risk for high blood pressure.

Short episodes of anger carry health risks too.

A study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that people were five times more likely to have a heart attack and three times more likely to have a stroke following a short outburst of intense anger.

Anger affects your mental health.

Upsetting situations have a way of living rent free in our minds. They often lead to a seemingly endless looping of negative thoughts that can affect our mental health. Anger has a way of worsening anxiety, stress and depression. Drs.Peter Levine and Dan Siegel have explained that holding onto angry emotions can manifest into something quite dangerous. Both have discussed the evolutionary benefits of anger...allowing us to stand our ground and fight (or flee). This rush of cortisol and adrenaline proved very important in the days of protecting ourselves from the bear or securing needed food in dangerous situations. But, in today's high tech world, being perpetually angry (and in a state of hyper-arousal) keeps you from thinking clearly, taking new perspectives and handling being provoked effectively. In our current world, the costs clearly outweigh the benefits.

Anger may be associated with developing type 2 diabetes.

The National Institute of Health has published data stating that anger could lead to type 2 diabetes through risky health behaviors. Individuals with the highest levels of anger had a 34 percent increased risk of developing this disease compared to those with lower levels of anger. Those with chronic anger wee found to be more likely to smoke and to have higher caloric intake, both associated with the development of type 2 diabetes.

Showing intense anger may make an impression on our children.

Many people believe that our children can sense and absorb what goes on around them. Children mold their behavior to their environment, working to meet spoken and unspoken expectations. This may be particularly true for anger. According to a study in the Journal of Cognitive Development, babies not only sense anger but adjust their behavior around it. Furthermore, even toddlers have a long memory when it comes to anger and can accurately classify who the "angry one" is based on previous outbursts of anger.

Holding onto resentment is likely causing more stress.

Living through trying situations is difficult enough. But living through these situations over and over again in our minds may be causing more harm than good. Not letting a challenging situation go causes bitterness and anger, which lead to higher levels of stress and an increased heart rate. What is all of this telling us? Holding onto anger, or that grudge, seems to be hurting us and our children more than it hurts the person who is the source of our anger. So, what is the solution you ask?


Research has shown that forgiving others, and ourselves, lowers our physiological stress responses. It also seems that forgiveness lightens more than just our spirits! A study published in the Journal of Social Psychology and Personality Science found that those who thought about practicing forgiveness jumped higher than those who focused on a time of conflict before jumping. Another study found that those focusing on forgiveness, instead of wrongs, reported improved sleep patterns. Finally, our relationships with family and friends improve when we ask for and give forgiveness. So, please work toward improving your physical, emotional, and social health by working to reduce anger and to forgive.