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What Is the Connection between Denial and Anger?

By B. Miller
Updated May 17, 2024
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Denial and anger can be linked for a number of reasons. One of the most common reasons is because people with anger issues often do not realize they have them, or simply refuse to admit it. Remaining in denial like this not only makes the anger more difficult to resolve, but it can also exacerbate the issue. For instance, some people will react with even more anger if someone points out to them that they appear to be in denial about it. Another way in which denial and anger are linked are in the five stages of grief.

Psychologists often point out that denial and anger are the first two stages of grief that people move through. This theory was first developed by psychiatrist and researcher Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in the late 1960s, as she attempted to determine how people process their grief. She discovered that many people initially begin with a refusal to believe that something bad has happened; the next stage, anger, can take many different forms. Some people lash out at those around them, while others will direct their anger inward and blame themselves. The remaining three stages of grief, after denial and anger, are bargaining, depression, and eventually acceptance.

The grieving process is not the only time denial and anger are linked, however. Frequently, people who deal with anger issues, or have trouble managing their feelings of anger in a productive way, will be in denial about this problem. As a result, they not only refuse to seek help, but may lash out at anyone who suggests that they have an anger problem. This can often just serves to make the problem worse, and to make it more and more difficult to deal with the anger issues. A therapist can help an individual to begin to recognize that he or she is in denial, and to begin to deal with anger.

Some people with depression or other mental disorders will also experience denial and anger. For some, anger is the safest way for them to express their emotions; for instance, it might be too overwhelming to express sadness or fear, but anger allows them to share their emotions in a safer way. They might be in denial that their anger is representing anything other than anger itself, but for many people, anger is simply a disguise for sadness, anxiety, or other issues that they have yet been unable to face.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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