Painful consequences of anger suppression

Emotion. 2007 May;7(2):400-14. doi: 10.1037/1528-3542.7.2.400.


The authors experimentally examined the effects of anger suppression on pain perception. On the basis of ironic process theory, they proposed that efforts to suppress experiential or expressive components of anger may paradoxically enhance cognitive accessibility of anger-related thoughts and feelings, thereby contaminating perception of succeeding pain in an anger-congruent manner. Participants were randomly assigned to nonsuppression or experiential or expressive suppression conditions during mental arithmetic with or without harassment. A cold-pressor task followed. Results revealed that participants instructed to suppress experiential or expressive components of emotion during harassment not only reported the greatest pain levels, but also rated the anger-specific dimensions of pain uniquely strong. Results suggest that attempts to suppress anger may amplify pain sensitivity by ironically augmenting perception of the irritating and frustrating qualities of pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anger*
  • Arousal
  • Attention
  • Female
  • Frustration
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Irritable Mood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Threshold*
  • Problem Solving