No, It's Not Just Your Imagination — Why Everyone's Angry & In A Terrible Mood Lately

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It's Not Your Imagination, Everyone Is So Angry Right Now

The past year has been characterized by a whole range of not-so-positive emotions from confusion to claustrophobia and everything in between. 

The panic and chaos of the early months of the pandemic quickly gave way to isolation. Isolation was later replaced by fatigue and boredom, then a deep-seated rage seemed to brew in all of us as the summer months grew hotter. 

This pandemic-anger has been one of the lasting symptoms of the virus. It comes out in how we feel when watching the news, it breaks through when we see others skirting restrictions or flouting COVID-19 rules, and it might even be creeping into the relationships you have with those closest to you. 

This deep-seated existential response is grown from frustration, restlessness, lack of control, grief and an all-around feeling of, “What even is life right now?”

Pandemic-policing and public shaming are breeding feelings of anger. 

Part of the way humans deal with and make sense of crises is to moralize them. We shame and stigmatize things that we feel threatened by. 

This has been happening long before COVID-19 but the unique parameters around it and the prevalence of social media have enabled excessive shaming and guilt-tripping. 

The virus is an invisible threat, so we’ve learned to make tangible rules and moral obligations around it to give us something to hold on to. But these rules often look different from person to person. 

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This creates a culture of public-shaming as we channel our frustration about our own safety measures into how we deal with others. 

Most of us would rather not have to follow COVID guidelines at all. We’d rather the virus didn’t exist. We’d prefer if we could live our lives the way we used to. So it can be upsetting, or even anger-inducing, when you see others breaking rules that you wish you didn’t have to follow.  

Outbursts of anger or frustration directed at others have become fairly common throughout the pandemic. 

One study on 2,237 UK participants between 16-75 revealed that 56% of participants reported having had arguments, anger, or a falling out with others because of COVID-19. 

22% of participants admitted to having confronted someone about the virus. All of these people stated that anger was a primary driving force behind these confrontations. 

Your pandemic rage is likely being misdirected. 

One thing this study failed to find is any connection between these outbursts of anger and improved positive emotions. Anger often breeds more anger and traps us in a vicious cycle. 

We spoke to Dr. Paul Greene, a psychologist with the Manhattan Center For Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. For Greene, the link between the pandemic and anger is tenuous. 

“I wouldn't say there is anything inherently anger-inducing about the pandemic,” he tells us. Though it’s possible that the very valid feelings of anger you’re experiencing stem from other factors associated with the pandemic." 

The rise of financial burdens, grief, and health concerns are all part of the unwanted changes the pandemic has created which may be leaving you angry with your life’s new trajectory. 

“Change can be frustrating when it's not one we wanted,” Greene says, “Frustration can become anger if we don't manage it well.”

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Anger may be making the pandemic worse. 

Mentally, anger is exhausting and won’t rectify any of the perceived challenges of the an individual's circumstances. But it can also be counterproductive from a public health perspective. 

Stigma and shame make people more likely to hide symptoms or avoid accessing treatment. It also alienates people and makes them less likely to follow rules that benefit the greater good of a society that has shunned them. 

Creating more societal divisions pushes people further into echo chambers that validate how they approach the pandemic. 

If someone is constantly shamed for not wearing a mask they’re going to seek out people who don’t shame them instead of engaging in a healthy conversation about why they should be following rules. 

Replacing anger with more productive discourse around mental health, COVID-19 rules, financial concerns, grief, and all other factors causing anger can be healing for yourself and others. 

Anger is personal, though we often project it onto other people or external factors. Greene suggests confronting your anger in a way that channels it into something non-destructive. 

“It can be helpful to do something physical that really engages your body,” he tells us “Emotions like anger are physical experiences as well as mental; coping with them can involve physical activity. Sometimes intense exercise can help us manage anger effectively.” 

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Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Catch her covering all things social justice, news, and entertainment.