Unhealthy Outbursts: What You (and Celebs) Should Do Instead

If you (or your favorite celebrity) are prone to outbursts of anger, you may be hurting your health. Find out how to curb strong emotional outbursts.

Joe Wilson's rant was rebuked by the House of Representatives. Serena William's tantrum cost her the U.S. Open—and got her fined $10,500. Kanye West's onstage antics led to an off-the-record presidential censor. And Glenn Beck's on-air rage has Time magazine wondering if he's bad for America.

Celebrity meltdowns aren't exactly new: Remember Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic tirade? And Zinedine Zidane's 2006 World Cup head-butt?

But losing your cool in public seems so commonplace these days that experts are scrambling for explanations, from technology (it's made us less patient) to narcissism (everyone just wants more time in the spotlight). Others write it off to a general loss of manners and civility.

Whatever the reason, emotional outbursts are no longer considered a good way to blow off steam. Today, psychologists say public ranting and raving may take a toll on your physical and emotional health—and your career.

Anger is natural, but dangerous
Anger, of course, is a naturally occurring emotion that once was crucial to survival. Anger can temporarily make you stronger, help you ignore pain, and improve endurance—all skills that were once critical to hunting and proving dominance.

However, it can also pose health risks. Anger raises your heart rate and blood pressure as it pumps your body full of stress hormones. In fact, one study found that angry people are five times more likely to die by age 50 than calmer people. Learning how to control your anger will help your heart and could even save your life.

But we live in a culture that is reinforcing these outbursts, says Stuart Fischoff, PhD, a professor emeritus of psychology at California State University, in Los Angeles, and the senior editor of the Journal of Media Psychology. It seems there's some truth to the old saying "There's no such thing as bad publicity."

When Christian Bale blows up on set, he books interviews; when Bill O'Reilly screams at a teleprompter, hundreds of thousands of viewers search for the clip online. Celebrities learn to adopt "bad behavior, when what it provides is some kind of career advancement," says Fischoff. "As long as this culture continues, you can expect this behavior to continue."

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Sarah Klein
Last Updated: September 18, 2009

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