Study Finds that Childhood Trauma Is Linked to Anger Tendencies in Adulthood

Study Finds that Childhood Trauma Is Linked to Anger Tendencies in Adulthood

Researchers have recently found that people suffering from depression or anxiety who had a traumatic childhood often grow up to be angry adults. Not only that but the more severe the trauma is, the angrier they are as grown-ups.

In addition to being impactful on social interactions and on one’s mental health, this makes treating depression and anxiety more challenging.

Over 40 percent of patients with both anxiety and depression were found to be prone to anger, according to earlier research.

Comparatively, only 5 percent of healthy controls have this problem.

The Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety, created to look at the progression of depressive and anxiety disorders over time, provided the data for the current study.

The study started asking participants 18-65 years old about their childhood in 2004, and by the time it was finished, 2276 people had taken part in it.

They were able to determine if there had been childhood trauma history, such as parental loss or divorce by working over a number of years.

Participants were also questioned about abuse, including sexual, physical, and emotional abuse.

The participants’ tendency to become angry and how this manifested was also examined later for a number of psychiatric symptoms associated with both anxiety and depression.

The lead researcher, Nienke De Bles, explained that “There is rather little research on anger. The Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety is a well established study that has produced a lot of scientific data, but there hasn’t been any significant work looking at data on childhood trauma and if this is linked to higher levels of anger. We’ve now found that there’s a link.”

What they discovered was that individuals who were anxious or depressed and had a history of emotional neglect and emotional or physical abuse were 1.3 to 2 times more likely to experience anger issues.

In addition, they also learned that the tendency toward adult rage increased with the degree of childhood trauma. This seems to show a  clear connection between trauma and anger.

De Bles explains that “We found that kids who suffered emotional neglect had an increased risk of growing into irritable adults or easily angered, whereas those who’d been abused had a greater tendency towards anger or antisocial traits. Sexual abuse tends to result in a suppression of anger, possibly because of a higher sensitivity to rejection – but this needs to be further confirmed. Being easily angered can have a few different consequences. It can make interactions more difficult, and can have consequences for one’s mental health and well-being. But people who get easily angry also have a higher tendency to discontinue psychiatric treatment, so the anger may reduce their chances of a better life”.

She goes on to state that: “If the person bottles the anger up, the therapist may not even see it. We think that it should be standard practice to ask anxiety and depression patients about anger and childhood trauma, even if the patient isn’t exhibiting current anger. Treatments for past trauma might differ to treatment for current depression, so psychiatrists need to try to understand the cause in order to offer the correct treatment to each patient.”


Katherine is just getting her start as a journalist. She attended a technical school while still in high school where she learned a variety of skills, from photography to nutrition. Her enthusiasm for both natural and human sciences is real so she particularly enjoys covering topics on medicine and the environment.

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