November 24, 2009 - PhysOrg.com
People with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) feel more than twice as much withheld anger as the general population and this could have an adverse effect on their relationships and health, according to a study published in the December issue of the European Journal of Neurology.
Italian researchers assessed 195 patients with MS, using a range of scales that measure anger, depression and anxiety, and then compared them with the general population.
They were surprised by the results, which showed that while patients experienced almost twice the normal level of withheld anger and exerted low levels of control on their anger, their expressed anger levels were similar to the general population.
This, together with the fact that the elevated withheld anger levels were not related to the severity of the patients' MS, suggests that these inconsistent changes were caused by nervous system damage, rather than an emotional reaction to the stress of the disease.
"We believe that the higher levels of withheld anger shown by the study subjects is due to demyelination, loss of the substance in the white matterthat insulates the nerve endings and helps people receive and interpret messages from the brain" explains lead researcher Dr Ugo Nocentini from the IRCCS S Lucia Foundation in Rome.
"The way we process anger is controlled by complex interconnections between the subcortical and cortical systems, notably the amygdale and basal ganglia and the medial prefrontal cortex. We believe that the demyelination process that causes the root symptoms of MS also disrupts the pathways that control how we deal with withheld anger."