Connections Between Anger and Addiction

Many people associate anger with addiction, either through personal experience or perhaps the way that addiction is often portrayed in the media. People often ask if you are a “happy drunk” or an “angry drunk,” especially if you are a heavy drinker or have chronic alcoholism. Some people may be more prone to anger and then use substances to exacerbate it, while others develop anger issues as they develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Is there a reason that anger and addiction are associated with one another? What is the connection?

Understanding Anger and Addiction

To understand why people get angry when they experience drug addiction or chronic alcoholism, it is important to understand what anger is, as well as what anger is not. Anger is an emotion whose purpose is to alert you to something that is wrong. Anger helps you to pay attention and take action to protect yourself. Anger can bring to the forefront of our minds our annoyance, irritation or distress at something that is happening.

One common misconception is that anger is negative or wrong because anger can be as unpleasant to witness as it is to experience. Anger expressed in a way that does not harm others can bring about change and resolution for you and for others.

Anger and aggression are often mistaken for one another. There is a difference between expressing anger and using aggression. Communicating your emotions expresses anger while using emotions, words or physical manifestations of anger constitutes aggression.

What Types of Information Does Anger Give You?

When you are angry, your mind or body is trying to bring different types of information to your attention. These can include:

  • Someone or something harming you
  • Mental, physical or emotional pain
  • Frustration, annoyance or irritation at a person or situation
  • Feeling that you have been wronged by someone or something
  • A lack of justice for you or others
  • Witnessing abuse or harm to others

This is the information that you are being given, but how you react is up to you. Some people display anger in obvious ways, some people will take their anger out on someone or something and some people keep their anger bottled up. Another common way to deal with anger or any other painful emotion is to turn to drugs or alcohol, which can easily become drug addiction or chronic alcoholism.

Which Came First, the Anger or the Substances?

Everyone has their own unique personality, and many people seem to be prone to become angry more often than others. Whether this is situational, because they have experienced a lot of pain in their lives, or just a personality trait, anger can be a predictor of future substance abuse.

On the other hand, it is common for substances to increase anger. What happens when you drink alcohol every day? You can become more irritable, frustrated and easily annoyed. The same is true for other substances, particularly cocaine. These factors can increase as your need for substances increases, as well. There is no set rule as to the cause, but there is a strong connection between addiction and anger.

The Connection Between Anger and Addiction Treatment

Another misconception around anger involves treatment. People who have a lot of anger come into treatment expecting the anger to just go away, but it can actually get worse. Even people who are not prone to anger find that they are suddenly overwhelmed with feelings of anger, especially if they have never expressed their anger.

That is because addiction recovery treatment is a process, not a cure. One of the most important aspects of treatment is to process all emotions, and that includes anger. If you know what happens when you drink alcohol every day, then you know that you probably have a lot of emotions to process. That is why anger management is so important in the treatment for addiction.

Learning to Use Anger Effectively During Addiction Treatment

Changing your mindset about anger can be powerful, as can learning to understand the purpose and power anger can have. Rewiring years of negative thinking can be difficult. Anger management utilizes various methods, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), to help you learn how to accept and use your anger effectively. Skills can be learned to help you learn to think before you act and to avoid reacting when you experience anger. While many people associate anger with power, the power of fear is never as powerful as expressing your emotions effectively. This allows you to change the connection between anger and addiction from a negative experience to one of empowerment and healing.

Getting to the root of an addiction, which can include managing anger, is an effective way to finally heal. DiscoveryMD offers flexible, outpatient programs to help you finally recovery. We offer education and healing with compassion and an understanding of recovery from personal experience. Contact us to discuss how we can tailor a treatment program for you.

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