Anger can be a powerful and sometimes dangerous emotion hallmarked by annoyance, agitation, hostility, and severe displeasure. Anger is an entirely normal human emotion that nearly every person will occasionally experience and is often a legitimate response when expressed in a relatively healthy manner. However, poor anger management skills can adversely affect individuals and those around them, especially when substance abuse or addiction is involved.
Excessive anger is caused by various reasons, including fear, a misplaced hatred of others, a hatred for oneself, and unaddressed childhood trauma. Regardless of its origins, learning to cope with anger in a healthy manner is essential for the emotional health of individuals who suffer and their loved ones. This is also required to reduce the addictive behaviors that have emerged or are worsened by a lack of anger management.
What Is Anger Management Therapy?
Anger management therapy (AMT) helps people better control their anger by providing them with a controlled platform for expressing their emotions. AMT is designed to achieve healthy and constructive responses, rather than unhealthy and destructive ones. People in AMT are asked to examine the thoughts, feelings, and actions that contribute to their anger issues. They are encouraged to become more mindful of their emotions at each intensity level and learn how to take advantage of these findings to manage their anger responses better.
In AMT, individuals learn to recognize the emotional reactions caused by certain circumstances and angry responses that essentially serve as defense mechanisms for other issues. These may include feelings of anxiety, stress, fear, or other emotional problems. In doing this, AMT can significantly help those who have found it challenging to control their anger as well as their loved ones.
Moreover, uncontrolled anger can lead to extremely harmful psychological states and physical injury to oneself or others. Anger management therapy aims to help individuals subdue and manage their anger, thus reducing stress and unwanted thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It can also reduce the risk of severe, chronic health issues, such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
Techniques and activities used in anger management therapy include the following:
- Impulse control
- Mindfulness meditation
- Frustration management (e.g., composing in an “anger diary”)
- Breathing and relaxation techniques
AMT can be very helpful, as it can be challenging for some individuals to find and use healthier means of anger expression. Without professional treatment, individuals can experience increasingly severe aggression and may be more likely to engage in substance abuse actively.
Anger and Addiction
Anger is often linked to substance use disorders. Individuals raised in homes with aggression and violence may be more likely to use violence and aggression as an outlet and abuse substances as adults. In fact, children who regularly witness frequent or severe altercations between their parents or others often experience anxiety and depression. They often have low self-esteem and exhibit anger that manifests as emotional outbursts, rebelliousness, property destruction, and bullying or fighting.
As children are still developing mentally and emotionally, exposure to domestic abuse, violence, or parental addiction can be extremely traumatic. As a result, their personalities may be negatively altered at some level for the remainder of their lives. These can also encourage individuals to engage in early experimentation with substances, which is then more likely to cause persistent brain changes and lead to more intense and chronic addictive behaviors.
The Cycle of Anger and Addiction
Although people can express anger in a constructive way, an individual struggling with substance abuse may be less able to cope with it in a healthy and effective manner. For instance, an alcoholic may respond with excessive anger to certain triggers, especially if they are under the influence and drugs or alcohol, which can adversely alter a person’s emotional reactions, who may, as a result, lash out at others physically and verbally. Substance abuse can also easily heighten hostility and angry responses, and often, it can be the direct cause of them.
For these reasons, it’s easy for some individuals to find themselves in a destructive cycle of anger and substance abuse and continue using drugs and alcohol in a misguided attempt to deal with negative feelings such as anger. Ironically, substance abuse often contributes to the emotional issues that an individual is trying to relieve through this method of self-medication. These problems then compel the person to use substances in increasing amounts.
Addiction to Anger
Addiction doesn’t just include substance use. Individuals can become addicted to processes or behaviors, such as gambling, sex, pornography, the Internet, and shopping. Some people can also become addicted to being angry to some extent. When this occurs, it’s not unlike how some persons become thrill-seekers for the adrenaline rush.
Endorphins are also known as “feel-good” chemicals produced naturally by the central nervous system (CNS) to deal with pain, stress, anxiety, and other emotions. But endorphins are also thought to be responsible for heightened states of anger and rage. If the brain somehow misinterprets the presence of excessive endorphins, an individual could experience a barrage of “fight-or-flight” hormones. This may be true even in reaction to events that are not, in fact, particularly threatening or even significantly concerning.
As such, certain persons can become addicted to the increase in endorphins that occurs when they experience anger. In effect, these endorphins cause a “high” of sorts, although it might be an unpleasant one. As with all highs, this will ultimately wane, leaving the individual feeling depressed, anxious, and dysphoric.
As a result, this effect can compel an individual to turn to drugs to help them avoid the “comedown” from anger, which can rapidly lead to substance dependence and addiction. Stimulants, such as cocaine or meth, can increase euphoric feelings in an effort to displace the anger and the high feelings associated with it. Eventually, the lack of exposure to these substances at any point in time may lead to even more intense and persistent feelings of anger and hostility.
Getting Professional Help for Anger Management and Addiction
Treatment for anger issues can help individuals manage and express their anger in more productive and healthier ways. Doing so also works to restore a person’s quality of life and mental health. To ensure that someone in recovery is given the best opportunity for success, it is crucial to address anger and other emotional problems combined with addiction. Failure to treat anger issues is more likely to result in a relapse, and ongoing substance abuse will undermine an individual’s ability to manage their anger.
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery centers offer multifaceted substance abuse treatment programs that also focus on behavioral health and emotional well-being. Chronic anger is common among people who experience addiction. Those who cannot control their anger are vulnerable to adverse emotional states that drive the desire to engage in substance use.
Our programs are driven by a dual diagnosis treatment approach intended to address all aspects of a person’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Other research-based services that we offer include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Behavioral therapy
- Individual and family counseling
- Peer group support
- Substance abuse education
- Art and music therapy
- Health and wellness education
- Relapse prevention
- Aftercare planning
Our compassionate and highly-trained medical staff are dedicated to helping individuals surmount addiction and developing healthier coping methods to deal with stress and triggers. Individuals with anger issues will learn how to control and process their anger without engaging in negative and harmful behavior.