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Addiction and Anger Management – Addiction Center

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Anger is a powerful emotion that can be defined as a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility. Anger is a natural emotion that everyone feels from time to time, and it is often a justifiable response when expressed in a healthy way. However, poor anger management can lead to a number of highly negative consequences to an individual and their loved ones, especially when addiction is involved.
Anger can be caused by a vast number of reasons, such as from boundaries being crossed or underlying, unhealed trauma. Whatever the cause, learning healthy methods to cope with anger is key in reducing substance-abuse related problems that emerge or are worsened because of poor anger management.
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Anger is often closely connected to substance use disorders (SUD). Children who grow up in homes with high aggression and violence are more likely to become violent and abuse substances as adults. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry notes children who witness violence between partners can have the following symptoms:
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As children are still developing personality traits and social skills, witnessing domestic abuse or parental drug abuse can cause trauma, which can affect their personality.
With many cases of juvenile substance use disorders, the younger someone begins experimenting with harmful chemicals, the bigger the problems they experience as they age. This cycle can carry on into adulthood and create more problems in the future.  A final note can be the effect of domestic abuse on individuals. If a wife is being physically abused by her spouse, she may begin using harmful chemicals if she is not prepared to leave, to counter depression, anxiety, and other forms of emotional distress.
Although anger can be a healthy emotion, someone battling a SUD may struggle to cope with it in healthy ways. For example, someone who abuses alcohol may react with excessive anger depending on the circumstance. Conversely, someone may abuse alcohol to soothe angry feelings, often with the opposite effect. Regardless of the order of anger or substance abuse, chemicals can further disrupt and deepen feelings of anger.
Individuals can easily develop a dependent cycle of anger and substance abuse or use substances to cope with anger without realizing it. Consequently, this combination can worsen the condition of someone abusing chemicals and damage relationships. In response to anger, someone can develop temporary mental or emotional conditions like depression, anxiety, nervous breakdowns, and feelings of hopelessness. When the person abuses substances to cope with these consequences, a cycle may begin.
It can be hard to find healthy methods of expressing anger. Individuals can intensify their aggression or are at risk of experimenting with other drugs for a “better” high.
How someone chooses to cope with anger can be the difference between a healthy and unhealthy lifestyle. Denying anger can cause one to feel frustrated or irritated and affect many parts of their life. A healthy way to cope with this feeling can reduce risks associated with substance use. Ways people can cope with anger in positive healthy ways include:
Moreover, unresolved anger can contribute to broken relationships, poor mental performance, and emotional wounds that can lead to substance abuse experimentation. Underlying feelings can cause individuals to experience anger.
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Anger can be an empowering and therapeutic emotion when released in a healthy way, but it can also be addictive. Just like individuals who seek thrills for the adrenaline rush, some people have the same effect from anger. Individuals can become addicted to endorphins they feel when they get angry. Like all “highs,” once the feeling wears off, individuals can feel anxious or depressed. This can cause someone to seek thrills in the form of drugs. Stimulants like Cocaine can provide excitement and can increase feelings of euphoria to replace anger. If someone can no longer acquire their substance of choice, he or she may revert back to angry feelings or develop a habit for emotional support.
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Anger management when combined with addiction will only heighten adverse effects and worsen as time goes on. With the help of licensed professionals, treatment can work to manage both anger and an SUD. The first step is to explore your treatment options. For treatment related questions, contact a treatment provider today.
Last Edited: February 28, 2022
Krystina Murray
Krystina Murray has received a B.A. in English at Georgia State University, has over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience, and over 15 years of overall writing experience. She enjoys traveling, fitness, crafting, and spreading awareness of addiction recovery to help people transform their lives.
Clinically Reviewed: September 17, 2019
David Hampton
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.
David embarked on his journey into sobriety in June of 2005, which led him to his current career path as a Certified Professional Addiction Recovery Coach in private practice in Greater Nashville. David is also a public speaker and the author of two books. David is cohost of the weekly Positive Sobriety Podcast, as well as being a frequent contributor to various articles and recovery based materials. As a member of the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC), David works closely with Nashville area treatment centers, nonprofit recovery organizations, and consulting with faith-based groups trying to bridge the gap between the recovery communities and faith-based organizations who wish to understand addiction.
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