Anger is a powerful and sometimes dangerous emotion that may be characterized by agitation, annoyance, severe displeasure, or hostility. Anger is a normal human emotion that nearly everyone will experience at least occasionally and is often a legitimate reaction when expressed in a healthy manner. Poor anger management skills, however, can result in adverse consequences to an individual and others, especially when substance abuse or addiction is involved.
Excessive anger is caused by a wide variety of reasons, including fear, misplaced hatred of others, and untreated childhood trauma. Regardless of its origins, learning to deal with anger constructively is vital for the emotional health of those who suffer and their loved ones. This is also needed to reduce the addictive behaviors that have emerged or are exacerbated by inadequate anger management.
What Is Anger Management Therapy?
Anger management therapy (AMT) is an approach to helping individuals better control their anger by giving them a controlled platform for releasing their emotions. AMT is designed to achieve constructive, healthy responses, rather than those that are unhealthy and destructive. People in AMT are urged to examine the thoughts, feelings, and actions that trigger their anger. They are encouraged to become more mindful of their emotions at each level of intensity and learn how to use these findings to manage their angry responses better.
In AMT, people learn to identify the emotional response caused by certain circumstances, as well as angry reactions that serve as defense mechanisms for other problems. These may include feelings of stress, anxiety, or other emotional issues. In doing this, AMT can significantly help people who have difficulties controlling their anger and those who love them.
Moreover, uncontrolled anger can result in extremely harmful psychological conditions and physical injury to oneself or others. Anger management therapy aims to help people reduce and manage their anger, thus leading to a reduction in stress and unpleasant thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It can also decrease the risk of severe, chronic health problems, such as hypertension and heart disease.
Activities and techniques used in anger management therapy include the following:
- Impulse control
- Self-awareness and mindfulness
- Frustration management (e.g., writing down thoughts and emotions in an “anger diary”)
- Breathing and relaxation techniques
AMT can be very beneficial, as it can be challenging for some to find and use healthier means of anger expression. Without professional help, individuals can experience increasingly intense aggression and may be more likely to engage in substance abuse.
Anger and Addiction
Anger is often closely linked to substance use disorders. People who are raised in homes with aggression and violence are much more likely to become violent and engage in substance abuse as adults. In fact, children who regularly witness violence between their parents or others often suffer from depression and anxiety. They may have low self-esteem, and exhibit anger themselves that manifests as outbursts, rebelliousness, destruction of property, and fighting or bullying.
As these children are still developing mentally, emotionally, and socially, exposure to domestic abuse or violence or parental addiction can be traumatic. As a result, their personalities may be adversely altered for the rest of their lives. These can also lead to early experimentation with substances, which is then more likely to lead to more severe and chronic addictive behaviors.
The Vicious Cycle of Anger and Addiction
Although anger can be expressed in a constructive way, a person who is struggling with substance abuse may be less able to cope with it effectively and healthily. For instance, an alcoholic may react with excessive anger to certain triggers, especially if they are intoxicated. Alcohol and drugs can adversely alter a person’s emotional responses, and that person may lash out at others either verbally or physically. Substance abuse can easily exacerbate angry responses, but sometimes, it can be a direct cause of them.
For these reasons, it’s easy for some individuals to fall into a destructive cycle of anger and addiction, and continue using substances in a misguided attempt to cope with anger. Ironically, substance abuse often exacerbates the emotional problems that a person is trying to relieve through this form of self-medication, and these issues drive the person to use more and more substances.
Addiction to Anger
Addiction isn’t just about substance use. People can become addicted to processes, such as gambling, sex, and shopping. Individuals can also become addicted to being angry in a way. When this occurs, it’s not unlike how some become thrill-seekers for the adrenaline rush.
Endorphins are “feel-good” chemicals produced naturally by the central nervous system to cope with pain, stress, and anxiety. But endorphins are also believed to be responsible for heightened states of anger, rage or anxiety. If the presence of excessive endorphins is at all misinterpreted by the brain, a person could encounter an onslaught of “fight-or-flight” hormones. This may be true even in response to events that are not, in fact, particularly dangerous or threatening.
As such, certain individuals can become addicted to the increase in endorphins they experience when they feel angry. These endorphins, in effect, cause a “high” of sorts, albeit an unpleasant one. As with all highs, this will eventually subside, leaving the person feeling depressed, anxious, and generally unhappy.
As a result, this effect can drive a person to turn to drugs to help them avoid the “comedown” from anger, and can rapidly lead to addiction. Stimulants such as meth or cocaine can increase feelings of euphoria in an effort to replace the anger and the high associated with it. Eventually, the absence of these substances at any point in time will likely result in even more persistent feelings of anger.
Getting Help for Anger Management and Addiction
Treatment for anger problems can help patients manage and express their anger in healthier ways. In doing so, it also works to restore one’s quality of life and mental health. To ensure that a person in recovery is given the best chance for success, it is vital to address anger and other emotional issues in conjunction with addiction. Failure to treat anger issues will likely result in a relapse, and ongoing substance abuse will compromise a person’s ability to control their anger.
Midwood Addiction Treatment offers comprehensive substance abuse treatment programs that also focus on behavioral health and emotional wellness. Chronic anger is common among those with addiction, and those who cannot manage their anger are vulnerable to negative emotional states that lead to substance use.
Our programs are facilitated by a dual diagnosis treatment approach that is designed to address all aspects of a person’s mental and physical well-being. Other evidence-based services that we administer include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Behavioral therapy
- Individual and family counseling
- Group support
- Mental health education and awareness
- Art and music therapy
- Health and wellness education
- Medication-assisted treatment
- Aftercare planning
Our caring and highly-skilled staff are dedicated to helping people overcome addiction and also develop healthier methods of coping with stress and triggers. Patients with anger issues will learn how to control and process their anger without engaging in extreme and harmful behavior. Moreover, we are equipped to help patients explore the factors that underpin their anger disorders and teach them more constructive ways to channel their emotions.
If you are struggling with anger management and addiction, this is not something you should be doing alone. Contact us today to discuss treatment options and let us help you get control of your life once and for all!