Anger Issues and Addiction


An anger flare-up is a natural response to an outside threat. That little puff of power allows a person to fend off an attack and get out of the situation without harm. When a crisis takes place, such as a car accident or a verbal threat from an outsider, anger can help people to move quickly and react appropriately. But sometimes anger issues move from healthy to dangerous. In fact, some people develop disorders in which they become intensely angry over nothing at all. People like this often run an enhanced risk of addiction.

Anger Disorders

Mild episodes of anger that come and go are rarely cause for concern. When experts discuss out-and-out anger disorders, they’re often referring to mental illnesses such as:

People like this have little to no control over their angry emotions.

Hard to Change

When they feel a little rise of anger coming on, they follow that feeling until they’re absolutely consumed with the need to yell, hurt or humiliate. They may not want to behave in this fashion, but they may find it hard to change their ways for the better.

Drugs of Concern

People who feel consistently angry or out of control might believe that drugs can help. Many substances seem to soothe the disturbing thoughts and impulses people hold inside their minds, and they can seem vital in bringing about a temporary sense of relief. Some drugs seem particularly appealing to people with anger disorders.

Depressant drugs like alcohol can soothe an overactive mind and blunt the reflexes, and that might make this particular substance quite attractive for people who have anger disorders. In a study of the issue, in the journal Alcoholism, researchers found that anger scores in alcoholics were much higher than those seen in people who didn’t drink, and that held true in both men and women. Studies like this seem to suggest that alcohol is popular among people who struggle with anger.

Similarly, marijuana can have a sedating effect, allowing people to feel somewhat relaxed and at ease with the world. Not surprisingly, a study in the journal Substance Use and Misuse found a link between heavy marijuana use and high anger scores, and that link got stronger the more often the user took in drugs. Studies like this suggest that marijuana use and anger are linked, but they also suggest that marijuana can make underlying anger worse. If anger scores rise with use, perhaps drug use isn’t helpful at all.

Untangling the Links

While it’s clear that many people who have anger disorders abuse drugs, it’s also clear that this codependency doesn’t help the person at all. In some cases, as mentioned, the drug use makes the feelings of anger stronger and harder to control. But sometimes drug abuse can make the consequences of anger much more palpable.

Learn More About Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) +

Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) this point quite nicely. According to an article produced by Science Daily, about 7.3 percent of adults have this disorder, and they react with intense violence when they’re under pressure or are angry. It’s a question of impulsivity, as people like this get so angry that they simply cannot control the resultant behavior. When they think about hitting someone or yelling at someone, they follow through on that thought. Unfortunately, drugs tend to make issues of impulsivity much more acute. Drugs erode the portion of the brain that deals with planning and control, meaning that people who take drugs often become incapable of controlling their urges. If someone with IED damages this portion of the brain even further, an episode of yelling might turn into an episode of violence. Everything simply escalates.

Similarly, anger can keep people from getting the help they need in order to overcome a drug habit. When people are consistently angry, explosive and out of control, their families tend to react by:

  • Avoiding all conflict
  • Shielding the person from triggers
  • Staying away during difficult times
  • Responding to anger with anger

Families who respond like this aren’t capable of holding an honest talk about addiction and its consequences. They’re often too afraid to speak up and too worried to speak out. This allows the addiction to progress unchecked, and that could make the feelings of anger increase.

How to Help

While people with an anger disorder certainly do have a problem that can be helped with therapy, people like this are still quite dangerous, and they’re capable of inflicting a great deal of damage in no time at all. As a result, it isn’t wise for families to approach someone like this without professional assistance. The conversation could take a nasty turn in mere minutes, and without the help of a professional, someone could get hurt.

An interventionist with clinical experience can help families to understand how anger disorders work, and this person can help to craft a conversation about addiction that’s sensitive to the anger disorder in play. These professionals can also step in if the person chooses to react with anger as the conversation moves forward. Some people with anger might not respond to the first intervention, and if that happens, the interventionist can also provide assistance with steps the family can take to prevent further damage the angry person might cause.

If you’re ready to start this important healing process, please call us. We can direct you to a variety of resources that can help you to discuss and treat addictions and mental illnesses.

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