Can You Be Addicted to Anger?

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Addictions come in many forms. You may be surprised to find out that anger addiction is one of them.

What is Anger Addiction?

The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as a chronic brain disease.1 The disease of addiction relates to the brain’s systems of motivation, reward and memory. Irregularity in these systems leads to physical, mental and social problems.

Anger falls into the “other behaviors” definition of addiction. Anger can be a positive thing, a motivator to do some good in the world. But when anger is misappropriated for negative reasons, and a person does this frequently, it can become an anger addiction.

Statistics on Anger

Anger can have many different negative consequences on a person. Anger can have negative impacts on both mental and physical health.2

Anger is known to:

Contribute to unhealthy lifestyles: Examples are overeating, smoking, drinking alcohol, and drug and caffeine consumption

Contribute to the development of eating disorders, such as bulimia

Be associated with developing type 2 diabetes

Be associated with an increased risk of motor vehicle accidents

Types of Anger Disorders

There are different types of disorders related to anger or that list anger as a symptom. Many people have anger problems along with another emotional problem. More than 32 disorders listed anger, aggression or irritability as a symptom.3

One of the most common disorders associated with anger is intermittent explosive disorder. IED is an anger disorder characterized by recurrent aggressive outbursts, hostility, and impulsiveness. Research suggests that inflammation is tied to IED. 4

Signs Anger Is an Issue

Anger is a natural response that readies our bodies for a crisis. It can be the first stage that prepares the body for a fight or flight response. Physical changes occur, like rapid heartbeat. For people with anger issues, anger is a response that happens too frequently over things that do not warrant an anger response.

Some people are angry all the time. They are irritable, grouchy, and lose their tempers easily. They snap at everyone, because anger boils beneath the surface. This anger is bound to surface at some point. Many aren’t sure why they feel so on edge.

Anger and Addiction: The Connection

Drug and alcohol abuse are often seen with anger, aggression, and tendencies towards violence. 

For some people, anger comes first and it leads to addiction for various reasons, namely:

Anger problems cause issues on the job or at home, causing substances to be used as coping mechanisms

The rage they feel is so strong, they want to numb the pain with drugs or alcohol

Stress in life builds, and individuals act out anger by indulging in substances

For other people, drug and alcohol use comes first, then anger issues follow, such as:

Drug use, like meth and cocaine, cause anger and violent behavior.

Anger and resentment result from realizing the presence of addiction. 

Problems develop from drug and alcohol use. Examples include relationship problems, money issues, job loss, DUIs and other legal problems. These outcomes create deep anger and resentment at the people and institutions involved.

Tips & Treatments for Dealing With Anger

Relaxation: When you get angry, the body tenses up. Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation, are good anger management methods.

Cognitive therapy: Changing the way you think is another good anger management strategy. If you struggle with feelings of anger, you likely have a set pattern of thinking that reflects that behavior, such as cursing, throwing things or yelling. A cognitive behavioral therapist works with you to resolve angry thoughts by with more rational ones.

For example, you’re tempted to react to a situation with negative thoughts of how bad it is, giving you reason to get angry. Replace those thoughts with ones expressing your frustration as understandable. Your thoughts could be, “Yes this is upsetting, but getting angry won’t fix it.”

Anger Addicts Anonymous

Emotions Anonymous (EA) is an organization dedicated to helping people with emotional difficulties. This includes anger management, so people can live better lives through recovery. EA helps people manage anger and other emotions. EA uses the 12-step model made popular by Alcoholics Anonymous. You can also find anger management help by talking to your doctor or trusted mental health professional. If substance abuse is also happening, a treatment center can help address recovery from substances.



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