Anger and Addiction: Why it’s so Important to Maintain Healthy Emotional Habits

By
Kim Vytell
Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Jefferey A. Berman MD, DFASAM
Last Updated
May 28, 2023

Part of the complete guide to understanding addiction

Table of Contents
  1. Dealing with Anger in Recovery from Addiction
  2. Anger Issues vs. Anger Disorders
  3. Anger Management Drugs or Drugs that Cause Anger?
  4. What Drug Makes You Angry?
  5. Tips for Anger Management in Recovery
  6. Dual Diagnosis Treatment: Anger and Addiction
  7. Coming to Terms With Your Anger Issues

Canadian writer Laurence Peter coined the phrase, “Speak when you are angry and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.” Being angry is the worst. We’ve all been through the agony of feeling pent up and it’s certainly not easy. Managing anger can be especially challenging if your anger is violent and intense. When substance abuse is used as a coping mechanism by people who cannot get a handle on their anger issues, it can lead to an anger and addiction cycle.

Dealing with Anger in Recovery from Addiction

In the following article, we will explore the relationship between anger management and addiction and offer some pointers to improve anger management habits. This will empower you to guide yourself or a loved one away from substance abuse as an anger management technique and enable you to manage anger in recovery without the danger of drug abuse turning into drug addiction.

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Anger Issues vs. Anger Disorders

Before we delve into our top tips, let’s discuss the difference between anger issues and actual anger disorders. While it is not fun to have occasional bouts of anger or events that make you upset, there is a difference between that and having an anger disorder. 

Examples of common anger disorders that can lead to drug abuse are: 

  • bipolar disorder 
  • intermittent explosive disorder [1]
  • antisocial personality disorder, and even 
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

All of these disorders cause anger that is not always controllable and very hard to stop without outside help.

With a mental illness as severe as an anger disorder, it is common that substance abuse will be used as a way to calm the person down. Anger disorders are hard to control and it is tempting to use drugs for anger management when they are right there to be a safety net when things spiral out of control. It makes perfect sense to want to use anger management drugs, because they distract one from reality. Unfortunately, however, it’s not a sustainable or healthy habit to turn to substance abuse as a form of anger management.

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Anger Management Drugs or Drugs that Cause Anger?

It is common for people with anger issues to turn to drugs that have a depressive or calming effect. Drugs for anger management include alcohol, Marijuana, Xanax and even Heroin. Each of these drugs provides a way to escape the feeling of anger by changing the mood and sedating the body.

However, anger is both a cause and a consequence of addiction. Oddly enough, most anger management drugs can also cause more anger issues. Because they are highly addictive, being without a drug that the body is dependent on is a quick and easy way to make someone with an anger disorder have a complete breakdown.

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What Drug Makes You Angry?

Withdrawal from any addictive drug can cause anger.  Anger is a common symptom of addiction withdrawal and this is one of the reasons anger and addiction often co-occur.  

Another important point to note is that sometimes, anger can be so severe that substance abuse does not even work. This can cause people to use too much of a drug or even hurt someone else or themselves. 

Tips for Anger Management in Recovery

Addiction is a common disorder affecting millions of people worldwide. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 20 million American adults were diagnosed with a substance use disorder in 2022 [2]. As we detailed above, there is a two-way relationship between anger and addiction. Turning to drugs as an anger management technique can lead to addiction, which, in turn, can cause more anger.

Here are some handy anger management tips that don’t involve using drugs.

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1. Have a Mantra Ready

The first thing that we recommend to anyone who struggles with their anger management is to have a mantra. Repetition can do wonders for mental health, and if you have a simple phrase that you can repeat to yourself, it will calm you down a lot in times of uncontrollable anger.

If you’re stressed or worried and feel that it might turn into anger, use a mantra instead of looking to abuse drugs. This could be something like, “ I am grounded” or, “I am going to feel okay” or maybe even, “Right now I feel awful, but drugs and alcohol will only help me for a short while, in the long term they will make me feel worse, not better.” 

Repeat this thought in your head, write it down many times and even say it out loud. Repeating a mantra is a great tool to use when working to calm anger down, instead of turning to anger management drugs.

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2. Make Lists

Another healthy habit to try instead of drug abuse is making lists. 

  • List what makes you happy. 
  • List what angers you. 
  • List the people in your support system. 
  • List the things that make you feel calm. 

These lists can be helpful reminders of people and things that can make you feel less angry instead of using drugs for anger management.

There are many types of therapy during addiction recovery that use lists and writing as part of the treatment, because it helps to write down what you’re feeling.  Pent-up feelings and anxiety are one of the main causes of outbursts of anger. If you can get them out of your system by listing them, you will avoid a lot of bad habits.

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3. Get Up and Move

At drug and alcohol rehab centers and pretty much anywhere else you look for guidance on how to manage feelings of anger, you will be told to exercise. Exercise is extremely helpful. If you know someone who struggles with an anger disorder or you yourself do, the best advice we can give you is to get up and move.

There are many types of exercise that are great for letting out aggression. Try kickboxing, Zumba or even simply running at a fast pace to get your blood moving. 

If you’d like a calmer approach to dealing with anger, try yoga. Yoga promotes a focus on breathing and similar to how mantras help calm us down, repetition of deep breathing does too. Many addiction centers use yoga to help ease the stress and anger of patients who struggle with anger management in recovery.

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Dual Diagnosis Treatment: Anger and Addiction

If substance abuse has been your go-to method to calm down from outbursts of anger, dual diagnosis addiction treatment is a great choice. It’s a treatment approach that helps with understanding anger and forming better habits to control it.

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How to Manage Anger in Recovery with Dual Diagnosis

Dual diagnosis is similar to lots of other inpatient rehab methods; it just focuses more directly on the relationship between mental illness and addiction. It acknowledges co-occurring disorders, such as anger and addiction, and helps you answer a lot of questions about why you feel the need to abuse drugs. You’ll be able to learn why outbreaks happen and it will help you to cope with them in a healthier way.

The treatment involves a medical detox from the drugs or alcohol, followed by group therapy and individual therapy. You have the opportunity to learn skills and participate in activities that will hopefully turn into hobbies and create new relationships.

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Coming to Terms With Your Anger Issues

We hope that you can find peace and understand your anger issues by using our tips. Since drugs/ alcohol and anger often go hand-in-hand, addiction recovery is a step in the right direction. Writing down thoughts, using a self-made mantra and exercising are great ways to calm yourself down. Drug abuse is never a sustainable way to make the anger go away and if professional help is needed, we are here to support you in your mental health journey.

The important thing to remember about anger and addiction is that even if you go to rehab, anger disorders are a mental health issue that will always affect you. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it’s part of who you are. However, you will need to make sure that you have effective and long-lasting ways of suppressing the urge to use drugs and alcohol to deal with your anger. 

Here at Avenues Recovery, we focus on treating the whole you and will guide you along your journey to anger and addiction recovery. If you or a loved one suffers from addiction as either a cause or consequence of anger or any other reason, reach out to one of our trained guidance counselors today. 

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Sources

[1] my.clevelandclinic.org

[2] nida.nih.gov

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