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Anger And Addiction

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

March 6, 2019

People who suffer from addiction may experience major anger issues. It may come as no surprise that addiction can cause a range of emotions and mental changes, but one of the most hard-fought of these is anger. Entering the right treatment program can help an individual overcome addiction while developing new anger management skills.

People suffering with addiction and/or a Substance Use Disorder may experience anger as an unintended side effect. Conversely, anger issues can also cause people to seek drugs or alcohol as coping methods. Therefore, it is imperative that an individual gets the proper treatment for both issues simultaneously.

Anger can be linked to relapse. For those in recovery, or who have already been treated, relapse is a part of healing. Yet anger can be one of many triggers that contribute to relapse. If you’re newly in recovery, you may not have learned to harness your frustration or express your emotions in a positive way.

Why Can’t Addicted Individuals Manage Their Anger?

When you’re hurt or upset, you may act out in defense; this is a natural human response. The same is true for addicted persons who have anger issues. However, for some, frustrations can escalate until they can no longer control this part of their emotions.

Some people even develop anger disorders. These types of disorders may be characterized by violent outbursts, acts of anger, lashing out for little or no reason, and inability to control emotions.

People with anger disorders or issues may find it hard to control how they’re feeling, giving in to the urge to lash out at those around them. Unable to find an outlet or help with change, some may seek drugs or alcohol as a way to cope.

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Anger Disorders

We all experience anger from time to time. Having an occasional outburst or lashing out during times of extreme stress are not the types of anger that cause issues. It’s when you no longer have control of your emotions, anger included, that you may need help, especially if you also struggle with substance abuse.

The following are disorders characterized by anger or an inability to control emotions (among other things):

Antisocial personality disorder:

  • Also known as sociopathy, people with this disorder have a troubling disregard for right and wrong. They show no regard for feelings of others and don’t express guilt or remorse for any wrongdoings

Bipolar disorder:

  • Characterized by extreme emotional highs and lows, ranging from states of mania (high) to depression (low)

Intermittent explosive disorder:

  • Defined as a string of repeated violent outbursts or impulsive episodes of aggressive behavior, or verbal threats due to anger

Oppositional defiant disorder:

  • Most common in teens and youth, Mayo Clinic defines this disorder as, “a frequent and persistent pattern of anger, irritability, arguing, defiance or vindictiveness” toward parents or other authority figures

How Does Substance Abuse Effect Anger?

Substance abuse can incite anger, especially if the person is addicted to the substance. Why?

When you struggle with addiction, your entire perspective changes. Life becomes about seeking the drug and the feelings you get from it. Instead of finding a healthy outlet for your emotions, with addiction you ignore anger, pushing it down until you can’t take it any longer.

People with addiction may have many reasons for anger—bottled emotions, a bad past, family history, or their own inner turmoil over addiction. Also, some addicted individuals may have never had healthy ways to express their anger. Many people with addiction have a family history.

The only way for these individuals to form positive lifestyle habits that can transform their lives is by seeking help with addiction and anger.

Consequences Of Addiction

In addition to affecting how you manage your anger, addiction can have a broad range of effects. Effects can be short- or long-term, direct or indirect, and depend on a number of factors, such as a drug of abuse, duration of abuse, the person, and amount of drug abused.

Consequences of addiction vary, but some general short-term effects include:

  • Change in appetite
  • Increased alertness
  • Increase/decrease in heart rate
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Mood changes
  • In some cases, heart attack, psychosis, overdose, stroke, or death

Long-term effects also vary according to different factors, and may include:

  • Several different forms of cancer
  • Heart or lung disease
  • Mental health disorders
  • Infectious diseases, like Hepatitis C
  • Sexually transmitted diseases, like HIV/AIDS

Prolonged abuse of drugs or alcohol can also have an indirect impact on you or your loved one. A few aspects of your life that addiction may touch are family, finances, relationships, school, work, and obligations.

Within the past few decades, though, much research has been devoted to finding treatment for substance abuse that actually works. All of the drug and alcohol rehab centers you’ll find at have access to some of the best evidence-based treatment available.

How To Properly Manage Anger And Treat Addiction

Whether you’re seeking help to manage your anger because it’s gotten out of hand due to addiction, or you’ve simply never known a way to express your anger in a positive way, you can find the help you need. Inpatient rehab centers focusing on dual diagnosis will be your best bet for comprehensive care or getting treatment for all facets of your health.

A dual diagnosis occurs when there are two disorders present at the same time. This situation is more common than you might think, but unfortunately isn’t always treated. The symptoms of each disorder vary in complexity, so diagnosing both disorders can be difficult sometimes.

When left untreated, a dual diagnosis (co-occurring disorders) can stand in the way of making your recovery goals. If you are ready to seek treatment for anger issues and addiction, be sure all issues are addressed during your assessment so you receive the best care possible.

Luckily, our rehab centers offer excellent dual diagnosis care, including medically supervised detox (for those who need it), counseling, group and individual therapy, and nutritional and fitness help.

To provide a holistic healing experience, our rehab centers also utilize adventure therapy, gender-specific therapy, and help with aftercare or intervention services and awareness education.

Explore Addiction Treatment Options

Anger and addiction can go hand in hand, and each can worsen the other. We may not always know or be ready to admit that we have problems controlling our emotions. This can be really hard for someone who has suffered trauma, or who never had control of emotions from the start.

You may feel isolated with your anger and addiction, but many people struggle daily with the same issues. Reach out today to make a change that could start you on a healthy, new life course. Contact us at to learn more about dual diagnosis and the best rehab centers for treatment.

Mayo Clinic - Antisocial Personality Disorder

Mayo Clinic - Bipolar Disorder

Mayo Clinic - Intermittent Explosive Disorder

National Institute On Drug Abuse - Health Consequences Of Drug Misuse

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