Addiction and anger are closely connected. The American Psychological Association defines anger as an emotion categorized by tension and aggression resulting from frustration. This frustration can arise from real or perceived injury or injustice from another person or external force. Things that may lead to anger include situations at work, at home, with friends, or even strangers. Feeling unloved, misunderstood, helpless, exhausted, criticized, or unfairly treated can also lead to feelings of anger.
Furthermore, anger urges you to move closer to something positive or to move farther away from something harmful or painful. Anger is born out of perceiving that something the self needs is absent, or that something that the self can’t deal with is present. Therefore, anger is a barometer that tells the body that you need to deal with a problem. Anger can keep us safe, help clarify our boundaries, and challenge us. The issues with anger come from misusing or ignoring our anger.
Bottling Up Anger is Dangerous
Ignoring our anger does not make it go away. Instead, it creates destruction on emotional, mental, and physical levels. The reason is that it takes a lot of energy to bottle up the anger and keep it below our conscious radar. We are scared to feel our anger, so we lock it away and suppress it, which only leads to a build-up of the anger. Much like shaking a bottle of carbonated soda, when anger is bottled up, it bubbles beneath the surface, and when released, it explodes. Therefore, unresolved anger can cause mental health conditions. For example, depression is inward anger characterized by apathy and emotional numbness, which occurs when our emotional and psychological systems shut down in an attempt to avoid feeling pain.
Repressing anger leads to physical symptoms, such as muscle tension and physical pain in the head, back, or neck. Beneath anger is hurt, so anger is pain and thus creates pain. In ignoring that pain, it will lead to anger, and then dysfunctional, self-destructive behavior. This self-destructive behavior can lead to mental health issues, such as depression, which is a risk factor for developing drug or alcohol addiction.
Anger May Lead to Addiction
A study from 2016 assessed the relationship between levels of anger and outcomes of treatment in a large sample of adolescents that participated in substance abuse treatment. According to this study published by The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), individuals with high levels of anger are more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol. They are also more likely to have psychological issues than those with low levels of anger. Furthermore, the study found that 80% of those individuals researched with high levels of anger experienced depression as a combination of both sadness and anger. People suffering from substance abuse disorder, or addiction, tend to have a lot of repressed anger. Furthermore, repressing anger sabotages mental health and, therefore, happiness. Subsequently, looking more in-depth at the causes of anger may help to heal mental health and addiction.
Anger During Addiction Recovery
According to the study published by NCBI, angry individuals in recovery are less likely to finish addiction treatment. Dropping out of treatment is a frequent behavior of hostile individuals, due to the accompanying frustration and unbearable thoughts or feelings. A primary aspect of addiction is an inability to bear to be present in one’s own life. Addiction is a way to escape reality, and recovery helps individuals develop ways to deal with their reality in healthy ways. Therefore, long-term recovery requires an individual to access, express, and own their anger so that they can release mental and emotional pain. Those individuals who complete treatment and have high levels of anger are also more likely to experience relapse than those with low anger levels. Additionally, anger can lead to relapse due to the build-up of tension and ensuing outbursts or negative actions.
Dealing with Anger
Dealing with anger in healthy ways could combat the ever-worsening rates of mental illness and drug abuse in the United States. It is crucial to understand what triggers our anger and learn to manage it effectively. Noticing its physical signs could help one interrupt the “fight or flight” response. Focusing on breathing, taking a break from the situation, or taking a quick walk can all help alleviate these physical symptoms and deal with the anger effectively. Distraction, journaling, connecting with nature, and relaxing are a few of the techniques one can use to manage angry feelings. After recognizing the signs, interrupting the anger response can help one to manage their emotions and therefore stop them from engaging in negative or inappropriate actions. Therefore, managing anger is far more productive than suppressing it. Suppressing anger often leads to destructive behaviors towards oneself or others, and can also lead to the development of psychological issues, and subsequent addictions to drugs or alcohol.
Looking for Help?
It is crucial to identify and deal with anger issues during recovery. By not ignoring or dismissing anger, you can learn to understand and cope with it in positive and constructive ways. Otherwise, recovery from an addiction to drugs or alcohol can be hard to overcome. Anger is a complex emotion that we must understand to conquer it, much like an addiction. At Fort Worth Recovery, we offer a nurturing space to support clients on their road to long-lasting recovery. If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, call us today at 817-381-9741 or visit us online.