How Does Anger Trigger Addiction? and Better Ways to Cope


We all know what anger is and what it looks like, but have you ever considered how anger triggers addiction? Anger is a normal emotion, but probably one of the most addictive. There is nothing wrong with feeling angry; however, anger is about a matter of survival, and it’s a survival strategy that isn’t healthy and often makes things worse.

When anger is fueled by an associated memory from a past situation, environment or personal interaction, triggers from a bad situation or hurtful past can occur. Sometimes a trigger can be imagined as something worse than it really is. Usually, this anger is a reaction or a reminder to what happened in the past, not what is actually occurring in the present moment.

Substance abuse is a stress response and so is gambling, smoking, spending money, exercising too much, becoming an adrenaline junkie, excessively playing video games, etc. As stress increases, the desire to escape and seek pleasurable experiences intensifies, but there are better ways to cope with anger.

Managing Fight or Flight 

Triggers also occur due to another person’s behavior that may make you remember incidents or past traumas, which creates a defensive “fight or flight” response. When the brain is in fight or flight mode, it’s in survival mode so the first instinct is to either attack or run away when angered, stressed, and/or anxious.

How to Cope

Fight or flight response is natural; you can’t control it, but you can control your reactions. Exercise improves mood and burns off the stress hormone, cortisol, and adrenaline, and it relaxes the muscles. By simply exercising, you can significantly reduce the chances of you reacting in a negative manner. Also by getting enough sleep and balancing your nutrition with healthier foods or herbal supplements, you can help regulate your mood.

False Empowerment 

Since anger is born out of fear or defense against perceived danger, anger is also used to self-soothe or control the situation. Anger can easily make a person feel as though they are in control and so it falsely empowers them. When a person doesn’t express their anger or disclose why they are angry, they either become passive aggressive, aggressive or avoid the situation altogether. It’s a way to regain diminished personal power from lack of control of the situation, which in itself can be addictive.

How to Cope

Acknowledging that you are angry is key to not retaliating in a manner you will later regret. Observing how anger physically takes hold of your mind and body and why you feel hurt, rejected or devalued can help slow your reaction. In that moment, slow breathing can also relax your body and brain and reduce the chances you will say or do something you’ll end up regretting.

All or Nothing Thinking

When a person self identifies with a particular idea, they might over-identify with that long-held belief, especially if this belief was taught during childhood. When countered with a different or conflicting belief, the ego will take this as a threat and the person may take the stance that their way is the only right way. Investing too much in right or wrong and all or nothing thinking can be a recipe for destructive aggressive behavior.

How to Cope

Anger is a warning sign and it informs you. You either learn how to cope with anger as you mature or learn from the destructiveness you’ve caused from repeated patterns.  Anger doesn’t have to be avoided, but it should be observed. Exploring thoughts and feelings that lead to aggressive behaviors will help you figure out where your deep-rooted anger stems from.

Managing Anger in Therapy 

Cognitive behavioral therapy helps address maladaptive all or nothing thinking and helps you explore healthier ways to manage your emotions, thoughts and behaviors. While substance abuse or other addictive behaviors may feel like an easy way to relieve stress, it doesn’t address the reasons why those emotions exist in the first place. Once you confront your anger and other underlying issues, you can better manage your emotions and behaviors.

If you or someone you know has anger issues and you know it’s triggering addictive behaviors, seek therapy at an accredited treatment facility. Don’t be afraid to reach out, call The Treatment Center today at (866) 295-6003. Our admissions counselors are always available to help answer your questions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.