How Does Anger Trigger Addiction? and Better Ways to Cope

Substance abuse disorders often co-occur with other mental health diagnoses, which we call “dual diagnosis.” It’s a harmless sounding name, but at The Treatment Center, we’ve seen the suffering people endure from having a dual diagnosis.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates 17.5 million Americans 18 and over had a mental health diagnosis in the past year. Of these individuals, about 4 million also struggled with a substance or alcohol use disorder. Unfortunately, only 40% of these people received treatment for one disorder, and a scant 5% received treatment for both.

Successful rehabilitation for addiction requires addressing any underlying causes or co-occurring conditions. For some people, depression and anxiety accompany substance abuse disorders, while others use substances to mask the uncomfortable feelings associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. Still, others struggle with anger issues and addiction, which can create a vicious cycle of flare-ups and substance abuse.

What Is An Anger Disorder?

An angry flare-up is our mind’s natural response to an outside threat. Often, angry outbursts are a result of our brain’s fight or flight mechanisms, which allows a person to fend off an attack or escape a dangerous situation without harm. When confronted with a traumatic or stressful event, anger can help us react quickly, even appropriately.How to Cope With Anger in Addiction Recovery But, in people with anger disorders, these outbursts transition from healthy to dangerous. People with anger disorders may become intensely angry over little to no stimuli. Their inability to handle anger serves a trigger for addiction.

Examples of anger disorders include bipolar disorder, oppositional-defiant disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and intermittent explosive disorder. People with these conditions may have little or no control over their anger triggers.

What Are Anger Triggers?

When people feel consistently angry or out of control, they often turn to illicit substances for help. Many who struggle with addiction report that drugs or alcohol helps them soothe disturbing thoughts or quell impulses they hold inside. In other words, drugs provide a false sense of relief to people who feel small events that wouldn’t bother other people trigger their anger.

The main problem with an anger disorder is that is potentially triggers addiction. Anger disorders and substance abuse disorders create a vicious cycle: Those who struggle with both may feel that drugs or alcohol provide a temporary sense of relief, but, in reality, substance abuse makes the symptoms worse – for example, by raising the levels of stress hormones such as cortisol.

How Can I Manage My Anger?

To manage your anger, effectively, recognize that your addiction and anger triggers are often the same. To manage your addiction, you’ll have to cope with your anger in a healthy way. Anger destroys more than your mental health – research shows it can increase your chances of developing heart disease, insomnia, digestive issues, and headaches.

The good news is that you can take steps to control it. A study in the journal Consultations in Clinical Psychology found that cognitive behavioral therapy improved people’s ability to control their behavior and reduced hostility and aggression. You can undergo CBT with the help of a mental health professional or try one of these techniques on your own:


Simple relaxation techniques such as imagery and deep breathing can be effective in controlling angry feelings. For example, breathing deeply from your diaphragm, slowly repeating a calming word or phrase, or doing yoga can relax your muscles, promote calmness, and quell negative feelings before they boil over.

Keep in mind that these techniques take practice, so use them each day. Eventually, you’ll be able to use them effectively, even in very stressful situations.

Cognitive Restructuring

Cognitive restructuring is simply a technical term for changing your mindset. When you’re angry, your thinking may be overly dramatic. Instead of thinking that all hope is lost each time you confront an anger trigger, tell yourself: “This is frustrating, but it’s nothing I can’t handle.” Use your logic to control the situation before it gets out of hand. Even when justified, it’s easy for anger to spiral out of control. Remind yourself that life has rough spots, and the world isn’t out to get you. The more you do this when you get angry, the better perspective you’ll have on the situation.

It helps to focus on the goals of an anger-inducing situation. For example, if you’re angry that plans with a friend routinely fall through, don’t confront the situation in attack mode. Think about what you want to accomplish from your interaction and a find a solution that will be beneficial to both of you. If the problem persists, it might be time to find company in another friend.

Help For Anger Disorder And Addiction At The Treatment Center

Whether you suffer from PTSD, bipolar disorder, or another anger disorder, self-medicating with drugs and alcohol can be tempting, but there are other ways to manage these conditions. Talk to us at The Treatment Center. We understand that your anger and substance abuse are inextricably linked. To treat one effectively, you’ll have to treat both – and we do so with holistic treatment options that heal the mind, body, and soul.

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