The connection between anger and addiction has encouraged people and their loved ones suffering from substance abuse and mental illness to seek help. At Granite Mountain Behavioral Health, anger management rehabilitation has played a vital role in helping individuals with these conditions take back control of their lives.
Anger is an emotion that affects everyone, but some more than others. Managing it can be extremely difficult, and has turned into a serious problem for millions of people, especially in the United States.
16 million people throughout the country suffer from an impulse-control disorder called Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED). This condition is defined by feelings and bouts of anger that occur suddenly. Research has shown that IED is said to begin in a person’s early teenage years.
Sometimes these unprovoked episodes or recurrent outbursts may not have anything to do with the situation or moment in time. People with Intermittent Explosive Disorder tend to explode into a rage despite there being no reason behind it.
Intermittent Explosive Disorder is characterized by loss of control over emotions and being overcome with anger. A diagnosis of IED is given only when a person exhibits at least three episodes of impulsive aggression.
Truth is, most people do not even recognize that their anger issues are as bad as they are, and can lead to physical and mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and most importantly, addiction to drugs and alcohol.
Table of Contents
What is Anger?
According to Psychology Today, anger is one of the main basic human emotions, along with happiness, sadness, and anxiety. Sources of anger convey a message of disappointment, frustration, judgment, rejection, and fear.
Tied to basic survival, anger is the sympathetic nervous system’s natural fight-or-flight response, defending someone from a flare-up or threat. While anger is a normal emotion, it can become a major problem when expressed in a way that harms yourself or others around you.
Anger majorly affects the brain and body, and when symptoms are chronic and severe, physical, mental health and social health become compromised in various ways.
High levels of anger and stress make you more physically ill and susceptible to diseases. Therefore, if individuals do not learn to cope with their stressors and anger in healthy ways, they become at risk for many physical and psychological complications including:
- Substance abuse
- Digestive problems
- Heart disease
- Sleep problems such as insomnia
- Weight gain
- Memory loss and concentration issues
Chronic episodes of anger highly affect someone’s mental health. It clouds thinking, the ability to focus, and make decisions, etc. It often leads to co-occurring disorders such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, etc.
Anger doesn’t just affect one person it affects everyone involved in the relationship. It can get in the way of the people you love the most, causing damage, sometimes that is irreparable. It causes a lack of communication, trust, and overall emotional scars, especially if children are involved.
How Anger Affects Your Brain and Body
When a person becomes angry, the hypothalamus at the base of the brain becomes activated and sends a signal to the adrenal glands at the top of the kidneys to release stress hormones known as cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. As cortisol decreases, the left hemisphere of the brain becomes more and more stimulated.
In other words, feelings of rage and anger increase heart rate, elevates blood pressure, and boots energy. Cortisol, the hormone responsible for stress, increases blood sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream and brain and increases the number of substances used to repair tissues.
The stress hormone also helps with the fight-or-flight response, acting as the human body’s voluntary alarm system, communicating with the regions in the brain responsible for mood, motivation, and fear. Lastly, cortisol alters how the immune system responds and suppresses the digestive system and reproductive system.
When someone becomes angry, a large amount of cortisol is released in a prolonged manner due to the release of too much cortisol. As mentioned before, chronic anger that occurs on a daily basis has a variety of consequences physically, mentally, and socially. The processes in the major systems in the body, such as the immune system, cardiovascular system, and digestive system will become disrupted.
This occurs because neurons in the party of the brain that are associated with decision-making, judgment, and short-term memory are destroyed, and therefore, weaken the overall immune system.
Process of How Anger Develops
The process of how anger develops occurs in the brain. The main two contributors are the amygdala and the hypothalamus. First, the amygdala signals to the brain to activate the hypothalamus, which is responsible for releasing hormones and regulating body temperature.
Then, the hypothalamus signals to the pituitary gland by releasing the corticotropin hormone (CRH). The pituitary gland activates the adrenal glands secreting the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). Lastly, the adrenal glands secrete the hormones responsible for inciting stress known as cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.
Three Types of Anger
There are three types of anger that people experience when the amygdala in the brain becomes activated. They are as follows:
- Passive Aggression: Most people when they become angry do not like to admit it, because they like to avoid confrontation. Therefore they pretend they’re fine, yet do subtle things to show they aren’t. This is called being passive. As the word indicates, passive-aggressiveness is engaging in subtle acts of anger and hostility in indirect ways.
- Open Aggression: When someone becomes physically and/or verbally aggressive they often lash out, yell, bully, accuse, and blackmail others where they also end up hurting themselves.
- Assertive Anger: This type of anger is more seen in a positive light. Being assertive means giving people the ability to resolve conflict in a more productive way that is more respectful for everyone involved. Assertive anger is the middle ground, where when talking about a situation that has caused disharmony is done in a manner that does not intentionally hurt other people’s feelings.
Symptoms of Anger
It is important that people understand symptoms of anger below in order to effectively get treatment.
- Knots in your stomach
- Clenching your hands or jaw
- Feeling clammy or flushed
- Breathing faster
- Pacing or needing to walk around
- Having trouble focusing
- Pounding heart rate
- Tense muscles
How Anger is Related to Substance Abuse and Can Hinder Recover
Most people don’t realize that anger and substance abuse often go hand in hand. This is known as co-occurring disorders or a dual diagnosis. It is a fact that people who struggle with anger management problems are more prone to substance abuse issues. Drugs and alcohol are their support system to help cope with their problems, which actually a majority of the time makes their anger worse.
Anger is not a harmless emotion, it can be lethal. People who are more susceptible to becoming angry are more likely to abuse substances such as drugs and alcohol to cope with symptoms. When chronic anger occurs it stresses and damages the body.
The American Psychological Association (APA) stated that anger, especially in men, exacerbates conditions and impairs judgment, whereas drugs and alcohol do the same thing, as well as, causing insomnia, digestive issues, headaches, etc.
Anger drives people to drink or take drugs in the first place. Doing so, which not only ruins relationships but also causes low self-esteem, as well as, a slew of other emotions such as shame, guilt, blame, despair, and fear. All of these can lead to anger or further aggravating pre-existing frustrations.
The anger can come from various different perspectives. They may be upset that their life is out of balance with addiction, hurting those around them, or upset that people around them don’t seem to understand them. As the situation worsens and a person avoids it instead of dealing with it in a proactive and healthy way, both their anger and addictions used as coping mechanisms take control.
How Anger Management At Granite Mountain Can Help
Having addiction and/or mental illness no doubt makes a person feel angry and hopeless. At Granite Mountain, we offer anger management counseling sessions to help and teach our patients measures to manage their anger and avoid relapse.
While people believe that anger management is always about learning to suppress anger, that is not the main purpose. Anger will always be present, and therefore anger management techniques are not used to teach people to suppress their feelings but help them understand the message behind why they are feeling these emotions, and be able to express them in a healthy way without losing complete control.
Therefore, people will be able to feel better, manage, cope with their emotions and conflict more effectively, strengthen relationships, and most importantly, achieve their goals, and live healthier and more purposefully. Mastering anger takes work, but there are tips that we suggest to help our patients do so. These include:
- Tip 1: Explore the root of your anger
- Tip 2: Know anger warning signs
- Tip 3: Identify your triggers
- Tip 4: Learn techniques to “cool down”
- Tip 5: There are healthier ways to express your anger
- Tip 6: Stay calm and take care of yourself as much as possible
- Tip 7: Find things that make you laugh to relieve stress and tension
- Tip 8: Understand anger warning signs, and that you or a loved one needs professional help
- Tip 9: Therapy is a good outlet to learn how to cope with anger
- Tip 10: Know you are NOT alone!
Our team of highly-trained specialists at Granite Mountain Behavioral Health use the evidence-based method of anger management rehabilitation to help people learn to control their anger and emotions effectively, and as a result, have seen success in improving their overall quality of life.
To learn more about anger management rehabilitation techniques, and how it can help you or a loved one, contact us today!