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  • Anger & Addiction: Understanding The Role Of Anger In Addiction

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    Drug addiction (also called substance use disorder) can wreak havoc on your mood. In particular, it often causes feelings of anger. Many people with the disease become irritable and, in some cases, aggressive. 

    Anger issues relate to addiction in two key ways. First, anger can increase your risk of addiction. Second, addiction can make your anger worse

    How Anger Leads To Addiction

    Addiction begins with drug abuse. Drug abuse occurs when you use drugs in a manner that harms your health. For example, you might drink too much alcohol, use prescription drugs more frequently than prescribed, or use illegal drugs like heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine.

    Many people abuse drugs or alcohol to numb unpleasant emotions, including anger. In most cases, angry feelings arise due to other difficulties, such as:

    • anxiety
    • sadness
    • low self-esteem
    • loneliness
    • exposure to anger and violence in childhood
    • mental health conditions like depression, bipolar disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and borderline personality disorder (BPD)

    If a person doesn’t know how to manage these difficulties in a healthy way, they might turn to drugs. At first, drug use may ease anger and boost your mood. Ultimately, though, it will make your mental health much worse and put you at high risk of addiction. The most common symptoms of addiction include:

    • intense cravings for drugs
    • feeling unable to stop using drugs even if you want to
    • difficulty experiencing pleasure without drugs
    • tolerance (needing increasingly larger or more frequent amounts of a drug to feel the desired effects) 
    • physical dependence (experiencing unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when you don’t use drugs)

    How Addiction Worsens Anger

    Addiction can intensify your anger for multiple reasons, including intoxication, stigma, and withdrawal.


    Many addictive drugs will make you angry, especially with heavy use. 

    For instance, stimulant drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine can make you feel irritable, edgy, and paranoid. These feelings may lead to verbal and physical aggression. 

    Similarly, depressant drugs like alcohol can impair your ability to understand social cues. You may misinterpret a harmless comment as an insult and react aggressively. 

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heavy drinking makes you more likely to commit various types of violence, including intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and homicide.


    The term stigma refers to judgment based on a personal quality. People with addiction face a significant amount of stigma. For example, they may be judged as weak, selfish, or immoral. Understandably, experiencing this type of judgment can lead to anger. 

    To numb that anger, a person may increase their drug use, intensifying their addiction.


    One of the most common symptoms of addiction is physical dependence. That means your body starts relying on drugs to function normally. If you go too long without drugs, you will likely experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms

    One of the most common withdrawal symptoms is irritability. You may also become angry due to the discomfort of other withdrawal symptoms, such as:

    • shaking
    • sweating
    • anxiety
    • nausea and vomiting
    • aches and pains
    • hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t there)

    Addiction And Anger Management

    The only way to treat addiction-related anger is to seek help at an addiction treatment program. These programs offer a variety of services to help you become drug-free, such as medical detox, mental health counseling, and support groups

    At first, the recovery process may bring stressors that worsen your anger. For example, you might get angry at yourself for developing an addiction in the first place. In addition, you will finally be forced to face the anger and other painful feelings that you tried to numb with drugs. 

    While this process is uncomfortable, it gives you the chance to learn how to effectively manage your emotions. 

    Identify Your Triggers

    To start this journey, you must figure out what exactly makes you angry. Try making a list of all the things that trigger your anger (also called “triggers”). You might find that you are more likely to get triggered at certain places or with certain people. 

    Develop Coping Skills

    Next, think about what other feelings your triggers cause. For instance, you might find that you experience anger when you feel misunderstood, rejected, or helpless. You can then learn healthy coping skills to help you manage these feelings. Some of the most effective options include:

    • journaling
    • deep breathing
    • meditating
    • exercising
    • expressing yourself through painting, writing, or another creative outlet
    • spending time with supportive loved ones

    These types of coping skills can help you respond to anger-inducing situations in a calm, productive way. To determine which ones will best meet your needs, talk to a therapist or addiction specialist. 

    If you or someone you love struggles with addiction, please reach out to an Ark Behavioral Health specialist. Our compassionate health care providers offer personalized, evidence-based care to help you or your loved one stay drug-free.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2021 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
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