The Role of Anger in Addiction

Individuals that struggle with addiction often do not have control over their emotions. They constantly have to face mood swings, irritability, and intense emotions. One such emotion that many people facing addiction struggle with is anger. Anger is a common emotion because some do not know how to express their anger in a healthy manner, resulting in drugs and alcohol being used instead. Substance abuse to cope with anger can lead them to the destructive cycle of addiction. By understanding anger and its role in addiction, individuals can begin learning to manage it and find recovery.

Anger Can Put You at Risk of Addiction

It is not uncommon for individuals that struggle with addiction to also have problems with their anger. You will often find that people that grew up in angry, violent households are more likely to struggle with addiction later on in life. This usually has to do with traumatic memories or never learning how to cope with anger in a healthy manner, resulting in people turning to drugs and alcohol as a form of self-medication.

In fact, children that experience domestic violence or abuse are more likely to also struggle with:

  • Becoming abusers themselves
  • Becoming victims themselves
  • Engaging in risky behaviors (i.e., having sex, using drugs and alcohol)
  • Getting in legal trouble
  • Not doing well in school
  • Having fewer friends
  • Headaches
  • Stomach aches
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem

How Addiction Impacts Anger

While anger can put you at further risk of addiction, the disease itself can perpetuate your anger and worsen it over time; this can happen for several reasons. Often, those struggling with addiction are using drugs and alcohol as a means of living in denial about past traumas. Anger becomes built up over time as the person continues avoiding it until a boiling point is reached. Addiction can also keep individuals from expressing anger or coping with it in a healthy manner. Over time, the individual may grow angry towards themselves because of their addiction but continually blame those around them for their problems. 

Common Ways Anger Appears in Addiction

Because individuals struggling with addiction commonly do not know how to express anger healthily, the emotion manifests negatively. This manifestation can cause more problems in the person’s life, specifically in their relationships. Knowing how anger typically shows up in addiction can help you understand it within yourself or a loved one currently battling the disease.

Those that are currently dealing with addiction may express anger by:

  1. Threatening those around them in extremely violent ways.
  2. Emotional blackmail. Emotional blackmail can include giving someone the “silent treatment” or refusing to support a loved one without ever expressing why they are angry in the first place.
  3. Being severely aggressive with others. Physical aggression is common and can include punching, hitting, kicking, or pushing as a means of releasing anger.
  4. Seeking vengeance. The individual may begin imagining different ways of hurting the person that wronged them to “teach them a lesson.”
  5. Avoiding the anger. Individuals may consume more substances to avoid their anger, so they don’t have to deal with it.

Coping With Anger and Addiction

The best way to approach anger management when you are struggling with addiction is first to get clean. Getting sober will give you the best chance to work on your problems and create a better life for yourself. Learning how to work on underlying emotions and causes of your addiction will help you achieve and maintain sobriety for the long term. 

Once you are in recovery, consider the following tips for beginning coping with your anger healthily:


If you aren’t ready to share your problems with another person, journaling is a great way to get your anger off of your chest. Write about what is making you angry and then brainstorm some solutions. 


Exercising is a fantastic stress reliever due to the release of endorphins. These are known as “feel-good” hormones and can lift your mood and help you cope with your anger.


Meditating is another excellent way to cope with anger -- it allows you to sit with yourself to understand what you are feeling in the present moment. Take notice of any physical sensations and focus on what is making you angry to try to move past them.

Positive Distractions

Sometimes anger is too intense to deal with in the moment. To calm yourself down to approach it healthily, consider positive distractions such as your favorite TV show or drawing something that brings you peace.

Talk to Someone

Reaching out to a loved one or a professional can help you get an outside perspective on your situation. It will also help you get the anger off your chest and provide some relief.

Anger can play a more significant role in our lives than we realize. Those that grow up in households filled with rage and violence are more likely to develop addictions later on. Unresolved anger can build up until there is a boiling point, wreaking havoc on your life and the lives of others. Knowing how to cope with anger properly can help you find the healing you need to maintain sobriety. Anger can perpetuate addiction, meaning proper management of the emotion can help you achieve sobriety. If you are currently struggling with anger and addiction, contact NorthStar Transitions today. Our Colorado rehab centers are made to help individuals like you. We offer individualized treatment methods with various experts, including counselors, therapists, physicians, and more. Our goal of clinical excellence and attention to your personal needs in recovery will help you achieve and maintain sobriety. Call us today to learn more at (303) 558-6400.

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