Anger is a natural and common human emotion that has many benefits. Anger helps us assert ourselves in situations involving emotional conflict, and if our physical body is threatened, anger produces several physiological responses that can help us physically defend ourselves, a condition commonly known as the “fight response.” For these reasons, anger is not an emotion that you will want to disable, nor would you succeed in doing so if you tried.
However, you may experience extreme anger that far exceeds what would be appropriate for a given situation — for example, a violent verbal or physical outburst when someone cuts in front of you in line. Sudden, uncontrollable and violent angry outbursts can have devastating effects on your friends, family and loved ones and cause problems for you in your workplace or school. Of course, explosive anger can also harm your person in many serious ways.
This condition, if uncontrolled, can elevate your heart rate and blood pressure leading to serious medical problems over time, and it can cause you significant emotional stress and psychological harm as you deal with the fear and shame associated with your behavior. These negative emotions can also lead to depression if you have experienced problems with anger for a long time, and these negative symptoms can frequently lead you to drugs and alcohol as a means of self-medication.
Self-medication brings with it a host of additional problems which you will now have to contend with in addition to the symptoms of your anger. Drugs and alcohol also erode your inhibitions and impair your decision-making abilities which will further exacerbate your anger symptoms. More symptoms mean more distress, and this means more substance use to manage them. This cycle can easily turn occasional self-medication into abuse and addiction on top of your anger. To break the cycle of anger and addiction safely and effectively, you will need to seek professional help, specifically from a program specializing in individualized treatment.
SYMPTOMS OF UNHEALTHY ANGER
Despite the many significant and dangerous symptoms of uncontrollable anger, anger can be treated effectively by behavioral therapy and medications, if required, in extreme cases. However, for these treatments to be effective, you must first deal with any substance use issues first if you have them.
Unhealthy anger has many indicators which distinguish it from contextually appropriate anger. These symptoms and signs include:
- disproportionate anger, anger greater than other people might exhibit in similar circumstances
- memory-trigged anger, intense anger over past events or situations
- non-specific anger, anger without an incipient cause
- purposefully reserved interactions with others or excess caution for fear of an angry outburst
- feedback from others about your angry behavior
- guilt, shame or regret after an angry outburst
- explosive angry episodes which last more than 30 minutes
- general irritability, impulsivity or aggressive behavior
- repression of anger
- physical outbursts to release tension caused by anger
- teeth grinding, elevated heart rate, clenched fists, sweaty palms or other signs of physical tension
- an inability to calm down after an incident of anger
- legal trouble as a result of anger
- frequent and uncontrollable arguments with your family, friends or coworkers
- angry physical contact with others
- threatening violence to others or their property
- emotional and physical loss of control when angry
THE CHALLENGES OF TREATING ANGER AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE
If you suffer from anger and substance abuse, each of these problems can make the other worse, leading to many painful and traumatic symptoms with no clear way out on your own. Substance use frequently follows anger issues and can incite them, while increasing anger can lead you to self-medicate even more. Anger, however, can also itself be a symptom of an underlying and possibly undiagnosed mental health disorder. Both substance use and anger could actually mask a third condition which could go untreated, further prolonging your suffering both problems. The complexity of finding and implementing a solution can grow exponentially with each additional problem you suffer from. Only a medically-supervised detox followed by addiction and mental health treatment can ensure you can adequately resolve each of these issues while also preserving your wellbeing.
HOW A HOLISTIC APPROACH TO ANGER AND ADDICTION CAN HELP YOU ACHIEVE LONG-TERM WELLNESS
Your long-term wellness depends on first eradicating your substance abuse issues. If you fail to complete this necessary step, your substance abuse problems will always incite your co-occurring mental health issues and undermine any behavioral therapy treatment you receive. A compassionate medically supervised detox — as a part of larger individualized and holistic recovery program — can ensure you fully detox by making this stage as comfortable as possible.
Further, an individualized recovery program will take all aspects of your genetic, personal and medical histories into account, along with social factors which may have contributed to your substance use and struggles with anger. It is by looking at each contributing factor that you can systematically disable each of these illnesses. By identifying and understanding their root causes, you can learn to recognize and avoid triggers and to adopt new, healthy ways to respond to situations where you may have previously lashed out or self-medicated.
An individualized and holistic approach above all emphasizes compassionate care that treats the problem and does not treat you as the problem. The medical, psychiatric and caregiving staff at the Serenity Oaks Wellness Center understand the difficulty of overcoming addiction and anger, and you can rely on them for friendly support throughout your stay as you transition towards a drug-free life.
This approach has the twin goals of making your stay as pleasant as possible so you complete your treatment and building self-compassion which will help sustain you as you take your sobriety into your own hands after treatment. Patience, self-love and commitment to your long-term health and sobriety will ensure you can avoid relapse or return to your past angry behaviors.