What Comes First, Anger or Addiction?

Unresolved anger is manifested in many ways. Some store their anger when they bottle up emotions and are afraid to express them for fear of damaging relationships, but without self-confidence, they have trouble asserting themselves and expressing their anger in healthy ways, so they resort to passive-aggressive expressions and negative thought patterns, such as:

“Unresolved anger is manifested in many ways” – New Method Wellness”

• “Even if I do speak up, it’s not like my voice really matters.”
• “Is my anger justified? Am I overreacting?”
• “I don’t want people to feel like they are walking on eggshells around me.”
• “I have been told that I’m overly sensitive, so it’s better just to not speak up.”
• “The last time I spoke up, it didn’t make a difference anyway.”
• “It’s not like anyone cares.”

Suppressed emotions, though not verbally expressed, will come out somatically in other ways, such as heavy-handed mannerisms (e.g., when closing a door, etc.) or an inappropriate harsh tone during a conversation. Quite often the individual might not even be aware of these subtle hints of anger, but you can hear the underlying tone in the way they speak and carry themselves. These subtle hints are overlooked because the individual seems like a pleasant person who gets along with everyone, but underneath that facade is a very angry person who resorts to addictive behaviors to relieve self-imposed pressure.

Others express their anger outwardly and if it gets out of hand, they could take it out on their significant others and children. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) reports that an average of 20 people is abused by their intimate partner every minute of the day, which equates to about 10 million men and women in the United States. One in 15 children are exposed to domestic violence and 90% of them are eyewitnesses.

What role does anger play in the cause and consequence of substance abuse

Based on data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, anger plays a role in both cause and consequence of drug and alcohol abuse (as cited in Anderson, 2014).

While parents cannot be entirely blamed for children’s future addictive behaviors, much of the anger starts in the home, and substance abuse is only one (but very common) manifestation of children’s reaction to internalized anger in adulthood. In a study examining 292 mothers across six countries, researchers found that child aggression symptoms were significantly associated with parental use of corporal punishment and yelling, whereas expressions of disappointment, shaming and other types of discipline were associated with greater child anxiety symptoms (Gershoff, Grogan-Kaylor, Lansford, Chang, Zelli, Deater-Deckard & Dodge, 2010). If one of the parents has a mental illness, such as an anxiety, depression or other mood disorder, the illness becomes a significant predictor of the parents’ act of aggression toward their child (Mammen, Pilkonis & Kolko, 2000).

Statistics that show anger as a consequence of alcohol and drug abuse are evidenced by various studies. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, statistics show a strong link between Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and substance abuse in 40-60% of domestic violence incidents; of those incidents, more than 20% of male offenders were reported to have excessively consumed alcohol and/or used illicit drugs which perpetrated the violence. Alcohol is known to lower your inhibitions and alter your brain chemistry, reducing your ability to respond appropriately to stress and changes in the environment.

How ​does​ ​anger​ ​affect​ ​communication?

Do you remember when, as a child, you turned to your mom or dad for protection, consolation, or validation? Were either of your parents there for you when you needed them to show up for a game or to witness you receive an award at school? Perhaps there was a bully at school and you told your parents because you thought they would stand up for you. Instead, the opposite was true for you. When your parents came to your game, instead of feeling a sense of pride, you felt shame and embarrassment when your parents passed out due to an overdose. When you tried to defend yourself as your parents were calling you names and beating you, you discovered that no matter what you did or said, it didn’t matter, so you internalized the wrong message about yourself: “My voice does not matter. I am not important.” A parent’s anger has the potential to shut down the child’s self-expression, which leads to communication breakdown and anger in the child’s future.

Anger and addiction are a vicious cycle. Anger can lead to addiction, and addiction perpetuates anger. In both instances, communication isn’t happening, or communication is happening but in an unhealthy manner.

Addressing​ ​Anger​ ​in​ ​Dual​ ​Diagnosis​ ​Treatment

The advantage of seeking treatment for substance abuse at a dual diagnosis treatment center like New Method Wellness is that rather than merely treating the symptoms of a substance use disorder, dual diagnosis care also addresses underlying issues that initiated drug and alcohol abuse. Anger comes in many forms, such as chronic depression, bitterness, dysthymia, and rage. In some cases, depression is internalized, unexpressed anger. The bitterness that goes unaddressed can actually turn into a mental disorder. Approaching a loved one with anger issues is intimidating enough, but if you suspect that he or she may be using drugs or alcohol, you run the risk of creating a wedge between you and your significant other, parent or child if you try to confront without the help of an experienced interventionist. The last thing you want is an estranged relationship with the one who really needs help; with the support of an interventionist, you are changing the trajectory of your loved one’s future.

For more information about our Wellness Methods, visit our website or call 866.951.1824

Anderson, G. (2014). Anger management is a neglected topic in substance abuse intervention. Retrieved from
Gershoff, E.T., Grogan-Kaylor, A., Lansford, J.E., Chang, L., Zelli, A., Deater-Deckard, K., Dodge, K.A. (2010). Parent discipline practices in an international sample: Associations with child behaviors and moderation by perceived normativeness. Child Dev., 81(2): 487-502 [PubMed]
Mammen, O.K., Pilkonis, P.A. & Kolko, D.J. (2000). Anger and parent-to-child aggression in mood and anxiety disorders. Comprehensive Psychiatry 41(6): 461-468

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