Anger and Addiction
Anger is usually a response to an anticipated threat to oneself or to others. Also, anger and the aggression that can follow is often a response to frustration. Relationship problems, finances, and poor communication skills are common issues that can trigger frustration, and thus, anger. Anger can be a productive response at times, but when anger is frequent or to the extreme, it could signal the presence of an anger disorder. Anger is a co-occurring condition treated during treatment at a rehab facility.
How is Substance Abuse Similar to Anger?
What are Anger Disorders?
An anger disorder is characterized by:
• A pathological response to stress
• Violent or self-destructive behaviors
• Chronically suppressed anger or rage
Anger disorders are often caused by mismanagement of anger. This leads to normal anger growing in secret over time, causing bitterness, resentment, hatred, and damaging rage. Anger disorders can also be caused or worsened by neurological impairment and substance abuse, which can impact a person’s ability to resist angry, aggressive or violent impulses.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is a disorder characterized by repeated angry or irritable moods, arguing, and defiant behavior that happens for at least six months. In addition, these behaviors have a negative impact socially, at school, on the job, or in other important areas of daily life, causing distress in the individual or in the people surrounding the person.
People with ODD would have at least four of the following signs:(1)
Antisocial Personal Disorder (ASPD)
Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) is apparent when the patient exhibits a consistent disregard for other people’s rights and fails to show empathy toward other people. ASPD sufferers have no qualms in skirting or breaking the law to satisfy a need or want.
ASPD typically starts in childhood or in the teen years and lasts into adulthood. Antisocial personality disorder is often called sociopathy or psychopathy, but neither term is used in the criteria for diagnosis.
People with ASPD display the following signs:
Symptoms of ASPD
Antisocial personality disorder cannot be diagnosed in people under the age of 18, as children are still changing and developing as they grow. Each year, the rate of this disorder is between 0.2 and 3.3% in Americans and seen 70% more often in adult males than adult females. Generally, there tends to be a reduction of symptoms by the age of 40 to 50 years old.
Antisocial personality disorder is present when an individual displays a pattern of antisocial behavior and has most of these symptoms:
Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED)
Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) is a mental disorder that starts for many in their teen years and is characterized by violence towards others and their possessions, causing bodily harm and damage to property.
Research shows that about 16 million people experience IED at some point in their lives.5
A diagnosis of IED is made when:
Anger and the Brain
In a dangerous situation, the amygdala sends out a distress signal to the entire brain, causing a group of physical responses to occur, such as rising blood pressure, rapid heart rate, muscle tension and a release of adrenalin, which may induce anger before the prefrontal cortex can process what is happening.
When the amygdala judges if a situation is hazardous, it compares the situation with past emotion-filled memories. If any important elements are somewhat similar (such as sounds or facial expressions), the amygdala can instantly let loose warnings and an emotional explosion.(6)
Weaker connections within the brain may instigate anger disorders. Research suggests that less connective brain tissue can produce errors in processing social situations, and the impaired judgment can lead to explosive and angry outbursts.
Is Anger an Addiction?
Addiction is defined as a chronic, primary disease of the brain. The areas of the brain controlled by addiction process reward, motivation, and memory. When these processes are disrupted, it shows up biologically, mentally, socially and spiritually, causing a need to pursue reward and/or relief by using substances and other behaviors.
The subsequent actions evolve into addiction- not being able to abstain, difficulties with controlling behavior, cravings, and a failure to recognize how significant the problems are from one’s behaviors. Addiction has two main categories:
Substance addiction involves the abuse of alcohol and/or drugs.
Process addiction involve behaviors such as shopping, gambling, hoarding, eating disorders, working too much, co-dependence, and the inappropriate display of the normal human emotion of anger.
Treating Anger Disorders
Anger disorders typically accompany another mental health disorder. Conditions coexisting are called co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis. Ninety percent of those afflicted with anti-social personality disorder (ASPD) have another disorder, such as anxiety disorder, depressive disorder, or substance use disorder.
Treatment needs to address all the coexisting disorders in order for it to be effective and individualized to each patient’s needs. The best approach is to use a combination of different therapies and adjust the approach as needed. These different therapies can include:
Therapy for Anger Disorders
Once calm, express your anger. Once you have a clear head, express your frustration assertively but not in a confrontational manner. Calmly explain your needs and concerns directly, without trying to hurt or control others.
Don’t focus on what is making you angry; focus on finding a solution.
Keep in mind that anger won’t fix the problem and may make it worse.
Seek Professional Help
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