Anger management and addiction

Addiction can cause huge emotional distress and upheaval. Certain addictive substances can increase natural aggression and reactiveness, while dependence on a particular substance or behaviour can create overwhelming feelings of frustration, depression, fear and anxiety. Sadly, anger and addiction often go hand-in-hand, and this can make daily life incredibly hard for the individual with the addiction and their loved ones. While some minor degree of anger can be a natural and even healthy response to frustrating or unacceptable circumstances, when anger starts to take over your life, hurt those around you or seriously impact your health, it is time to seek help.

When does anger become unhealthy?

Anger can play an important role in the “fight or flight” response, historically key to survival. In life-and-death situations like a battle or even an argument with serious consequences, anger can help to mask fear or a lack of confidence and help you to win. However, very few of us find ourselves in these situations and anger is most commonly experienced in day-to-day instances where it is often unnecessary or even counter-productive.

“Unhealthy” anger is not clearly defined, but a lack of control often characterises it. This often manifests in a “red mist”, “losing your head”, or any other phrase that means you acted in a way unlike yourself. Unhealthy anger can be nasty, violent and harmful, negatively impacting your loved ones and yourself. It can cause you to do or say things you highly regret and cause irreparable pain and damage.

What is the link between addiction and anger management issues?

There are various potential links between addiction and anger management issues, including:

Loss of control

The first way that addiction is similar to unhealthy anger is that it can cause you to act in uncharacteristic ways. Many people with an addiction seem to take on a whole new personality, with their true selves only emerging again after recovery.

Shared causes

Part of the reason that addiction and anger management issues often co-occur is that the roots of both come from some unresolved underlying causes which trigger angry or unhealthy reactions. This is often linked to dual-diagnosis conditions, but other causes can include trauma, low self-esteem, grief and even a family history of addiction or anger management struggles.

Anger and denial

People with addiction are also often highly reactive and can become quickly enraged when their substance use or addictive behaviours are addressed. This often manifests as ultra-defensiveness, irrational denial or striking out physically or verbally at the person voicing their concerns. Such reactions can make it very difficult for loved ones to be around those with addictions and huge strain is put on partners, parents, children and friends.

Anger at self

Addiction can also cause enormous anger at yourself for being unable to quit drugs, alcohol or a particular behaviour. The shame of hurting your loved ones, losing your job due to addiction or experiencing societal stigma can all create deep, unhealthy anger. Crucially, many people with these kinds of feelings then use drugs or alcohol to soothe or self-medicate, reinforcing the cycle of anger and addiction.

Do I have an issue with anger management and addiction?

There are several key addiction and anger management symptoms which can show you have a problem and need help. If someone you know has voiced their concerns or your anger or behaviour is starting to cause issues in your life, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you behave aggressively or hurtfully to those around you, such as swearing, shouting, threatening or insulting them?
  • Does your behaviour become worse or only come out when you have been using drugs or alcohol?
  • Do you become angry if someone tries to restrict your addictive behaviour or take away your drugs or alcohol?
  • Do you blame other people for the negative consequences of your behaviour or even for your substance use or addiction itself?
  • Do your loved ones feel like they need to “walk on eggshells” around you when you are drinking or using drugs?
  • Do you struggle to put things behind you and dwell on perceived wrongs done to you?
  • Does anger at these past events come out when you have been drinking or doing drugs?
  • Do you behave aggressively when you are unable to obtain the addictive substance or engage in the addictive behaviour? Do you slam doors, seek arguments or drive dangerously?

If you notice any of these addiction and anger management symptoms, it is worth seeking professional help.

How does treatment for addiction and anger management work?

Overcoming addiction on your own can be incredibly difficult, especially if you are affected by addiction and anger management issues simultaneously. UKAT has successfully helped many people break free from the chains of addiction, and many of the therapies that make up our rehab treatment programmes can also have benefits for managing anger. Each of our rehab centres across the UK has vast experience helping people with co-occurring anger and addiction, while our UKAT London Clinic is an industry leader in bespoke mental health and addiction treatment.

Some of our most important therapies and treatment approaches include:

One-to-one therapy
One-to-one therapy provides a safe, confidential space for you to delve deeply into the roots of your addiction and anger management issues. Guided by an experienced therapist, you will have the time and space to explore yourself, learn to identify causes and triggers for your anger and addiction and learn new ways of coping. This can be an intense experience, but many clients have their most important “Eureka!” moments during individual therapy.
Group therapy
Both addiction and anger are non-discriminatory, and so you will meet many people in rehab with similar struggles to yourself. Group therapy allows you to learn and share with your peers, which can help you develop new coping skills that have worked for them. Group therapy is also a great way to build community and camaraderie, critical during rehab and beyond.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
CBT is a cornerstone of addiction treatment that will give you insights into how your angry thoughts and feelings fuel your addictive behaviours. This can help you to manage these urges and compulsions more effectively so you don’t turn to substances or harmful activities.
Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT)
DBT combines elements of CBT with deep mindfulness practices to help you stay calm and centred during difficult moments. It is one of the most effective ways to improve impulse control and emotional regulation and can also help a lot with your communication and interpersonal skills.
Family therapy
Addiction is often called a “family illness” because its impact goes far beyond the individual, affecting all of those closest to them. When added to this mix, anger can destroy relationships with the people you love the most. Family therapy can help heal these bonds, give your family a place to discuss the impact of your anger and addiction on them and learn how to support you on your recovery journey best.
Meditation and yoga
When you are trapped in a cycle of addiction and anger management issues, it can completely override your entire system. Decision-making, emotional regulation and stress management can all be significantly impacted, making day-to-day life a serious struggle. Yoga and meditation can help you to rebalance and restore calm and peace in your life. This can be crucial both during the rigorous rehab process and for preventing relapse after you leave.
Art therapy
Art therapy is a holistic recovery approach that can provide welcome relief from intense talking therapies. It allows you to express yourself creatively and communicate your feelings nonverbally. You don’t need Da Vinci’s skills to benefit from art therapy; the process matters, not the final artwork.

These therapeutic approaches, along with many other proven modalities, allow us to address every aspect of addiction and anger management issues. Each is specially designed to provide invaluable insights, relapse prevention methods and coping skills, which together form the foundations for successful, lasting recovery.

Get help with anger management and addiction today

UKAT understands that a life with addiction on one shoulder and anger on the other can be an uphill struggle. We are committed to helping you lift these burdens from your shoulders and begin the transformative healing process. If you are ready to put addiction and anger behind you, contact UKAT today. It can be the first step on your addiction and anger management journey to a whole new life.

Call us now for help


Which addictions most commonly fuel anger?
While any addiction can exacerbate anger issues due to the inherent loss of control and emotional upheaval it causes, certain addictions are more frequently associated with heightened anger responses. For instance, alcohol addiction often leads to lowered inhibitions and impaired judgement, which can result in more aggressive and volatile behaviour. Similarly, stimulant drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine can increase irritability and aggression due to their intense impact on the brain’s reward and stress systems. However, the key factor is often your underlying emotional and psychological state, not the effects of the substance itself.
Is rehab treatment for anger?
Rehabilitation treatment primarily focuses on addiction, but it often has significant positive effects on anger management. This is because many of the therapeutic approaches used in rehab, such as CBT and DBT, are also effective in addressing the root causes and manifestations of anger. Rehab provides a structured environment where you can learn healthier coping mechanisms and emotional regulation skills to benefit co-occurring conditions.