Have you ever drunk alcohol or used drugs because you were upset or angry at someone or some aspect of your life? Problems stemming from anger and then the inability to appropriately manage anger is often associated with substance abuse. Unfortunately, they are not addressed as frequently in addiction treatment as necessary. A new study examines the benefit of including anger management while attending therapy in rehab.
The Relationship Between Anger and Substance Abuse
Substance abuse and anger often go hand in hand and could be related in a variety of ways. Some people who abuse substances do so to self-medicate as a means to manage their emotions. For instance, you may have overwhelming feelings of stress, loss, or even rage tied to traumatic memories that you use substances to repress or control.
Others may not become angry until they consume certain substances. When the effects of a drug take hold, you lose all control, and underlying negative emotions take over. One study revealed that alcoholics who have underlying anger issues run a high risk of aggression when they drink.
Anger is not only an overpowering emotion, but it can also be dangerous to yourself and others. If you lose control, whether you are under the influence or not, you risk harming yourself, getting into an altercation with a stranger or loved one, hurting a child or partner, or any number of other negative consequences.
Should Addiction Treatment Include Anger Management?
When you take away the alcohol or drugs, any underlying anger you have is not going to magically disappear. In fact, there is a good chance that it will intensify because there is no longer any way to self-medicate those uncomfortable feelings. Fortunately, anger management programs, when included as part of an addiction treatment program, can help you address these issues.
A recent study shows that this is a valid and useful approach to addiction treatment. Called the Patrick-Reilly approach, there is a three-pronged system of cognitive-behavioral therapy that focuses on anger management through relaxation techniques, cognitive interventions, and communication skills.
A study was recently completed on this approach and published in BMC Psychiatry by researchers in Iran, who found that the levels of aggression in the group that participated in anger management while in rehab were significantly lower than those who did not. While the study needs to be completed with larger sample sizes, it indicates that anger management is a useful tool in addiction therapy.
Appropriately Dealing With Anger in Addiction Recovery
When you go to rehab, you will have the opportunity to learn how to deal with your emotions in the healthiest way possible – without using any mind-altering substances. An addiction treatment program can help you with anger management through individual and group counseling and by providing coping skills. Some of the goals of anger management treatment include:
- Learning to handle anger and avoiding using it as an excuse for relapse
- Drawing encouragement and support from others with similar issues
- Learning new techniques for controlling your thoughts and actions
- Stopping any potentially dangerous situations before anyone becomes emotionally or physically harmed