Everyone gets angry sometimes. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, when that anger becomes constant or uncontrollable, it can cause a number of issues. One of the things that can make anger even more difficult to control is alcohol. In fact, alcohol is often linked to violence and crime.
Alcohol doesn’t cause anger, but it can fuel pre-existing emotional distress. And if a person already has a temperamental personality, ongoing alcohol abuse will make things even worse. Since people often turn to alcohol as a means of self-medication, any further aggravation will be likely to lead to even more alcohol consumption.
Why Alcohol Causes Mood Swings and Anger
People have different emotional reactions after drinking. Sometimes you might be sad, sometimes euphoric, sometimes nostalgic, and sometimes angry. Because alcohol changes the chemistry of the brain, it disrupts your thinking, judgement, and emotional response. Alcohol also affects the frontal lobe and other cognitive functions, lowering your inhibitions and fear of consequences.
Less Emotional Control
A person is less likely to hold themselves back (in emotions or behaviour) under the influence. If normally you might suppress your emotions in a situation, alcohol can make you more dramatic.
Not everyone gets angry after drinking. A person’s reaction will largely depend on their general emotional state. If they’re hiding pain, alcohol might make them cry. If a person is stressed, they might lash out and fight.
However, anger may be a mask for another emotion, such as humiliation, regret, envy, insecurity, or betrayal. Because the expression of anger can be a self-defence mechanism, it sometimes presents itself in place of the real emotion the person is experiencing. If a person is normally repressing their emotions, anger can be an easy way to unleash pent-up feelings.
Things Seem Worse Than They Are
Decreased cognitive function due to alcohol also means that a person can’t think straight. They might process a situation differently than if they were sober. According to a study, people with alcohol addiction were more likely to misread a person’s emotions and behaviour.
For example, you wouldn’t think much if a person bumped into you by mistake. However, if you’re drunk, you might think that the person is annoying or did it on purpose.
Alcohol Creates More Problems
Poor judgement and lack of self-control can lead to making irrational decisions, which can make a person even more angry with everything. Even if they don’t engage in any bad behaviour, poor sleep or a hangover may mean that the person won’t be functional the next day, which will put anyone in a bad mood.
It’s Just An Excuse
We know that alcohol makes people do stupid things, so for some it’s an excuse to do whatever they want. But it isn’t just about the alcohol. There have been studies when people thought they were consuming alcohol and acted like they were drunk anyway..
This means, people who are constantly angry might take advantage of alcohol’s presence to unleash their emotions. Maybe they’ll finally say all the things they’ve been holding back or get into a fight with someone that’s been harassing them. However, in such cases, this is often unintentional.
Who Is Affected
Anyone is prone to an alcohol-fuelled rage. However, because of the reasons above, alcohol worsens mood swings and anger issues in people who are already generally hot-tempered people. Comorbid mood disorders can be triggered by alcohol as well.
Long-term alcohol abuse can also cause serious and possibly permanent brain changes, which increase emotional instability and amplify certain psychological disorders. People with anger management issues already lack control over themselves. Alcohol causes them to lose control further. Thus, someone with a long-term alcohol addiction may become easily irritable over time.
Alcohol and Anger: A Dangerous Combination
Both alcohol and anger make it hard to think straight on their own. Now, imagine if they’re combined. When the two are present together, a person is highly likely to become involved in something they wouldn’t otherwise do and might regret later.
According to a report from Deutches Arzteblatt International, alcoholic men are more likely to get into fights or abuse their partner, young people are more likely to commit crimes, and people in general are more likely to attempt self-harm or suicide.
Having a short temper also means it is easier to ruin relationships by getting angry over petty things or taking out your stress on a loved one. If this sounds familiar, you may wish to involve your family in your therapy as well. They are probably dealing with their own negative emotions about your behaviour.
It was found that about 50% of violent crime involved alcohol. In the US, about 30% of murders are alcohol-related, and that number seems to be growing. Based on these statistics, we can see why alcohol and crime are often linked together.
Since many people use alcohol as a way to destress and unwind, especially if they’re angry, it can be dangerous if it becomes a regular thing. Where anger is an ongoing issue, drinking becomes more and more of a go-to coping technique. This can not only worsen pre-existing problems but also lead to dependency and addiction.
Alcohol and Anger Management
Emotional instability should not be ignored as it can lead to many problems in life, and often pushes one towards alcohol and substance abuse. However, if a person is already dependent on alcohol, they will need to address that first.
When treating alcohol abuse or addiction, all the underlying issues need to be treated as well. Taking away the alcohol won’t resolve any issues with anger. Anger is one of the biggest causes of relapse, according to Alcoholics Anonymous. If it’s ignored, a person is likely to go back to their old ways, and increases the chance of relapse. Because of this, a rehab programme should include appropriate anger-management therapy as well as addiction treatment.
With alcohol or without, anger needs to be addressed. A person should be able to express and deal with their emotions in a proper manner. Hence, it is important for everyone to learn anger management skills. Dealing with your anger when you’re sober will help you avoid going into a rage when you’re drinking.
Tips for Anger Management
1. Analyse the Situation
Next time you are angry, try to figure out why. This can be difficult because anger may be masking a different issue, but it is important to take the time to do so. There’s always a reason for your anger.
Ask yourself: what would other people do in this situation? If someone wouldn’t normally be angry, why do you feel this way? Eventually, this will help you understand yourself better and deal with your emotions.
2. Take Time Out
When you feel an incoming rage, take a minute to unwind. It can be helpful to learn a few relaxation techniques. Else, just take a break and walk away from the situation. Go for a walk or do something to clear your head. Once you’ve calmed down, you will be able to see things more clearly and have a more rational response.
If taking time out doesn’t help, find a way to put your anger to good use. Exercise, such as running or kickboxing, can be a good way to burn off any rage. Whatever you do, don’t reach for a drink.
3. Open Up
Anger is often a result of repressed emotions. So, if something bothers you, you shouldn’t ignore it. Try to talk to someone about it, even if they’re not involved in the situation.
However, think before you speak. Even if you took time out, going back to the problem can ignite the anger all over again. Try to remain calm and collected, and don’t use grudges as leverage.
When you do talk to someone, don’t just use the time to complain, but try to brainstorm and suggest possible solutions. This will make you seem more rational and people will be more likely to help you.
4. Deal With It
You can’t always change the situation but you can change how you react to it. Without invalidating yourself, you should learn how to accept the present and either live with it or move on.
Perhaps most importantly, remember that your anger is your choice. Nobody else has the power to make you angry unless you allow it. Blaming someone else for making you angry is not taking responsibility. Do not give others the power to manipulate your emotions.
If a problem is ongoing or does not seem to have an adequate solution, you should be prepared to make some changes in your life. No matter what, do remember that alcohol and anger do not mix. Substance abuse won’t resolve problems, it will only cause more.
The moment you think your anger is getting out of control or you’re turning to alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism, you should consider seeking professional help.
Get help today
At Smarmore Castle, we do not just specialise in addiction treatment, but work with patients to resolve underlying issues, such as anger, as well. If you think you have or are developing a problem, don’t hesitate to call us. We can help answer your questions and guide you to take the best step forward.
Last updated & clinically assessed 26 March, 2021