Are you getting angry?

Anger management is important in addiction recovery

Anger is a natural, healthy emotion. It’s neither good nor bad. It is our way of expressing that we’re feeling upset or threatened. However, if expressed in a rash manner, our message gets distorted. While it is perfectly normal to feel angry when we feel mistreated or wronged, the problem arises when our expression of the emotion harms us or others.

Negative effects of anger

Managing Anger in Addiction Recovery

While anyone can have anger management issues, it is essential for persons in addiction recovery to learn to deal with their anger. Anger may be directed at oneself, at some other people, organisations (such as law enforcement), or society as a whole. Without learning to process anger healthily, a person with an addiction cannot move forward in their recovery.

What’s Behind Your Anger?

Anger is merely a symptom of deeper emotions. Fear, pain, guilt, shame and low self-esteem are usually the triggers of problematic anger. During early recovery, the individual faces the demons within — linked with past behaviours and thinking patterns. Unpleasant memories arise, evoking feelings of guilt and shame. There are also fears: of the future, of how people will judge you, of abandonment, of stepping onto the unchartered territory of sobriety.

Myths and facts about anger

Myth: I shouldn’t “hold in” my anger. It’s healthier to vent it out.

Tips to Manage your Anger

The popular belief is that anger management is about learning to suppress your anger. But never expressing anger is not a healthy practice. Anger will come out regardless of how hard you try to clamp it down. The fundamental goal of anger management isn’t to suppress anger but rather to understand the trigger behind it. That way, you can address the root cause of anger. And it would help if you learned to express it healthily without losing control or causing harm. When you do that, you’ll feel better about yourself. You’ll also be more likely to get your needs met, be better able to manage conflict in your life, and improve your relationships.

Tip 1: Explore what’s the trigger behind your anger

If you look back, you may realise that you have often gotten into an argument over something silly? Big fights often happen over minor issues, like a dish left out or being a few minutes late. If you look deeper, you’ll discover that there’s a more significant issue behind it. If you find your irritation and anger rapidly rising, ask yourself, “What am I really angry about?” Identifying the real source of frustration will help you communicate your anger better, take constructive action, and work towards a resolution.

Tip 2: Be aware of your anger warning signs

Look back at times when you exploded in anger. You’ll observe that there are, in fact, physical warning signs in your body. Becoming aware of your personal signs that your temper is starting to rise will help you to take steps to manage your anger before it gets out of control. Check if any of these warning signs happen to you:

Tip 3: Identify your triggers

Stressful events don’t excuse anger, but understanding how these events impact you can help you take control of your environment and avoid unnecessary aggravation. Look at your regular routine and try to identify activities, times of day, people, places, or situations that trigger irritable or angry feelings.

Are Your Negative Thought Patterns Triggering Your Anger?

You may believe that external factors — the insensitivity of other people, for example, or frustrating situations — are causing your anger. But anger problems have less to do with what happens to you than how you interpret them and respond to them.

Common negative thinking patterns that trigger and fuel anger include:

Overgeneralising. Thoughts like “You ALWAYS interrupt me. You NEVER listen to me. EVERYONE disrespects me. I NEVER get the credit I deserve. Obsessing over “shoulds” and “musts.” Having a rigid view of the way a situation should or must go and getting angry when, in reality, it doesn’t.

Tip 4: Learn ways to cool down quickly

Once you begin to recognise the warning signs that your temper by predicting your triggers, you can act quickly to deal with your anger before it spins out of control. Here are some techniques that work:

Tip 5: Find healthier ways to express your anger

If you’ve decided that the situation warrants you to get angry and there’s something you can do to make it better, it is essential to express your feelings in a healthy, non-aggressive way. Try and positively resolve the conflict — it will only strengthen your relationship rather than damage it.

Tip 6: Self-care

Taking care of your overall mental and physical well-being can help you stay calm.

Tip 7: Use humour to relieve tension

When a situation gets tense, humour and playfulness can help to lighten the mood, smooth over differences, reframe problems, and keep things in perspective. When you feel yourself getting angry in a situation, try using a little light-hearted humour. It also enables you to get your point across without getting the other person’s defences up or hurting their feelings.

Tip 8: Recognise if you need professional help

If your anger is still spiralling out of control despite putting these previous anger management techniques into practise, you may need more help.

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