Anger management is a common tool used in individual and group therapy settings during addiction recovery to help clients understand and process the emotion.
Just as negative ways of dealing with anger can lead to substance abuse, positive approaches can support clients emotionally and empower their long-term sobriety.
What Is Anger?
When looking at anger management and addiction recovery, it is important to first understand what anger is and what it is not.
Anger Is An Emotion
Anger is an emotion that your body generates when you feel threatened. It is a natural response that has the biochemical function of triggering the fight or flight response.
It is important to recognize that anger, in and of itself, is not unhealthy or wrong.
Only your choices define the consequences of anger. Violence, brought on by frequent and intense episodes of anger, can have lasting effects on your life and interpersonal relationships.
The Difference Between Anger And Aggression
Anger is not the same thing as aggression, but anger can lead to aggression.
Aggression is a behavior that produces violent or threatening actions. These may include physically attacking people, intimidation, damaging property, or verbally abusing someone.
The Difference Between Anger And Hostility
Anger is also not the same thing as hostility. Hostility is an attitude that affects how you view others. Hostility is a way of thinking that places you at odds with other people.
When Is Anger Negative?
Anger has a role to play in responding to moral injustice or threatening situations, but it can easily turn negative.
It is often easy to see why. Expressions of anger can be manipulative and used to cow someone into agreement.
Inappropriate Expressions Of Anger
Anger can become a problem when it is expressed in a way that is threatening to others.
These negative expressions include:
- physical abuse
- damaging things or property
- intimidation or threats
- verbal abuse
These expressions damage relationships and can lead to legal consequences as well.
Frequency And Intensity Of Anger
Even unexpressed episodes of anger can be bad for your health. Experiencing intense anger on a frequent basis can have adverse short and long-term effects on your well-being.
Some negative effects of anger can include:
- digestion problems
- high blood pressure
- heart attack
Why Is Anger Common Among People In Recovery?
Several studies have connected anger with substance abuse. For example, one study showed that 40% of people who use cocaine had higher levels of aggression.
Abusing substances frequently and intensely can result in being susceptible to violent acts such as aggression, suicide, or homicide.
While in some cases substance abuse can instigate a higher level of anger and aggression, in others, people start abusing substances to suppress anger or other negative emotions.
In these cases, experiencing sobriety after a detox program will force the individual to face unresolved emotions related to trauma or loss. The emotion that surfaces may be anger.
What Is Anger Management?
Anger management is a therapeutic tool that therapists use to help people in recovery process anger appropriately through a healthy approach.
Anger management is based on the modality known as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT has many therapeutic applications in addiction counseling and dual diagnosis treatment.
How Anger Management Works
The anger management course manual put out by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), outlines materials for a classroom setting.
As a result, recovery programs that use these guidelines would most likely do so in a group setting, utilizing discussion as a way of learning.
Here are some of the goals of anger management.
Be Aware Of Anger
One of the first goals of anger management is teaching clients to be aware of anger.
Anger awareness can include identifying:
- situations or people that trigger anger
- why you express anger negatively
- the anger response as a habit
Your ability to change your anger response is predicated on understanding. In other words, if you can’t identify the problem, you would be unable to find the solution.
One of the tools used in anger awareness is the “anger meter.” An anger meter is a simple tool that gives people a way of rating anger, so they can analyze why they are feeling angry.
The anger meter uses the 1-10 scale as a way of identifying what actions to take to control anger.
Make A Plan To Control Anger
One of the goals of anger management is to learn how to control it.
As anger gets more intense, your ability to think rationally decreases. Developing an anger control plan ahead of time gives clients the steps to take without having to think about them.
For example, a strategy to control anger may look like this:
- as you feel anger intensify, take a timeout from the situation by removing yourself
- go for a walk, a run, or do some form of physical activity to clear your head
- talk the situation out with a friend who can be a sounding board
- discover what aspects of conflict resolution you can use
- contact a 12-step partner if you feel in danger of relapsing
Stop The Aggression Cycle
One major goal of controlling anger is to end the cycle of aggression.
The aggression cycle looks like this:
- the buildup of anger
- the explosion or negative expression of anger
- the aftermath, which is characterized by guilt, regret, or shame
The place to stop aggression is in the buildup of unexpressed anger by paying attention to warning signs.
Stopping the aggression cycle can be critical to sobriety because intense feelings of shame and regret can lead to relapse.
Use The Rational-Emotive Model
The rational-emotive model, also called the A-B-C-D model, is a way of digging deep into the reasons behind your anger, so you can develop new thought patterns.
For example, this model teaches you to:
- identify the event that initiates your anger
- understand what you believe about that event
- recognize the feelings you experience that are a consequence of what you believe
- correct those feelings or beliefs in favor of a new way of thinking
For example, if you discover that a situation makes you feel out of control, you might correct that by telling yourself to accept what you cannot change.
This touches on an important aspect of recovery because relapse can often be triggered by feelings of helplessness.
Use The Conflict Resolution Model
The conflict resolution model is a way of managing anger by providing structure for clients to follow when they need to resolve a situation that activates feelings of anger.
The model can look like this:
- identify the problem
- identify how you feel about the problem
- identify how the problem is causing conflict
- decide whether or not you should resolve the conflict
- decide how to resolve the conflict peacefully
Conflict is at the heart of negative expressions of anger. Aggression side-steps conflict resolution by manipulating people into agreeing with you.
If aggression is a habit, then it will take time and practice to develop ways of dealing with conflict peacefully and rationally.
Anger Management Can Help Prevent Relapse
Anger management can be an important piece to recovery. The negative feelings that come from unresolved conflict or outbursts of aggression can often lead to substance abuse.
For the person in recovery, negative emotions can lead to relapse. Learning healthy ways of processing and expressing anger can help build a foundation for long-term sobriety.
Find Addiction Treatment Today
If you or a loved one are facing cycles of aggression and substance abuse, you can find addiction treatment today. Call FreeRehabCenters.net to learn more about your treatment options.
Published on April 12, 2023
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- Better Health Channel
- BMC Psychiatry
- Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry
- Journal of Education and Health Promotion
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration