Non-Traditional Addictions: Anger

"Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies", Nelson Mandela.

Resentment is a form of anger.  You have probably heard that anger plays a large role in addictions.  But did you know that there is an actual anger addiction?  While anger is a natural human emotion, chronic anger is not.  I know it sounds crazy, but anger is a powerful feeling that can become addicting for some people.  Can you think of anyone who may seem that s/he is always angry?  Do you know someone who is always looking for a fight or something to be angry about?

People who have anger addictions can be called “ragaholics”, or someone who is addicted to their rage.  Why would someone want to feel angry all the time?  The answer is in the brain chemistry.   Rage is a rush!  When humans feel threatened, we respond with a fight, flight or freeze reaction.  Those of us who tend toward the fight response activate the limbic system in our brains and tell it to release the hormone adrenaline, which fuels our hearts to race and blood pressure to rise so we can fight the threat.  When we engage in fight, the brain produced a second hormone called Dopamine (hence the term “dope”) that tells the pleasure center of the brain that this feels cool.  Some people perceive the feeling of anger as exhilarating.

The problem is when the pleasure seeking part of the brain gets too much dopamine, it dulls the senses and the brain needs more to feel the pleasure.  Thusly, a person needs to feel angrier and angrier to produce more and more dopamine to feel good.  This is an ironic cycle of addiction.

When we have unmet needs or guilt, remorse, or shame and feel vulnerable, anger makes us feel like we are in control.  Ironically angry behavior is seldom under control.  In angry states, we challenge others to fights, yell and scream, break objects, and scare people.  This behavior fuels the fire of anger and leads to more situations where we have to feel threatened!  Chronically angry behavior  destroys relationships, ends careers, displaces us in society and cuts us off from real pleasure.

Anger addiction is a serious condition that can easily have unintended consequences.   Anger hurts the person who experiences the anger the most.   If you or a loved one is having difficulty with anger addiction, please access a 12 step program or a therapist.  Do it before it is too late and you lose what is important to you.  Now that would be something to be angry about!

Written by guest blogger Alexa Griffith, LMHC, LCAC, NCC, RPT

Imagine Hope Counseling provides marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples counseling, relationship counseling and family counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield