Anger Disorders & Substance Abuse: What You Should Know

Woman yelling in anger

Jana van der Linde September 2, 2020

Anger is an emotion associated with feelings of rage and aggressive behavior. Of course, mounting research has shown that the use of certain drugs can incite aggressive behavior, but the opposing view – how anger issues might make us prone to addiction – hasn’t been studied as much. And yet this is becoming a topic of increasing interest among addiction specialists and researchers.

Curious about anger disorders as well as the dynamics between anger and addiction, we explored these topics through a couple of questions: 

Here’s the gist of anger disorders and addiction. 

Is There a Mental Disorder for Anger?

Yes, there are three clinical diagnoses that are characterized by anger or aggression, which are: intermittent explosive disorder, oppositional defiance disorder, and conduct disorder. 

Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) is symptomized by impulsive and aggressive outbursts, usually out of proportion to what provoked someone to blow-up in anger. These outbursts can take the form of shouting, rage, temper tantrums, verbal abuse, physical violence, assault, and damaging property or possessions.  

IED is a condition with very high rates of comorbidity. Data shows that more than 80 percent of people with this condition have also been diagnosed with either depression, anxiety, or substance use disorder. Intermittent explosive disorder typically starts in adolescence, and surveys show that this kind of anger disorder affects nearly 16 million Americans – interestingly, more than bipolar disorder and schizophrenia combined. 

IED has very high rates of comorbidity with 80 percent of people with this condition also diagnosed with another disorder.

Oppositional defiance disorder (ODD) is symptomized by an irritable mood, often losing your temper, acting defiant and argumentative, deliberate rule-breaking, and a spiteful demeanor. ODD occurs mostly in young children. 

Conduct disorder (CD) is regarded as more severe than ODD. It is symptomized by persistent antisocial behaviors that lead to school performance and social development issues. CD is diagnosed in children and adolescents – adults with these types of symptoms are generally regarded as having an antisocial personality disorder

What Causes Anger Disorders?

Like most mental health conditions, anger disorders are likely caused by a combination of factors. These include:

  • Genetics;
  • Being exposed to an environment of anger or aggression;
  • Low serotonin levels have been linked to IED;
  • Lack of or difficulty separating from positive parental attachment has been linked to ODD;
  • Comorbid conditions, especially depression, ADHD, antisocial personality disorder, and borderline personality disorder. 

Although affecting people of all ages, anger disorders seem to be most prevalent among young men with a history of childhood trauma

The important thing to remember is that persistent feelings of anger isn’t a disorder on its own. However, persistent anger can be a symptom of another mental health issue, such as depression or anxiety. Or conversely, poor mental health has been known to make a person susceptible to addiction

Now that we know a little more about anger disorders let’s take a closer look at how this overlaps with substance use. 

Connecting Anger and Addiction 

Addiction and anger disorders (specifically intermittent explosive disorder) are clinical conditions both marked by impaired self-control.

Addiction and anger disorders (specifically intermittent explosive disorder) are clinical conditions both marked by impaired self-control. Both these disorders affect the higher-order cognitive skills we use to regulate our everyday life responses and behaviors. Brain specialists studied correlations between anger and substance disorders, and the findings showed similarities in the neural signatures of these two conditions. 

Can Anger Issues Lead to Addiction?

Yes, studies state that people with IED are more vulnerable to addiction than those without anger issues. In particular, young people with a history of persistent and problematic impulsive aggression are prone to substance use disorders later in life.  

Anger and Alcoholism 

Anger and Substance Abuse

At Silicon Beach Treatment Center, we offer treatment for anger and substance use disorders. Our holistic approach to mental health support can help you break free from both addiction and anger. 

Los Angeles IOP That’s Not Like the Rest 

Our Los Angeles recovery programs are geared towards helping you rebuild your life while kicking your addiction, and dealing with any accompanying anger. We offer additional support to outpatient clients through our LA sober living homes. Talk to us to find out more.

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