Does Alcoholism Cause Anger?

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Alcohol is a depressant of the CNS (central nervous system depressant) that disrupts decision-making and triggers a loss of self-control, particularly after episodes of heavy drinking.

Does alcohol cause anger problems or is the issue more nuanced? Today’s guide explores the relationship between alcohol abuse, aggression, and anger.

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What Is the Association Between Anger and Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is an informal descriptor for alcohol use disorder, a chronic and relapsing brain condition. Like all substance use disorders (addictions), alcoholism is characterized by the compulsive consumption of alcohol regardless of negative outcomes. 

An Ohio State University study shows that some people find it harder to control their anger when drinking alcohol than others. Researchers discovered that people who focus more on the present than the future are more prone to become angry or aggressive when intoxicated. 

Additional research suggests that people who have existing problems with impulse control and executive function are more likely to become angry when their ability to self-regulate is impaired by alcohol. They are also more liable to become aggressive and violent. 

Indeed, studies show that alcohol dependence and aggressive behaviors are closely interrelated. Individuals who are alcohol-dependent also exhibit violent behaviors from 16% to 50% of the time. People who become severely intoxicated at least once each year are more likely to engage in violent behaviors than people who conform to moderate drinking guidelines or people who drink no alcohol.

Individuals with the following behavioral disorders may be prone to anger management issues that co-occur with alcoholism. These behavioral disorders include:  

  • ASPD (antisocial personality disorder): According to NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism), people with ASPD are 20 times more likely to develop alcohol use disorder than those without antisocial personality disorder.
  • Bipolar disorder: Research shows that bipolar disorder co-occurs with alcohol addiction in roughly 30% of cases.
  • ODD (oppositional defiant disorder): ODD is a behavioral disorder that typically manifests in childhood or adolescence. Oppositional defiant disorder increases the risk profile for alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence.
  • IED (intermittent explosive disorder): NIH (National Institutes of Health) states that intermittent explosive disorder affects 16 million U.S. adults. This mental health condition frequently co-occurs with alcoholism.

So, alcohol and anger are clearly related, but does abusing alcohol cause anger problems?

Does Alcohol Cause Anger Issues?

WHO (World Health Organization) reports that alcohol is more closely implicated in aggressive behaviors than any other addictive substance. That said, drinking alcohol elicits varying behaviors in different people. 

Researchers have explored the association of personality traits with the tendency to become angry when intoxicated. A benchmark study shows an inverse association between agreeableness and violence in both men and women. Researchers concluded that reducing alcohol consumption in men who exhibit traits of anger, hostility, and disagreeable could lead to a reduction in violence. 

Another study highlights the relationship between alcohol abuse, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and violence. Researchers found that from 30,000 study participants with no experience of active military combat, the following were the strongest predictors of aggressive or violent acts: 

  • Increased anger after trauma.
  • Self-medicating PTSD symptoms with alcohol.

Earlier research indicates that alcohol consumption increases aggression mainly among those with a heightened disposition for aggressive behavior. 

A 2018 study shows that individuals displaying problematic patterns of drinking were more liable to perceive certain triggers and cues as aggressive.

Consuming alcohol, then, does not necessarily cause anger, but it can certainly increase the tendency in those predisposed to anger.

Co-Occurring Disorders, Self-Medication, and Anger

According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), 17 million U.S. over-18s had co-occurring disorders in 2020. Co-occurring disorder, also known as dual diagnosis, involves a substance use disorder (addiction) and a mental health disorder presenting simultaneously. 

If an individual suffers from alcohol use disorder and anger management issues, these problems can inflame each other. WHO (World Health Organization) states that alcohol: 

  • Disrupts cognitive functioning
  • Impairs physical functioning
  • Inhibits self-control

All of these factors can make it more challenging for someone who is intoxicated to identify that their anger is spiraling out of control. 

Some people use alcohol as a means of self-medicating troubling or negative emotions, including anger. While alcohol is a CNS depressant and can sometimes suppress some stress reactions associated with anger, chronic alcohol abuse triggers two issues: 

  1. Increases the chance of developing alcohol use disorder.
  2. Raises the risk of negative outcomes related to uncontrolled outbursts of anger.

Alcohol Abuse, Anger, and Domestic Violence

IPV (intimate partner violence) is of significant concern when it involves alcohol and anger. Violence can occur in dating relationships, long-term partnerships, and marriages. 

A 2017 study on dating violence shows that consuming alcohol raises the risk of physical aggression in men with poor anger management skills and high levels of anger. Sexual aggression also increased when alcohol was involved, even in men with sound anger management skills and low natural levels of anger.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment at California Detox

Whether you need treatment for alcohol use disorder yourself or you have a loved one who requires help, we offer programs at all levels of intensity at California Detox, including: 

  • Residential rehab (inpatient program)
  • Outpatient program
  • IOP (intensive outpatient program)
  • Virtual IOP (remote treatment program)
  • PHP (partial hospitalization program)
  • Dual diagnosis (for co-occurring addictions and mental health disorders)

Most people with alcoholism benefit from a supervised detoxification. We can help you with this at our licensed medical detox center in Huntington Beach. You will have access to medications, clinical care, and emotional care, streamlining alcohol withdrawal and mitigating complications or relapse during detox. 

California Detox alcohol addiction treatment programs involve personalized treatment plans drawing from these evidence-based interventions: 

  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Psychotherapy (CBT and DBT)
  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapy

When you are ready to move beyond alcoholism, we can help you build the firmest foundation for ongoing recovery. Reach out to admissions today by calling 949.390.5377.

FAQs

An angry drunk is a non-clinical descriptor for someone who tends to get angry when intoxicated. Consuming alcohol will trigger different emotional responses in people. Individuals with an innate tendency to anger quickly are more prone to becoming angry, aggressive, or violent when intoxicated on alcohol.
Consuming alcohol directly impacts both body and mind. Alcohol increases impulsivity and reduces emotional control, leading to an impaired ability to resolve conflict without resorting to violence. NIAAA reports that consuming alcohol disrupts memory, reasoning, and judgment.

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