Why Do Alcoholics Get Angry?

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Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV.

Why Do Alcoholics Get Angry?

Alcohol abuse and alcoholism can take over all aspects of your life. It can impact your relationships, physical and mental health, finances, and your general well-being. Alcohol can also affect your mood - leaving you feeling sad, anxious, and sometimes, angry.

But why do some people get angry when they drink? That’s what we’ll be exploring today. Read on to learn more about the connection between alcohol and anger, and why those with alcohol addiction may experience higher levels of anger. We’ll also be exploring some ways that you can stop feeling angry when you drink alcohol.

Alcohol Can Affect Impulse Control

First of all, alcohol can affect impulse control, which can make alcoholics more prone to anger. Drinking alcohol affects your brain’s prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for decision-making and regulating impulses.

This means that when you are under the influence of alcohol, you may struggle to control your impulses.

Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to impulsive and sometimes verbal and physical aggression - the lack of impulse control can worsen feelings of anger, and cause you to react in ways that you wouldn’t act while sober.

Alcohol Can Impair Cognitive Functioning

Another reason why some people who drink alcohol excessively get angry is due to the cognitive functioning impairment caused by alcohol. Alcohol affects the areas of the brain that control balance, memory, speech and judgement.

When you drink excessive amounts of alcohol, it becomes harder to process information, think clearly, and make rational decisions. This can lead to distorted perceptions, and enhance feelings of frustration - increasing the risk of irritability, anger and aggression.

Alcohol Can Lower Inhibitions

Alcohol is notorious for lowering inhibitions - this means that when you drink alcohol, you may say or do things that you wouldn’t do when sober.

Many people drink alcohol because of this - it can make you more confident and chatty. However, this can also lead to aggressive behaviour and violence. Lowered inhibitions from binge drinking and alcohol abuse can also lead to:

  • Drink-driving
  • Committing crimes
  • Risky sexual behaviour
  • Taking drugs or other substances

Many people who binge drink will feel embarrassed when they sober up, and regret the decisions they made whilst under the influence, whether it be aggressive or violent behaviour or verbal aggression.

If you have developed a dependence on alcohol, your inhibitions may already be affected due to addiction. Drinking alcohol can further reduce your ability to control angry impulses, which can lead to explosive outbursts and confrontations.

Alcohol Can Enhance Emotions

Alcohol may also intensify your emotions - for example, if you’re feeling down before you drink, you may feel a lot more upset after drinking alcohol. The same applies to anger - if you abuse alcohol whilst feeling anger or resentment, these feelings may amplify.

This heightened emotional state can make it difficult to effectively manage your anger, leading to destructive behaviours and strained relationships.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Like with most substance use disorders, chronic alcohol use disorder can lead to withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking suddenly or drastically lower the units of alcohol your body is used to.

These withdrawal symptoms can affect your body and mind and can be difficult to manage without the right support. Dealing with alcohol cravings when you stop drinking can make you feel irritable, enhancing feelings of anger.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms symptoms can range from mild to severe and typically appear within hours to a few days after the last drink. Some common symptoms include tremors (shakes), sweating, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, irritability, insomnia, and headache.

In severe cases, individuals may experience hallucinations, seizures, or delirium tremens, which is a life-threatening condition. It's important to seek medical support as withdrawal can be dangerous. Medical professionals can provide support, medication, and monitoring to ensure a safe detoxification process.

How to Stop Feeling Angry When Drunk

Whether you become an angry drunk after a few drinks or you have a severe dependence on alcohol, seeking help is the best thing you can do.

It’s important to address your feelings of anger before it escalates. Start by recognising the signs, such as clenched fists or racing heart. When you notice these signs, take a moment to breathe deeply and calm yourself down.

If you can, step away from whatever's triggering your anger. Before you react, take a moment to think about the consequences of your actions. Is your anger justified, or is it just the alcohol talking?v

We recommend staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water in between alcoholic drinks. This can help you to pace yourself and avoid becoming intoxicated.

Therapy and anger management can be helpful in managing your anger. Anger management sessions with a professional can help you understand and control your anger in healthier ways.

In therapy, you can expect to explore the root causes of your anger, learn techniques to manage your anger, and develop coping skills.

With a therapist, you can learn relaxation techniques, assertiveness training, and problem-solving skills. You'll also work on recognising triggers and changing negative thought patterns.

Therapy provides a safe space for you to express your emotions and learn effective communication. Progress may take time, but with practice, you'll gain control over your anger reactions, leading to improved relationships and a greater sense of well-being.

Although anger management may be a proactive approach, it can also be helpful to stop drinking alcohol or learn to control your drinking. However, sometimes, controlling your drinking isn’t that easy - you may need professional support.

At Help4Addiction, we can connect you with the most appropriate addiction treatment providers for you, whether you’re looking for residential rehab programmes and therapy or online rehab options.

Begin your recovery journey today with Help4Addiction. From intensive outpatient programmes to cognitive behavioural therapy and support groups, our addiction experts can help you find the most suitable treatment to address both your addiction and anger issues.

If you're struggling with anger while intoxicated, don't hesitate to reach out for help. By seeking treatment and adopting healthy coping strategies, you can break free from the cycle of alcohol addiction and reclaim control over your life.

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