Alcohol’s impact on emotions and behaviors can vary widely from one person to the next. Some people seem to become much happier and more outgoing when they drink. Others take a decidedly darker turn. What is the connection between alcohol and anger?
Does Alcohol Cause Anger?
“That’s not really him. That’s just the alcohol talking.”
If you spend enough time around people who abuse alcohol, you will eventually encounter someone whose attitude and personality change significantly when they’re drinking. You will probably also hear an excuse like the one above when someone says something combative, threatening, or otherwise inappropriate while they are under the influence of alcohol.
Can alcohol really cause a person to experience emotions (such as anger) that are contrary to their true nature? Or do the diminished inhibitions that are characteristic of alcohol abuse lead people to express anger that they have previously kept hidden?
Researchers haven’t yet definitively answered either of these questions – but they have developed some important insights into the connection between anger and alcohol.
How Does Alcohol Affect Our Thoughts and Behaviors?
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. This means that alcohol use leads to slowed brain functioning. This, in turn, can cause diminished reaction time, poor coordination, slurred speech, and impaired cognition.
However, when a person uses alcohol, the drug can initially have a stimulating effect. This is why some people become louder, less inhibited, and more gregarious when they start drinking. These emotional and behavioral changes result from alcohol’s ability to trigger the release of brain chemicals such as dopamine and endorphins.
According to the University of Toledo and several other sources, the stimulating effects of alcohol are most pronounced when a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is between 0.02% and 0.10%. Please note that this doesn’t mean that everyone with a BAC in this range will be happy, simply that they are more likely to experience more intense emotions.
As a person’s BAC rises above the “stimulating” range, they have a greater likelihood of experiencing confusion, disorientation, anxiety, depression, and poor judgement. If a person is prone to anger – or if they were in an angry state when they began drinking – this is the stage at which they may begin to engage in violent or aggressive behaviors.
A BAC in the 0.11%-0.20% range may be where the connection between alcohol and anger is strongest. Once a person’s BAC exceeds 0.20%, they are at a heightened risk for passing out, blacking out, and otherwise losing control of their physical and psychological functions.
Risk Factors for Alcohol-Related Anger
As we established in the previous section, a high blood alcohol content is associated with alcohol-related anger and aggressiveness. But BAC isn’t the only thread that can connect alcohol and anger.
A 2013 study in the journal Deutsches Arzteblatt International revealed that the following factors can also increase the likelihood that a person will become angry and/or aggressive after they have been drinking:
- Gender (men are much more likely than women to have problems with alcohol and anger)
- Binge drinking episodes (consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time)
- Maladaptive reasons for drinking (which can include using alcohol abuse as a method of coping with stress)
- Lack of empathy
- Personality traits such as sensation-seeking and a propensity for irritability
- Associating with others who believe that aggression is an acceptable behavior
- Certain genetic markers
Treatment for Alcohol Abuse and Anger Management
Professional treatment can help you break the connection between alcohol and anger. Depending on your specific needs, this treatment may include medication and therapy to help you stop drinking and exert better control over your thoughts and actions.
Elements of treatment for alcohol addiction and anger management problems may include:
- Medication-Assisted Treatment
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
- Trauma therapy
- Holistic therapy
Therapy can help you in many ways, such as:
- Acquiring important information about the disease of addiction and the recovery process
- Identifying your triggers, or the events and circumstances that may prompt you to abuse alcohol
- Developing better stress management and conflict resolution skills, so that you can respond to challenges in a healthy manner without resorting to alcohol abuse
- Learning how to replace self-defeating thought and behavior patterns with more productive ways of thinking and acting
- Discovering the benefits of sharing support with other people who have experienced similar challenges and who are working toward similar goals
Find Alcohol Rehab in Atlanta Today!
If you have been exhibiting anger, aggressiveness, or other problematic emotions and behaviors due to compulsive alcohol abuse, Peachtree Recovery Solutions can help. Our alcohol rehab in Atlanta, Georgia, offers personalized outpatient care in a safe and highly supportive environment.
Alcohol addiction treatment options at our center include a partial hospitalization program (PHP), an intensive outpatient program (IOP), and an outpatient program (OP) as well as programs specialized for both men and women. In every program, our patients receive customized services from a team of skilled and compassionate professionals.
When you’re ready to stop abusing alcohol and start living a healthier and more satisfying life, the Peachtree Recovery Solutions team is here for you. Visit our admissions page or call us today to learn more.