Is Anger an Addiction?
Mike Fisher presents his own thoughts regarding the above question based on many years of personal experience of being addicted to anger and working with others similarly addicted.
The question ‘Is Anger An Addiction?’ is more than just rhetorical and from my perspective it’s undeniably factual
Let’s start by defining addiction, It’s the condition of being abnormally dependent on some habit, especially compulsive dependency on narcotic drugs, alcohol and so forth’. My own definition of addiction is based on my experience of being a marijuana addict for well over 30 years. ‘Addiction is the inability to control my impulses which I know are harmful to me and others around me´. My addiction began when I was aged around 16 years old. It started out as fun with a little bit of peer group pressure added. My fundamental problem was that I was in denial of my addiction and eventually it took well over 15 years for me to recognise and own that reality for myself. It then took another 15 years to bring it under control.
I loved getting stoned and I found it genuinely helpful in controlling my ADHD and excellent for stuffing my emotional pain. My addiction to blow seemed to me to be the most amazing anaesthetic and awesome way to self medicate. When I eventually did give up (that took about six years) what became clear during that phase was all I had done was in fact just replaced one addiction for another – one being food, yes I put on weight, a massive amount of weight, and the other addiction was work. I became a fat workaholic, working 18 hours a day, 7 days a week. Then the point came when I realised I was just in denial, deep denial and I had to explore other serious, solutions for myself. However before I could do that I also had to come
to terms with my addiction to anger, in fact anger and adrenaline and a few other minor addictions like, intensity, drama and most important of all my addiction to suffering…. Yes suffering. I discovered my greatest addiction was to suffering.
My hypothesis; Most addictions have their genesis in repressed anger and fear. I have about 27 years experience in counselling and group facilitation, I am now approaching this based on empirical evidence based on my experience of working with clients in the field.
How did I come to this hypothesis? Having worked with over 20,000 people in the past 17 years, specifically in the area of anger and stress management, I discovered that virtually everyone was in some way addicted to anger and stress.
In my work, I notice that people who come and see me for anger and stress management also have addictive tendencies. Their addictions are not always to drugs or alcohol, they can present a variety of addictions such as work, food, sex, gaming, gambling etc…. I also discovered with my client group who I call the angry tribe that there are addictions to intensity, drama, anger, stress, suffering, extreme sports, adrenaline, just about anything that keeps them away from being present in their lives. Present to their feelings, thoughts and experiences. What the anger and stress does is enhance the intensity of their suffering which then, in order to deal with, they resort back to alcohol, drugs, food, work, shopping gambling etc…etc… I describe it as a ‘hostility loop’ the one addiction feeds the other!
My hypothesis suggests that underlying all of our addictions is this great need to repress our fears and our aggressive tendencies. For many of us who experienced high levels of anger and shaming, certainly during our formative years, leading to trauma, repressing our vital feelings was our main coping strategy. This in turn lead us to finding numerous solutions to suppress
these volatile feelings. And for many of us, including me, led us to using powerful medication, drugs and/or alcohol, to sublimate these feelings.
Eventually people who go into recovery, have to deal with primarily anger and fear then hurt and shame and usually if their tendency is towards anger its only a matter of time before they seek anger management skills to further their recovery.
“Today my own anger and stress is controlled and managed daily and my addictions have reduced by at least 95 percent. The area that I am working on is weight, fitness and remaining fully present in my own life and I know this is a discipline that has supported me in my recovery.”
To summarise: I believe that most addictive behaviours have their roots in repressed anger and fear and once you are able to face your fears and control your anger, your addictive behaviour will naturally diminish and your need to create further suffering for yourself will dissolve organically. I have found that clients discover that they are able to maintain sobriety when their anger gets activated – that’s the next level into their recovery. And once again it’s going to take awareness, consciousness and mindfulness to free themselves from latent aggressive behaviour.
You might ask yourself what is the miracle cure or what is the antidote to anger and stress?
The truth is very simple – if you can crack your addiction to drugs and alcohol then you can crack
your addiction to anger, stress and suffering.
The 10 Steps to start the recovery process:
• Recognise that anger is getting in the way of you having a healthy relationship with yourself and others.
• Be committed to doing something about it immediately
• Be prepared to invest in your emotional health and well being whatever the cost!
• Get support in whatever shape or form
• Use an ‘anger journal’ everyday
• Read books on the subject and educate yourself Visit www.mindyouranger
• Find ways to deal with your stressors Yoga, meditation, exercise and a range of creative
outlets are excellent ways of de-stressing
• Make yourself a priority in your own life!
If you don’t make yourself a priority no one else will and making yourself a priority will instantly increase your self esteem
• Make a commitment to yourself to do all of the above and more. As you already know if you can overcome one addiction it’s possible to overcome them all..
• Finally, please note that anger, like any addiction, does not go away it only gets worse and if you don’t deal with it, then be prepared to lose family and friends.
Mental Health Organisation: Boiling Point Report 2008
For Mental Health Action Week 2008, the Mental Health
Organisation launched a report ‘Boiling Point’ about
problem anger, how it affects individuals, families and
communities, and what we can do to minimise the harm
Key findings from the report are:
• GPs report that they have few options for helping patients who come to them with problem anger.
• There are some good examples of NHS-funded anger management courses and others being run by voluntary organisations, as well as private sector providers.
• Where NHS services do not exist GPs can refer people to voluntary sector providers and others, but often aren’t confident to do so.
• There are approximately 50 published research studies that have tested some kind of intervention for anger problems with adults and another 40 relating to children or adolescents, and researchers have concluded that successful treatments exist for adults, adolescents and children.
• Almost a third of people polled (32%) say they have a close friend or family member who has trouble controlling their anger.
• More than one in ten (12%) say that they have trouble controlling their own anger.
• More than one in four people (28%) say that they worry about how angry they sometimes feel.
• One in five of people (20%) say that they have ended a relationship or friendship with someone because of how they behaved when they were angry.
• 64% either strongly agree or agree that people in general are getting angrier.
• Fewer than one in seven (13%) of those people who say they have trouble controlling their anger have sought help for their anger problems.
• 58% of people wouldn’t know where to seek help if they needed help with an anger problem.
• 84% strongly agree or agree that people should be encouraged to seek help if they have problems with anger.
• Those who have sought help were most likely to do so from a health professional (such as a counsellor, therapist, GP or nurse), rather than from friends and family, social workers, employers or voluntary organisations.
• Generational differences are striking. Older people are less likely to report having a close friend or family member with an anger problem or to be worried about how angry they sometimes feel or that they have trouble dealing with their own anger, than younger people.
• There are striking regional differences in responses to our anger polling – especially between Scotland and other parts of the UK.