Anger problems are common among people with dual disorders. Much friction can be caused in a relationship if you ignore your anger or act on it in ways that hurt others physically or emotionally. Anger problems can interfere with recovery if you don’t cope with these feelings in positive ways.
Anger can also empower you if dealt with in a positive way. It can motivate you to set or reach goals or work hard to accomplish things in your life.
It is not your feelings of anger that causes problems but how you think about and express it that determines how anger affects your life. Some people try to ignore their anger and let it build up. They stew on the inside and become upset or depressed. They express anger indirectly by dragging their feet, forgetting important dates of people they feel anger toward, criticizing others behind their backs, or avoiding people they are mad at.
Other people let their anger out much too quickly and impulsively. They lash out at others and yell, cuss, scream, or act in other hostile ways. Some become violent, get into fights, or destroy objects or property. Violence is a significant problem for people with a substance abuse or psychiatric disorder.
The questions that follow will help assess your anger and how you express it.
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how much of a problem is your anger or how you cope with it or express it. 1-Somewhat of a problem 3-Moderate Problem 5-Serious Problem 7-Very serious 10-severe/life threatening.
- My anger usually shows in the following ways (i.e., I get sad, frustrated, pace, and feel nervous, etc.),
- I usually deal with anger by (i.e., holding it inside, letting it out immediately, talking it out, lashing out at others, fighting, etc.).
- I learned the following from my parents about anger or how to express it:
- My anger affects my physical or mental health in the following ways:
- My anger affects my relationships in the following ways:
- My anger affects my use of alcohol or other drugs by:
- I am still very angry at the following people:
- I can use my anger in a positive way by:
Setting a Goal
My goal in relation to how I cope with my anger is:
Steps I will take to reach this goal are:
Potential benefits of reaching my goal are:
Strategies for Managing Your Anger
- Recognize your angry feelings.
Pay attention to body cues, thoughts, and behaviors that tell you that you are angry. Use your anger cues to admit you are angry. Don’t deny, hide, minimize, or ignore your anger.
- Figure out why you are angry.
When you feel angry figure out where it is coming from. Does it relate to something another person did or said to you? Does it relate to an event, experience, or situation? Or, is your anger caused by the way you think about things?
- Decide if you really should feel angry.
Are you an angry person who seems to get mad too often or for no good reason? When angry, ask yourself if the facts of the situation warrant an angry reaction on your part. Or, ask yourself if your anger is the result of a character defect (i.e., you get mad frequently for little things).
- Identify the effects of your anger and your methods of coping with anger.
How does your anger and your methods of coping with it affect your physical, mental, or spiritual health? How are your relationships with family members, friends, or others affected?
- Use different strategies to deal with anger
These include cognitive (your beliefs about anger and the internal messages you give yourself), behavioral (how you act), and verbal (what you say to other people) strategies. Having a variety of strategies puts you in a good position to cope with anger in a wide range of situations.
- Cognitive strategies for anger management include:
- Evaluating your beliefs about anger and changing those beliefs that cause you problems. For example, if you believe you should “let it out” every time you get angry, you may find this isn’t always the best policy and that this belief should be modified. Or, if you believe you should never get mad, you might have to change this belief and give yourself permission to feel anger.
- Catching yourself when you are angry and changing your angry thoughts.
- Determining if your anger is really justified given the situation. This requires not jumping to conclusions and getting all of the facts of the situation first.
- Using positive self-talk or slogans (for example, “this too shall pass,” “keep your cool and stay in control,” etc.)
- Using fantasy. Imagine yourself coping in a positive way.
- Evaluating the risks and benefits of expressing your anger or holding it inside.
- Reminding yourself of negative effects of ignoring anger and holding it inside.
- Reminding yourself of negative effects of expressing anger toward others in hurtful ways.
- Identifying the benefits of handling anger in a positive way.
- Taking a few minutes at the end of the day to see if you are harboring any anger from the events of the day.
- Verbal strategies for anger include:
- Sharing your feelings with whom you are angry.
- Discussing the situation or problem that contributed to your anger directly with whom you are angry.
- Sharing your angry feeling with a friend, family member, therapist, AA, NA, or CA sponsor. Many find it helpful to discuss anger at support group meetings.
- Discussing the situation or problem that contributed to your anger with a neutral person to get their opinion on the situation.
- Apologizing or making amends to others who were hurt as a result of how you expressed your anger.
- Behavior strategies for anger management include:
- Directing angry energy toward physical activity such as walking, exercising, or sports.
- Directing feelings of anger toward some type of work.
- Expressing your anger with creative media such as painting, drawing, and other forms of arts and crafts.
- Writing about your feelings in a journal or anger log.