Anger and Drinking.. 1/11/07

Question:  I am wondering why I get angry sometimes when there is little cause for it and other times when I should get angry - I don’t? One night I was drinking and got angry at a comment by a friend. It wasn’t meant to be disrespectful, but, I took it that way and blew-up. Another time, during work, someone called me a name I won’t repeat and I just sloughed it off. I considered the source and didn’t care what he thought of me. Anyone else feel this way?

Answer:

Dear Friend, it sounds like your anger has to do with substance abuse. Drinking alcohol or taking drugs will lower the threshold of a normal angry response. When you perceive a threat - anger rears it’s ugly head within 1-3 seconds physiologically. Substance abuse actually will trigger anger. Alcohol and drugs lower inhibitions and slow the cognitive ability to judge triggers for fear and anger.

The frontal cortex of the brain has the final authority for making judgments about situations or thoughts which trigger our anger. But, when that judgment is impaired by drugs and alcohol, lack of skills or hot-self-talk …. the emotional center of the brain - the amydala - will take over. The amydala’s response will be heightened when alcohol is flowing through the bloodstream.
Look at how you responded when you were not under the influence. You told yourself not to get upset at that person’s remark because you didn’t care about their opinion of you. You used self-talk to prevent your anger from escalating. If you had been drinking - you wouldn’t have had the capability to use healthy self-talk.

Think about the consequences of drinking. Most likely, the temporary high you feel does not outweigh the negative results of heightened irritability and anger which comes from drinking and the hang-overs. Consider how you can better take care of yourself and your relationships. Alcohol will impede any healthy personal and relational growth in your life.

Lynette Hoy is a Diplomate with the American Association of Anger Management Providers, a National Certified Counselor and a marriage and family counselor with CounselCare Connection, P.C.

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