Substance use disorders (SUDs) are often a result of trauma. When people do not have the right tools or coping mechanisms to mitigate trauma symptoms, they may resort to numbing them with substances or releasing them through anger. Anger and anger mismanagement is often a symptom of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some people who experience anger as a trauma symptom do not realize when they are exhibiting anger symptoms.
An Introduction to Trauma
Trauma can have damaging emotional and physical effects on you. It can contribute to mental health disorders and eventually develop into PTSD. Events that can have traumatic effects include:
- Natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes
- Mass shootings
- Terrorist attacks
A traumatic event can be experienced first or secondhand. It can be from direct experience of the event, witnessing the event, or hearing about a traumatic event that affected a loved one. Trauma responses can vary from anger to anxiety. If these responses become chronic, then they can develop into PTSD.
Anger and Trauma
PTSD symptoms can cause you to go into fight-or-flight mode even when the threat or stress is mild or nonexistent. Experienced trauma can put a person on edge, making them more likely to anger.
Anger is associated with survival instincts and the impulsive moment of a perceived threat can result in anger and aggression. In people with PTSD, destructive emotional reactions are caused by arousal, behaviors, or thoughts and beliefs.
People who have PTSD are usually in a heightened sense of arousal. This can cause bodily reactions such as effects on the heart, circulation, glands, brain, and muscle tension. These reactions are also associated with heightened emotions and a sense of survival which can trigger an angry or aggressive response.
People who experienced trauma from a young age may not get a chance to develop proper coping or anger management symptoms. Instead, they might develop unhealthy coping mechanisms and behaviors such as “backstabbing,” lateness, intentionally performing poorly at work or during a project, self-blame, and self-injury.
Thoughts and Beliefs
A person may not notice, but traumatic events often lead to a shift in a person’s perspective. The shift in perspective can lead to more impulsive and aggressive actions and thoughts. This can result in inflexibility out of a perceived need to control any and all situations.
Identifying negative feelings is the first step to being able to appropriately and productively manage them. Acknowledge that you’re experiencing negative or overwhelming emotions without judgment or shame. Learning to process your emotion is the best way to mitigate anger.
You could also make it a priority to learn relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises and yoga. Practicing mindfulness through these types of exercises can give you perspective on the actual danger of the perceived threat.
Treatment for Anger Management and PTSD
You can learn tools for managing anger through trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR). These types of treatments can result in better control over traumatic memories and mitigate thoughts of helplessness and overwhelming emotions.
CBT can train you to recognize, stop, and change toxic thoughts that influence negative behavior. It is one of the most popular types of talk therapy and is a combination of both behavioral and cognitive therapy.
EMDR is used for understanding and healthily reprocessing traumatic events. It involves the course of several 90-minute sessions over approximately three months. During each session, you will be exposed to bilateral simulation by visually following an object controlled by the mental health professional as it swings back and forth.
Other Trauma Responses
Anger is just one of many different types of trauma responses you could experience after a traumatic event. Understanding the symptoms of PTSD can help you recognize it in yourself or others and find appropriate treatment. Some of the symptoms include:
- Trouble thinking clearly
- Frightened thoughts of flashbacks
- Reliving traumatic experiences
- Excessive anger, resentment, or irritability
- Difficulty sleeping
Anger can be a symptom of other mental health disorders including SUD, mood disorders such as borderline personality disorder (BPD), and bipolar disorder. Depression symptoms are also common among people with PTSD as well as physical symptoms such as:
- Inability to sleep
- Changes in appetite
Everyone experiences trauma differently. However, if you’ve experienced the symptoms above for more than three months, you should contact a mental health professional.
Trauma and Substance Use Disorder
A 2010 study was conducted on the correlation between childhood trauma and SUDs. In one survey among adolescents receiving treatment for substance use, 70% of participants had histories of trauma exposure. Due to this high correlation, trauma-focused CBT is commonly offered at facilities that specialize in treatment for addiction and SUD.
Learning how to manage negative emotions and process trauma can help you manage your anger. Anger is often a symptom of PTSD, which is highly correlated with substance use disorder (SUD). Restoration Recovery Center offers trauma-focused therapy because we believe that trauma is at the center of SUD. Our mental health professionals can work closely with you to create a treatment plan that is specific to your needs. During your time here you can learn to reprocess your past trauma and develop tools to manage anger and issues related to substance use. If you or someone you know is struggling with SUD, please reach out to Restoration Recovery Center at (888) 290-0925 for help.