If there is a cycle of addiction, anger is clearly one of them. Why are the most popular Favorite T.V. shows about destruction, murder, rape and sexual deviancy? They all combine and become the blueprint for bestsellers that are based on, out of control anger and rage.
When destruction, drama, rage create feelings of excitement in our bodies, when something explodes or we watch frightening depictions of our worst nightmare, then anger addiction may be playing a role.
These types of programs may actually thrive on a human feedback mechanism for predicted Dopamine rewards. Just like the fast food industry has the perfect bundle of ingredients to engage our food addictions, TV acts in the same way.
Drama is our “sex-drugs and rock-n-roll,” an outlet for our personal frustration without having to act out or blow off steam. It may actually fulfill a purpose for easing our own unhappiness and sense of dis-satisfaction, by engaging our hypothalamus to release dopamine and adrenalin into our systems, creating a short term rush of “feel-good” from our internal irritation.
I notice when I am irritated, feel frustrated with life, I like a good crime scene show. Through the watching of the despair, I actually feel better. Sad but I notice it happens. Why is that?
Once the unhappiness turns to feelings of being out of sync, out of control, possibly the cycle includes feelings of being a victim or blaming others for our situation, some or all lead us down the garden path to full-blown irritation.
(For the purpose of this article, Dopamine, in relationship to cause and effect and response to stimulants will be the focus.)
This is where the Dopamine craving enters. Our psyche starts to look for a solution of what helped, ease our pain, in the past, and for many it’s anger… a blow-out, and possibly rage. It becomes a cycle that unconsciously connects the effects of anger to the release of dopamine, which creates the “high”.
Adding in facial expression, pounding a fist or acting out the rage increases the dopamine rush. Bigger is better!
For a short period of time, Dopamine provides the pleasurable euphoric high, feelings of being grand and powerful.
Sadly, when we actually “hurt” someone’s feelings; especially those we love; even better, we get rewarded with a bigger hit of dopamine. Double reward.
Coming off an “anger dopamine high”; just like alcohol, lust, adultery, gambling and other addictions; a nasty hangover arises. The euphoria gone, replaced with guilt, justification for action and full circle: to unhappiness.
Yes Anger can be directly associated with alcohol. Alcoholics are angrier than the general population! Anger gives people the excuse to drink, temporarily calms, however when people get angrier when they drink, it can destroy marriages, families and other relationships that matter.
Anger just like any addiction, needs to be addressed whether it is a result of old childhood baggage, feeling powerless, out of control, outrage, fear, panic or desperation. Anger has become a “crack-pipe” and is not serving anyone.
Here are some key points of understanding addiction of any kind.
It happens inside our heads.
Firstly, the emotional center, in particular the frontal lobe, does not mature until our 20’s, and many people’s frontal lobes are immature or develop more slowly, maybe never fully. Why this matters is it affects our ability to decide whether to acting before we think.
2ndly, the limbic system is our emotional brain, and where Dopamine is released from the hypothalamus, adrenalin and other “rush” chemicals are also triggered which results in the temporary high. Dopamine is the “dope” we unconsciously crave whenever we feel helpless. The limbic system also creates emotional patterns for any event that we’ve attached an emotion to. When the limbic system recognises an emotional pattern, a sound, a smell, it connects quickly to an old (possibly dysfunctional) experience and unconsciously trigger a behaviour. This can be thought of as high-jacking ourselves.
To affect addictive behavior of any kind, we need to adopt new tools to interrupt the cycle. Get reinforced happiness dopamine release through healthier means. Exercise, laughter, a healthy diet and a good night rests. Meditation and anger management tools also dim these secret cravings.
Learning psychology of how the brain works, brings awareness to our actions. Once we have awareness we can begin to evoke change and take back control of our behavior, addictions and lives. Dopamine can often be the crutch that people blame for their relapses, and blame of any kind removes responsibility from our actions. No one will ever recover until they accept self-responsibility.
Recovering from anger addiction, like any addiction is a reclamation process that takes determination and the deep desire to change ourselves for the better and recover takes daily effort.
Until we meet in person, stay well, live a long and happy life.
You can contact Adele at: [email protected]