The Dopamine Rush of Rage: Understanding the Addictive Nature of Anger

The experience of chronic and addictive anger is serious and should not be taken lightly. It might offer a fleeting sense of control over one's circumstances, but this is an illusion. We are going to delve deeper into this topic later on. But first, let's discuss the nature of anger and how our brains handle this emotion, particularly when it escalates to the level of addictive rage.

Understanding the Effect of Anger on our Brain

Every day, we experience a myriad of emotions, some positive and some negative. Our brain, an incredibly sophisticated organ, releases a surge of dopamine, known as the “feel-good chemical,” when it identifies that a certain action should be repeated. This chemical reaction can fool us into wanting more of whatever triggered the dopamine surge.

Consider an individual who thrills in extreme sports like skydiving or bungee jumping. They receive a dopamine rush that makes them feel exhilarated and energized. This feeling can be highly addictive.

The same principle applies to chronic anger. Anger is not a primary emotion, but rather a secondary one, with a different emotion at its root. However, when anger and rage develop into an addiction, we become indifferent to the source of this anger.

Why Anger Makes Some Individuals Happy

Anger can create the illusion of happiness, but it requires action. If you think you might be struggling with anger addiction, you may have experienced one (or all) of the following:

The Feeling of Control

Often, what angers us is the feeling of losing control. We feel wronged or offended or that we have lost control of a situation. Anger can make us feel powerful and even happy when we regain control. However, what we reclaim is not control, but power. We feel dominant when we hurt others or insult the offender. Sometimes, it even leads to physical aggression. If we ‘win', we feel superior, and we attribute this to our anger.

Emotional Relief from Angry Outbursts

Holding in anger can make us more irritable and tense. When we give in to an outburst of anger, we feel relief. The release of built-up tension and aggression from our minds and bodies can feel good. So, instead of a measured response, the accumulated frustration and anger explode in a fit of rage, providing emotional relief and a semblance of happiness.

The Anger “Fix”

Those who suffer from anger addiction often need a daily ‘fix'. They need the dopamine high, or they become unbearable to be around. This could be as minor as snapping at a family member for leaving the toilet seat up, or as serious as a dangerous road rage incident. Once the ‘fix' happens, they feel satisfied until the next time they need the same rush.

Managing Anger Addiction

As we are all unique individuals with different reactions, what works for one person might not work for another. If a certain treatment doesn't help, don't give up! Keep trying until you find what works for you. While professional help isn't always necessary, in some cases, it's the best and fastest solution.

The following techniques can help you understand your chronic and addictive anger, and hopefully gain better control over it.

Identify the Primary Emotion

We often hide the primary emotion, like hurt or sadness, because it makes us feel vulnerable or as if we've lost control. Try to identify this emotion and learn how to cope with it instead of letting it escalate into full-fledged anger.

Determine if Your Anger is Situational

You might be hungry, tired, or stressed, and your anger might be a manifestation of these conditions. Other situations might include an unhappy marriage or a detested job. Look for other potential causes for your rage. It may not always be about the immediate situation.

Learn to Breathe

When you feel like you're about to explode, take a moment to breathe and delay your reaction. Often, your initial reaction is much stronger than what the situation warrants and could lead to more harm than good.

With time and practice, it becomes easier to hold your tongue. Like any addiction, anger is a habit that can and should be broken. It requires commitment and discipline to overcome, but the results are well worth the effort!

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© 2027 Coach Luke