All addictions have symptoms, which allow us to recognize
these problems as addictive diseases. The signs of
addictive diseases are self-stimulation, compulsion,
obsession, denial, withdrawal and craving syndrome, and
unpredictable behavior. Like alcoholism or drug use, anger
meets many of the criteria.
For those who are rageaholics, expressing anger is self-
stimulating. It triggers the compulsion for more anger. For
example, let’s pretend that we are going to provide
treatment for alcoholics. On the way to the treatment
center we stop and buy a case of beer. When we get to the
meeting, we tell the alcoholics in therapy that they just
need to do a lot of drinking to get it out of their system
once and for all. This is similar to when therapist tell
men with rage problems, “You just need to express yourself
and get it out of your system.” It is just as absurd. The
more alcoholics drink, the more they want. The more ragers
rage, the more they want to rage.
Anger addiction or “rageaholism” is the compulsive pursuit
of a mood change by repeatedly engaging in episodes of rage
despite adverse consequences. Rageaholics continue to rage
compulsively without regard to the negative consequences.
Compulsion or loss of control is the inability to stop
expressing anger once we have begun. The inability to
control angry words is a certain sign of rageaholism. Loss
of control–that is addiction.
Rageaholics are frequently preoccupied with resentment and
fantasies of revenge. Those thoughts sometimes rise
powerfully and allow no other thoughts to enter. The force
of anger is sometimes irresistible and followed by action.
Therefore, the preoccupation with the “wrongs” of others
and revenge continually leads to rage. Progressively, these
thoughts crowd out all others until our life becomes
chronically revenge-oriented. At that point, anger controls
Denial keeps anger addicts trapped. It is the mental
process by which we conclude that the addiction is not the
problem; it’s “them.” Ignorance of addiction and the
inability to examine ourselves, work together to keep
rageaholics stuck. Knowing no other way to live, we deny
that there is anything wrong with us. This system of denial
ensures that the process of rage and righteous indignation
will continue. Righteous indignation keeps our focus off of
ourselves. This is why ragers seldom are able to say, “I am
Withdrawal and Craving
As with any addiction, anger has a detoxification period.
Craving is high during this time. Those who abstain from
name-calling, profanity and yelling during this period
report more depression than usual for the first three
months. Typically, during the first 90 days of abstinence,
ragers feel vulnerable and spend a lot of time thinking and
hoping for a situation that will allow us to use violence
for some heroic purpose. Afterward, however, if we have
achieved complete abstinence and maintained it for 90 days,
we find we no longer think in profane or disparaging terms.
It may even become shocking when we hear others do it.
Another definition of alcoholism is that when an alcoholic
drinks, there is no way to predict his or her behavior. He
may drink appropriately from time to time, just as the
rageaholic may express anger appropriately from time to
time. However, when the alcoholic starts to drink alcohol,
all bets are off. No one knows what is going to happen.
When rageaholics start to express anger, no one knows where
it is going to go. The most likely think is that they will
explode, rant and rave. Rageaholics would like to learn
how to express our anger appropriately just like alcoholics
would like to learn how to drink appropriately. While there
are some exceptions, I encourage those with rage problems
to abstain from the expression of anger for one year.
This plan is only for that small percent of the population
who have rage or violence problems. The approach described
here is not for everyone; but for those addicted to rage,
it won’t work to express your anger.