Rage as an “Addiction”

Secrets of Anger Addiction and 3 Reasons Why Rage Feels Real Damn Good

I have really grown away from the term “addiction” and am seeing more and more that things like gambling, cutting, eating disorders, drug use, and spending, are really behaviors we repeat because they result in the perception that our needs for love, acceptance, power, and control are being met.  This, of course, sounds way over-simplified, and yet, when I read the article attached here, along with others that are appearing with greater frequency in the literature, I am more and more persuaded that addictions are attachments.

This article, while presenting rage as an addiction, pretty much sums up the process of how humans attach themselves to a pattern of behavior based upon the reward that awaits in the form of dopamine, adrenaline, and other endorphins that cut loose at the peak of the process.   When I was working with teenagers in residential treatment, I noticed that some of the kids would enter a cycle of agitation and that they would provoke situations that would add to their increasing levels of frustration and anger.  The pattern would persist to an alarming degree when a seemingly insignificant trigger would launch them into a near-dissociative state.  Walls would get punched, chairs thrown, physical assault, and, ultimately, physical restraint imposed by 2 or more staff members.  The release was visible if not palpable.   In debriefing these kids, invariably, the ultimate, peak moment and reward of the behavior was when they were restrained.  The rush was described as a hit of really damn good coke, meth, or whatever.  Do read on.

I approach treatment of anger and rage with EMDR, specifically the Feeling State Addiction Protocol.  This approach takes the moral and judgmental aspect from the condition and clients tell me they are much more motivated to diffuse the connection between their behavior and the reward.

6 thoughts on “Rage as an “Addiction”

  1. Anything that brings on the reward chemicals is something I need to be very careful of. In meetings, I used to be told to avoid confrontations at all costs. I thought it was to push negativity away. Now, I see it as re-establishing that unhealthy pattern of behaviour you described so well here.
    A good read.

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  2. Wow, I’m glad you followed my blog! I would never have discovered yours, otherwise. I’m going to follow yours very closely. Rage and addiction, to me, seem to be attempts to fill a void. The void is unconditional love. Simple, yes? No, unfortunately. What you’ve described, the staff bear-hug, is what the melt-down craves. One of the very frustrating things about raising my autistic son was that he hated physical contact, yet the only thing that would abort a major melt-down was a bear-hug restraint. I felt like I was forcing something that “should” have come naturally, but when you have a kid like that, “should” goes out the window. When he was old enough I got him one of those inflatable “bopper” thingies that you can punch and it comes back up…Well, when he was five he managed to punch it out so hard it popped. So then I got him a regular martial arts body bag, and he punched and kicked it till he wore himself out and fell down crying…so much rage in such a young soul…finally, as a teen, he spent two years in a wonderful therapeutic boarding school, where he garnered tools for channeling his rage into creative outlets. Now he is finishing up his Ph.D in a crazy-techie chemistry field that even I can’t grok…God bless the child that’s got his own!

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    1. Louise Sutherland-Hoyt

      Thank you for this post! And I am thrilled to have found your blog. Rage has it’s own reward that’s manifest in an attachment to an extremely powerful feeling state: A three tiered cluster that includes an Emotional, Cognitive, and Physiological components. The attachment is to the behavior that results in, as you so well put, perceptions of power, control, freedom, and, oddly enough, some belonging in there. Rage is treatable with what’s called The Feeling-State Addiction Protocol, which is under the umbrella of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.
      Physical outlets such as you described with your son, and oh by the way, congrats on his Doctorate, can be experienced as a reward for rage if not engaged with mindfulness and purposefulness. Apparently it worked for your son! Thanks again for your commentary. I look forward to more.

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      1. The punching bag gave my son an outlet for some justifiable causes of anger, such as his father abandoning him, and sexual abuse that I had no idea was going on. As an autistic person, even though he was a “very high functioning” autistic as far as language acquisition and intellectual ability goes, he still had the characteristic lack of social functioning and verbal expression of emotion. Therefore, having a non-verbal outlet for his anger was therapeutic. Although he thankfully has taken ownership of ways to learn social engagement, he still requires vigorous physical activity to manage anger and anxiety. This has been an ongoing work of art, but I’m very proud of his progression from using self-generated algorithms for social engagement to becoming a naturally gregarious person within his social group of fellow “geeks.”

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      2. Louise Sutherland-Hoyt

        This is a story that gives a lot of hope. I worked with teenagers who had similar histories, a few of whom were autistic, i.e. sexual trauma, loss, and who knows what else went on. These are the components of Small T Trauma and when sustained over the course of years, the result is that the brain can actually be “rewired”. This is why as adults, we continue to react to triggers with anger, rage, and/or one of the addictions. Thanks again for your comment, especially regarding your son’s success. I look forward to continued exchanges.

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