If you’re angry so often that it feels like a habit, you might wonder if you have an “addiction” to anger.

Anger can be motivating and drive you to make helpful changes in your life. It can also give you a feeling of catharsis or a sense that you’re managing a stressful situation.

But anger can also be destructive, hurtful, and even dangerous. This is the type of anger that most people want to avoid.

What if you find yourself responding angrily to many things, even when you know that getting angry can cause trouble?

Language matters

In this article, we use the term “anger addiction.” While anger and rage may feel like an addiction in some cases, it’s not recognized as a clinical term and cannot be medically diagnosed. Still, it’s a common phrase people use to describe feeling excessively and frequently angry.

In some cases, these feelings may interfere with a person’s career and relationships as well as lower self-respect.

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The term “anger addiction” might seem like it could be a medical diagnosis. But it’s not in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), which is the manual that healthcare and mental health professionals use to classify mental health conditions.

Instead, researchers in a 2016 study found that many of the 7.8% of people in the United States who experience heightened anger do so because of conditions like:

But a mental health condition diagnosis is not needed to experience regular moments of anger. You might simply have a stressful job or an overwhelming schedule. You could also be going through a challenging time in your life.

If you experience frequent rage, its habitual nature might make you wonder whether it’s an addiction.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as a medical disease that’s chronic, treatable, and involves complex interactions between genetics, the environment, brain circuits, and a person’s life experiences.

Addiction can apply to both behaviors and substances. People living with addiction engage in behaviors or use substances compulsively, despite unwanted consequences.

A 2017 research review found that behavioral and substance addictions may affect the brain in similar ways. For example, gambling disorder and substance use disorder both alter functioning in parts of the brain called the ventral medial prefrontal cortex and ventral striatum.

Anger is not recognized as an addiction in the DSM-5, but it can appear as part of the diagnostic criteria for some conditions.

Some examples include:

ConditionDisorder classAnger as part of the criteria
intermittent explosive disorderdisruptive, impulse control, and conduct disorderverbal aggression and physical outbursts resulting in harm
disruptive mood dysregulation disorderdepressive disorderssevere temper outbursts more than three times per week
oppositional defiant disorderdisruptive, impulse-control, and conduct disorder angry or irritable mood and often losing temper

However, diagnostic criteria are not exactly the same as symptoms:

  • Diagnostic criteria: important symptoms used to diagnose a condition
  • Symptoms: signs that indicate a condition may be present but aren’t always required for a diagnosis

In other words, diagnostic criteria are symptoms, but not all symptoms are diagnostic criteria.

There are many types of conditions in the DSM-5 where anger, aggression, or irritability may be listed as symptoms:

Research is ongoing, and the DSM evolves and changes all the time. Just because “anger addiction” is not currently a diagnosis does not mean your concerns about having more anger than the average person are invalid.

Emotions are natural and healthy. The way we try to influence our expression of these emotions is referred to as emotional regulation. When we can regulate our emotions, we’re able to better maintain our composure in different situations.

We have all had times when we wanted to express our anger but had to hide it. But when you have trouble managing your emotions, aka emotional dysregulation, you may find it hard to avoid intense emotions like anger and frustration.

Examples of this may include:

  • having frequent outbursts of anger, like yelling at someone for cutting you off in traffic
  • not being able to manage your temper or change the way you react when upset, even when there’s a chance of harm or danger
  • staying angry for long periods of time, even after the incident has ended

Anger is a human emotion. But if you or someone you know experiences it too often, consider these strategies:

  • Relaxation. Mindfulness training and deep-breathing exercises are two ways to help calm yourself in a heated moment.
  • Solve problems. If something specific triggers anger, it might be connected to a problem you can solve to avoid future outbursts.
  • Communication. When people misunderstand each other, it can lead to emotional upset. Improving your communication skills can help reduce the chance of impulsive, angry reactions.
  • Avoid triggers. Identifying specific triggers can help you anticipate and avoid them. Some triggers like traffic congestion are hard to escape, but there are other triggers you can avoid to reduce your overall stress level.
  • Therapy. A mental health professional can help you identify underlying reasons for angry behaviors and teach you skills to improve the way you process and cope with feelings.

Most people occasionally experience anger. It’s a human emotion and can be helpful if it motivates beneficial change.

“Anger addiction” isn’t a formal diagnosis, but an atypical amount of anger can be connected to some mental health conditions.

If you or someone you know gets angry more often than usual, there’s support available. To explore some options, you can check out Psych Central’s hub on finding mental health support.