We tend to associate addiction with a dependence on a substance or behavior, drugs and alcohol, gambling, sex or eating, to name a few. Some of us become addicted not to something external but to our own emotions, feeling compulsively attached and dependent upon feeling these emotions in order to cope, to be happy, or to feel worthy. We have chemical reactions to certain emotions, and our brain gives us a similar feeling of reward that a drug or addictive behavior might. We start to come to depend on an emotion for the same reasons we might depend on a substance or behavior – for comfort, relief, release, reassurance, distraction, avoidance and escapism. We become so dependent upon this emotion that it feels like an obsession, a compulsion, or even an addiction.
One of the emotions we commonly default to and can become addicted to is our anger. For many of us, anger can be easier to cope with than sadness. We would rather direct our anger outward, to other people, than sit with the deep sadness within us. We would rather give our energy to reacting to other people and the things we’re upset about than reflecting and going inward. Anger can start to be our default emotion, the baseline feeling we instinctively return to. It can be our go-to feeling whenever we’re not sure how to feel, whenever we don’t know how to react to something, whenever we’re filled with uncertainty, whenever a conflict arises whether internal or external. It can be what our minds and hearts jump to regardless of whatever other thoughts and emotions we’re also experiencing. We can feel soothed by our anger, comforted by it even though it can also be very uncomfortable. We can feel justified by our anger, giving ourselves permission to hold grudges and deny people forgiveness. We might allow our anger to make us look down on other people in order to feel better about ourselves. We can feel calmed by it because it can be easier to handle than anxiety, particularly the anxiety we feel around confrontation. We can find ourselves turning to anger rather than working towards healthy communication and conflict resolution.
Emotional addictions can coexist alongside our other addictions and mental illnesses. Recovery means confronting all of the different thought, emotional and behavioral patterns that are contributing to our unwellness, including the emotional patterns we form unhealthy attachments to.
Riverside Recovery understands all of the emotional challenges of addiction recovery and is here to support you. Call us today for more information: (800) 871-5440.