How to Spot and Handle a Raging Alcoholic

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Changing behavior under the influence of alcohol isn’t uncommon. Many calm, even-tempered people turn angry, aggressive, and out-of-control when intoxicated. This effect is more common among people struggling with alcohol use disorder.

This guide shows why alcohol can lead to excessive aggression, how you can handle yourself around a raging alcoholic, and what you can do to help them.

“Angry Drunk” Psychology: An Overview

Before we begin, it’s important to preface that the terms “raging alcoholic” or “angry drunk” aren’t a basis for a clinical diagnosis. You should never refer to someone using these expressions as they can be hurtful and stigmatizing.

There are common characteristics associated with people who experience frequent aggression or anger while engaging in binge drinking.

That said, not everyone who exhibits these behaviors necessarily fits into this category, as individual experiences with alcohol and anger can vary greatly.

Here are the characteristics often associated with a “raging alcoholic”:

Increased Aggression

Alcohol is considered a depressant, and it can cause looser inhibitions of aggressive behavior. This manifests as verbal abuse, threats, or physical violence in some cases.

Impulsivity

Alcohol dependence and intoxication can lead to loss of control, which can lead to impulsivity and acting without thinking.

A 2014 study concluded that drinking alcohol can decrease the functions of the prefrontal cortex, which plays an important role in controlling impulses.

Poor Anger Management

Even without recent alcohol consumption, a person who frequently drinks in excess may struggle to manage their anger in healthy ways. That’s because they’re often used to suppressing their emotions or self-medicating their negative feelings using alcohol.

Little Regard for Consequences

Because alcohol interferes with cognitive function, an angry alcoholic fails to use their logical thinking and problem-solving skills, which leads to disregard for consequences.

A 2012 study concluded that men who score low on the CFC (Consideration of Future Consequences Scale) tend to display more aggression when consuming alcohol.

Excessive drinking tends to make people misread situations or overreact to them. An example is when you accidentally bump into someone while walking, and they respond by raging even if you apologize.

Underlying Mental Health Conditions

Anger and aggression in someone who drinks heavily can sometimes be related to underlying mental health conditions, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders or depression.

These conditions are easier to control or hide when the person is sober, but the loss of control related to alcohol consumption can make these conditions resurface.

History of Trauma or Abuse

People who experience trauma or abuse in their lives are more likely to use alcohol as a coping mechanism.

Pairing alcohol’s aggression disinhibition with the already existing trauma can lead to aggressive behavior when intoxicated.

How Does Raging Alcoholic Behavior Impact Others?

Raging alcoholism impacts others in various negative ways. Here are some of them:

Familial Emotional Trauma

Constantly witnessing or experiencing anger outbursts and aggression fueled by alcohol can be deeply traumatizing for loved ones.

This manifests as anxiety, fear, depression, helplessness, and many other negative feelings. Children of alcoholics are particularly vulnerable. They may develop trust issues and problems with self-esteem.

Studies suggest that children who grow up in houses where one of the parents is an alcoholic are more likely to develop mental issues and engage in substance abuse.

Domestic Violence

In extreme scenarios, raging alcoholics may get involved in domestic violence, leading to physical injuries for partners and children.

A 2017 study found that alcohol increased the odds of aggression in men with preexisting poor anger management skills.

Additionally, men with normal anger management skills showed increased sexual aggression under the influence of alcohol.

Financial Strain

Alcohol isn’t cheap, and the costs of fueling an addiction to it can quickly stack up and drain financial resources. This is especially difficult when the struggling person is the main source of income at home.

Essential needs like medical bills and legal fees become increasingly hard to handle, leading to more stress.

Social Isolation

Most people who over-drink aren’t happy with themselves. The shame and stigma associated with alcoholism can lead to social isolation for the struggling person.

Also, family members may avoid social gatherings and visits to avoid the awkwardness of talking about their situation.

Workplace Consequences

Alcoholism affects job performance, leading to reduced productivity of the affected person.

Further, impulsivity and outbursts can be harmful to the work environment, creating unnecessary tension in the workplace and potentially affecting the productivity of others.

Community Impact and Legal Issues

Alcoholism is a leading cause of violence, crime, and public safety issues within communities. It poses a significant burden on healthcare systems and law enforcement agencies involved in handling it.

What to Do if You or Somebody Encounters a Raging Alcoholic?

When you encounter someone who’s obviously intoxicated and angry, your course of action will depend on whether the situation is dangerous or not:

If the Situation Is Dangerous

Start by assessing the situation. If the person is violent or threatens violence, remove yourself and others, if possible, from the situation and call emergency services (911).

Stay calm and avoid engaging in altercations with the person in question. If you have to speak to them, do so calmly and non-judgmentally, but firmly establish boundaries.

Don’t enable their behavior by trying to placate them with more alcohol or giving in to their demands. You won’t be helping them, as this reinforces their reliance on their out-of-control behavior to incite fear and get what they want

If the Situation Isn’t Immediately Dangerous

In less pressing situations, you should start by offering support. Genuinely express your concern for the person’s well-being without using words that can insinuate that it’s their fault.

Still, you should clearly communicate behaviors you will not tolerate, whether it’s verbal abuse, threats, or violence — all in a calm tone of voice.

Be prepared to step back from the situation if these boundaries are crossed or if you think the situation may escalate.

If the person is calm enough to accept advice, you may help them seek professional help.

How to Help Someone with Anger and Alcohol Addiction Issues?

If the alcoholic person who has trouble controlling their anger is someone you care for, here is how you can help them:

Talk to an Intervention Specialist

Alcoholics are different from casual heavy drinkers. They often lose control over the amount of alcohol they drink every day, and they end up consuming more alcohol to overcome the alcohol tolerance they build over time.

An intervention specialist will help you formulate a plan in concomitance with other qualified healthcare professionals. The plan will be tailored to your loved one’s condition to help them reduce their back-to-back drinking.

Make Them See Reason

Soon after the intervention begins, you’ll have more breathing room to talk to your loved one.

Since they’re no longer drinking around the clock, you will have more chances to talk to them while they’re calm and not intoxicated.

Approach them in a compassionate, non-judgmental tone of voice, and avoid words that may insinuate that they are at full fault.

Make them see that you’re on their side, but also make them feel the extent of the problem over you and the rest of the family.

Provide Treatment Options

Based on the knowledge you acquired from the intervention specialist, you may help your loved one seek professional therapy through alcohol treatment centers or telehealth services.

Alcohol treatment centers can help a raging alcoholic detoxify from alcohol while using therapy and pharmaceutical therapy using medications like naltrexone to control the withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

Detoxification typically lasts for 3-10 days, according to the condition, after which the person is admitted to inpatient or outpatient programs to help them maintain alcohol absenteeism.

Alternatively, telehealth services offered by professional providers like CuredNation are great options for people who value privacy, have location limitations, or struggle with mobility.

Telehealth treatment provides complete anonymity from the comfort of your home and is equally as effective as in-person meetings.

Certified telehealth service providers can also prescribe various medications through digital prescriptions that you can use normally in your preferred pharmacies.

You also get access to peer coaches and support groups to help you connect with others who share the same struggle.

Should I Leave My Raging Alcoholic Partner?

Deciding whether you can stay in a relationship with someone who exhibits raging alcoholic behavior is a deeply personal question. Since each case greatly varies, you need to weigh your decision against your current situation by answering these questions:

  • How long has their behavior been going on?
  • Is your partner showing any signs of seeking help?
  • Are you able to set boundaries and keep your life going?
  • Are you or your family members getting physically hurt by your partner?
  • Has your partner gotten into any legal issues?

Answering these questions will help you decide. Keep in mind that many people who struggled with alcohol managed to quit drinking, so if your partner is willing to recover, there’s still hope.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should You Physically Stop a Raging Alcoholic if You Can?

Physical handling of raging alcoholics is discouraged and should only be done if someone else’s life is at immediate risk. It should only be limited to physical restraint without harm, as raging alcoholics may disregard any injuries and keep fighting.

Should You Forcefully Take Away Alcohol From a Raging Alcoholic Son/Daughter?

No, you shouldn’t. While it’s encouraged to prevent enabling their behavior by limiting access to alcohol, it’s not recommended to forcefully take alcohol away from their hands.

Putting the potential resulting violence aside, severe alcoholism causes the risk of developing severe and potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.

What Do I Do When My Raging Alcoholic Spouse is About to Harm Me?

Whether you’re physically capable of handling your spouse or not, it’s best to step back from the situation when they fail to see reason. Remove yourself from the situation by walking away or leaving the house and taking your children with you.

Final Words

Dealing with someone struggling with alcohol abuse and anger issues is a difficult situation; the best solution is to minimize friction at all costs. Avoid engaging with them and call for help when needed, then talk to them only when they’re ready to listen.

If you or a person you love is struggling with alcohol-related anger issues, book an appointment today. With over 2,000 recovered patients, Curednation is more than ready to help you or your loved ones with alcohol recovery.

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