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Triggers and Cravings

Why Do I Crave Alcohol When I'm Angry?

Published:
August 3, 2023
·
8 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
August 3, 2023
·
8 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
August 3, 2023
·
8 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
August 3, 2023
·
8 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Reframe Content Team
August 3, 2023
·
8 min read

It’s been a hectic day — your boss kept piling on the work, your client didn't stop complaining, and, on top of everything, traffic was a disaster. As you finally collapse onto your couch, your fists clench and your heart pounds. Then, an intrusive thought pops up — a cold drink would make everything better.

You're not alone! Many of us find ourselves craving alcohol when someone’s getting on our last nerve. Why do our minds make this association? And, more importantly, how can we stop it from derailing our goals?

The Angry Brain

When we feel angry, a brain region called the amygdala gets busy, signaling that there’s a situation brewing. It pumps the body full of stress hormones, putting us on high alert. It's exhausting!

Enter alcohol. Known to stimulate the brain's reward system, particularly an area called the nucleus accumbens, alcohol triggers feelings of relief and pleasure by initiating the release of dopamine, the famous "feel-good" neurotransmitter. This provides a temporary sense of relaxation and pleasure, seemingly offering an antidote to anger. It's almost as if the brain is sighing, "Ah, that's better!"

Understanding the Cycle

Alcohol dulls the amygdala’s response, so it has a calming effect on the brain's stress response. But while it feels soothing for a moment, it’s unfortunately only a temporary fix, and it may lead to cravings down the road.

Anger and alcohol cravings can feel like a merry-go-round, except it's not so merry. The brain loves patterns and efficiency, and it’s wired to spot a quick fix to any problem. So each time it registers an alcohol-induced sense of relief, it makes a note of it: “Hey, this works — and quickly!”

Over time, the brain builds a neural pathway linking booze and anger relief, creating a habitual response that can be hard to break. It's like a well-worn path in the brain, a shortcut the mind takes when anger strikes. Before we know it, every time we're angry, our brain points us towards alcohol, and a vicious cycle has been set in motion.

Break the Anger-Alcohol Connection

Now let’s discuss how to kick some old habits to the curb and bring in some fresh, healthy strategies. Let's break the anger-alcohol cycle and rewrite our reaction script!

  • Spot the triggers. What sparks your anger? Is it work stress, traffic jams, or disagreements with loved ones? Uncovering what lights your fuse can help you prepare strategies to better manage your triggers or dodge them completely.
  • Master mindfulness. By observing your internal state, you can ride the wave of anger without being swept away. Try a technique known as “mindful minutes”: set a timer for one minute of pure, undiluted mindfulness. Observe your emotions, your body, and your surroundings. It's like taking a mini-vacation from stress!
  • Exercise your way to calm. Exercise floods your body with feel-good endorphins, which boost mood and reduce cravings. And who says exercise has to be boring? Turn up your favorite tunes and dance like nobody's watching. This will not only help shake off the anger but also curb those cravings.
  • Reach for the stars, literally. Try a stargazing evening with a loved one or friend. Share your feelings and thoughts, or just enjoy the quiet tranquility together. The universe might help put things into perspective!
  • Embrace creative expression. Paint, knit, write poetry, build a birdhouse — whatever suits your fancy. Channel your feelings into creating something beautiful.
  • Find joyful distractions. Swap the stress with something soothing, such as a massage, a gripping book, your favorite tunes, or a new hobby.
  • Cultivate a “sleep haven.” Turn your bedroom into a place that encourages deep, restful sleep. Think soft lighting, comfortable bedding, calming scents, and maybe even some gentle background music. A good night's sleep can make a world of difference to your mood and cravings.

Wrapping Up

It's okay to feel angry now and then. But instead of reaching for a drink, let's reach for some healthier coping strategies. By consciously reframing our responses to anger, we can break its connection to alcohol cravings. You have the power to control your reactions and steer your journey towards healthier habits. You have the power to steer your journey, so let's do this! And never forget to celebrate every victory, no matter how tiny it might seem!

It’s been a hectic day — your boss kept piling on the work, your client didn't stop complaining, and, on top of everything, traffic was a disaster. As you finally collapse onto your couch, your fists clench and your heart pounds. Then, an intrusive thought pops up — a cold drink would make everything better.

You're not alone! Many of us find ourselves craving alcohol when someone’s getting on our last nerve. Why do our minds make this association? And, more importantly, how can we stop it from derailing our goals?

The Angry Brain

When we feel angry, a brain region called the amygdala gets busy, signaling that there’s a situation brewing. It pumps the body full of stress hormones, putting us on high alert. It's exhausting!

Enter alcohol. Known to stimulate the brain's reward system, particularly an area called the nucleus accumbens, alcohol triggers feelings of relief and pleasure by initiating the release of dopamine, the famous "feel-good" neurotransmitter. This provides a temporary sense of relaxation and pleasure, seemingly offering an antidote to anger. It's almost as if the brain is sighing, "Ah, that's better!"

Understanding the Cycle

Alcohol dulls the amygdala’s response, so it has a calming effect on the brain's stress response. But while it feels soothing for a moment, it’s unfortunately only a temporary fix, and it may lead to cravings down the road.

Anger and alcohol cravings can feel like a merry-go-round, except it's not so merry. The brain loves patterns and efficiency, and it’s wired to spot a quick fix to any problem. So each time it registers an alcohol-induced sense of relief, it makes a note of it: “Hey, this works — and quickly!”

Over time, the brain builds a neural pathway linking booze and anger relief, creating a habitual response that can be hard to break. It's like a well-worn path in the brain, a shortcut the mind takes when anger strikes. Before we know it, every time we're angry, our brain points us towards alcohol, and a vicious cycle has been set in motion.

Break the Anger-Alcohol Connection

Now let’s discuss how to kick some old habits to the curb and bring in some fresh, healthy strategies. Let's break the anger-alcohol cycle and rewrite our reaction script!

  • Spot the triggers. What sparks your anger? Is it work stress, traffic jams, or disagreements with loved ones? Uncovering what lights your fuse can help you prepare strategies to better manage your triggers or dodge them completely.
  • Master mindfulness. By observing your internal state, you can ride the wave of anger without being swept away. Try a technique known as “mindful minutes”: set a timer for one minute of pure, undiluted mindfulness. Observe your emotions, your body, and your surroundings. It's like taking a mini-vacation from stress!
  • Exercise your way to calm. Exercise floods your body with feel-good endorphins, which boost mood and reduce cravings. And who says exercise has to be boring? Turn up your favorite tunes and dance like nobody's watching. This will not only help shake off the anger but also curb those cravings.
  • Reach for the stars, literally. Try a stargazing evening with a loved one or friend. Share your feelings and thoughts, or just enjoy the quiet tranquility together. The universe might help put things into perspective!
  • Embrace creative expression. Paint, knit, write poetry, build a birdhouse — whatever suits your fancy. Channel your feelings into creating something beautiful.
  • Find joyful distractions. Swap the stress with something soothing, such as a massage, a gripping book, your favorite tunes, or a new hobby.
  • Cultivate a “sleep haven.” Turn your bedroom into a place that encourages deep, restful sleep. Think soft lighting, comfortable bedding, calming scents, and maybe even some gentle background music. A good night's sleep can make a world of difference to your mood and cravings.

Wrapping Up

It's okay to feel angry now and then. But instead of reaching for a drink, let's reach for some healthier coping strategies. By consciously reframing our responses to anger, we can break its connection to alcohol cravings. You have the power to control your reactions and steer your journey towards healthier habits. You have the power to steer your journey, so let's do this! And never forget to celebrate every victory, no matter how tiny it might seem!

Break the Cycle and Start Your Healing Journey With Reframe!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-bazcked readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol.

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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