How To Handle An 'Angry Drunk'
Updated February 26, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn
Everyone is familiar with the stereotype of the angry drunk. Unfortunately, this is often not just a stereotype. Although it's not the norm, there are plenty of times when alcohol leads to anger. In many cases, this anger is accompanied by verbal or physical aggression. Sometimes an individual may drink to alleviate their anger only to become more agitated after a few drinks. Handling an angry drunk can be painful, difficult, and scary. Problem drinking may even lead to events of domestic violence. You deserve to live a life free of the stress and anxiety caused by uncontrolled violence and you shouldn’t have to suffer the consequences of their actions. The relationships we have in life are important, and we want to see our loved ones healthy and happy. You can get there in this article, we'll discuss how.
If you find yourself in a situation where you are confronted by or otherwise in the proximity of an angry drunk, there are a few things you need to be aware of.
The Psychology of an Angry Drunk
There are various factors involved in an angry drunk. The most common factor is an overall aggressive personality. This is because alcohol lowers your inhibitions. Someone who tends to be aggressive and antagonistic toward others when sober is much more susceptible to having these traits magnified when under the influence of alcohol.
However, this health news only begins to explain the inner workings of an angry drunk. Alcohol tends to interfere with cognitive functional abilities. Therefore, this makes it more difficult for an intoxicated person to consider their options and solve problems in constructive, effective ways.
To make matters worse, alcohol also impacts serotonin, which controls emotional regulation. Therefore, someone who is already aggressive when they are not under the influence is going to have a tough time when alcohol is in their system, considering how much the substance impacts critical, neurological functions.
What to Do When in the Proximity of an Angry Drunk
If you find yourself in the proximity of someone who is both angry and drunk, the most productive and safe decision you can make is to remove yourself from the situation. Your personal safety is the number one priority. Many times people have attempted to "babysit" the drunk person, only to find that they've made themselves the target of abuse. If someone is drunk and angry, leave the situation.
It's important to understand that when someone is angry and drunk, they are generally looking for opportunities to provoke others around them, whether physically or verbally. It's not uncommon for someone to later sober up only to be appalled by their behavior-if they can even remember. You may feel tempted to try to calm down someone angry and drunk, but this can agitate them even further. Walk away today and live tomorrow. Opportunities may soon come where you can talk to the person about a detox program and drug rehab if they’re also struggling with drug addiction.
Depending on the relationship you have with the individual, this may be difficult.
What If the Angry Drunk Is a Loved One?
Being aware of the best practices is helpful for both you and the one you care for. If someone you know becomes angry when drunk, you should talk to them once they've sobered up. You may wish to get through to them even when they're drunk, but this is very likely to backfire due to the temporary neurological impairments of alcohol consumption.
When the person you care for is sober and no longer influenced by alcohol, they are considerably more likely to hear you out and be receptive to your feedback. This is the time where expressing your worries and concerns about aggression or domestic violence related to their heavy drinking would be appropriate.
If anger after alcohol consumption is a common occurrence, you should seek professional help.
What if I'm the Angry Drunk?
If you're someone who becomes angry, violent, or aggressive while under the influence, this can be difficult to manage, especially if it's beginning to hurt your relationships with those around you. Seeking professional help is the most effective way to change your negative behaviors. Becoming more self-aware can help, too.
How do you feel when you are sober? Are you a happy, fully functional person? How do you feel about the world around you? What does your typical emotional state look like? Are you aware that drinking alcohol lowers your inhibitions? Have you had a significant weight loss? Have you thought about entering an alcohol or drug rehab program?
You'll find the answers to these questions give you vital insight into your conduct when you're drunk. Consider how you conducted yourself the last time you were under the influence. How did you feel? Did you lash out at people?
If you are unable to remember, this is a bad sign. You should never be in a situation where you are not able to recall what you did, what you said, or who you may have been around. A licensed professional, with years of experience working with people to cope with their anger in healthy ways, is best suited to help you. It’s a good idea to schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
Research Shows Why You’re an Angry Drunk
In health news, experimental social psychology researchers in the United States learned a little more about why some people get aggressive and angry after a bout of heavy drinking. Brad Bushman is a professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University who is interested in the link between drinking and anger issues. Bushman, whose research is published in a journal of experimental social psychology, conducted a study of 495 volunteers where the average age of the participants was 23 years. All the participants described themselves as social drinkers. None of them had past or present problems with drug use, alcohol abuse, or psychiatric problems.
Each person filled out a questionnaire that was designed to find out which of them were future-focused, and which of them tended to be more impulsive.
Bushman’s team then proceeded to give half the volunteers alcohol mixed with orange juice. They gave the other half a glass of orange juice that only had a tiny bit of alcohol added. They sprayed the rim of the glasses with alcohol to help give the impression that they would actually be drinking alcohol.
Next, the researchers told the participants that would be playing a game of speed reaction where they were going to play against an opponent of the same sex that they couldn’t see. The winner would be able to give the loser an electric shock that was harmless, but slightly painful. The volunteers were unaware that their opponents were actually the researchers.
As the game ensued, the shocks got longer and more intense, making it appear that the opponent was getting angrier and more vengeful every time they won. In reviewing the original questionnaires, the researchers found that the participants that rated themselves as more impulsive were more inclined to strike back by increasing the intensity and length of the shocks to the opponents than the participants that were more future-focused.
The study showed that people who were present-focused were bent on retaliation; whereas the alcohol had little or no effect on the future-focused participants. As it pertained to the impulsive people that were not intoxicated, they also increased the intensity of the shocks, but it wasn’t to the same degree as the people who were drunk. Bushman notes that people that engage in thoughtful decision making and who consider the consequences of their actions while they’re sober, don’t act very differently when they’re drunk.
Alcohol-Related Risks to Men’s Health
Men are more inclined to drink to excess than women. Problem drinking poses significant issues for men’s health and safety. Men tend to be risk-takers more so than women. When drinking, they may be inclined to take other risks like not wearing a seatbelt while driving or driving too fast.
Excessive drinking may also affect men’s health because it reduces male hormone production and decreases the function of the testes which could lead to impotence or fertility issues. Since men who drink excessively tend to lose their inhibitions, they sometimes engage in risky sexual behavior which also exposes them to sexually transmitted diseases.
Addiction to Alcohol
Alcoholism can manifest in a variety of ways, and it generally takes time to develop. This does not mean that anger when under the influence automatically makes someone an alcoholic. However, alcoholism develops over time, and it can be difficult to realize until it's already manifested.
If you or someone you know may be suffering from alcohol addiction, seeking professional help is the best step forward to help you stay sober. Many people tell themselves they can stop drinking whenever they want, but when someone feels dependent on alcohol, stopping on their own and without any help or support can be extremely challenging.
Thankfully, there are many forms of therapy that can help individuals who are struggling with alcoholism and want to stay sober. Options for treatment include working one-on-one with a therapist or in a group setting.
Alcohol addiction treatment can have various different components depending on what the client wants and needs. Alcohol detox is often the initial stage of rehab programs. If you’re in need off alcohol detox, it’s important to do it safely. A good rehab program will provide an attendant to monitor you while you go through the alcohol detox process. If you’re also struggling with a drug addiction, your alcohol rehab program may include drug rehab. Typically, your rehab program will begin with alcohol detox before you begin other parts of your rehab.
Rehab programs have various approaches to detox. Depending on the severity of your addiction, your detox program might last three, five, or seven days.
Many people that live with mental health disorders also struggle with drug or alcohol addictions. This is called dual diagnosis. While someone that has a mental health disorder is participating in an alcohol or drug rehab program, the provider will usually address the addiction and the mental health disorder at the same time.
Different treatment options work for different people, and that's okay. However, if you are dealing with alcoholism and find it difficult to get sober on your own, then having the right support system in place is imperative. This isn't something you should do alone.
Sometimes handling an angry drunk can be achieved on your own, if it happens once. In other cases, having the support and backing of an expert is necessary. Being willing to accept guidance and help opens the door for you to experience brighter days tomorrow.
Keeping a journal can also help you process your feelings more effectively. If you're feeling stressed or anxious as a result of your involvement with an angry drunk, write about it. Having an outlet will be a wonderful tool while you are on this journey.
You could also try meditation as a way to steady yourself. This relaxation technique has proven widespread success. It doesn't require any special equipment and is accessible even to beginners.
If you're interested in working with a professional, BetterHelp has a network of licensed professionals with years of experience. No matter who you are or what your story is, you should never feel as though you are alone and without anyone to turn to. Help will always be available to those who are open, receptive, and willing to accept it.
Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.
"Krysten has been an immense help in dealing with and confronting my anger and depression issues. I started to notice immediate changes in my general disposition within a week of working with her. My friends and family have even said I seem less bitter and jaded. And the fact that I can communicate with her frequently has done wonders in keeping me on track and progressing forward. My time working with Krysten and being on BetterHelp has been a positive experience and done much more for me than traditional in-office therapy ever did."
"Regina helped me pinpoint where my anger issue stemmed from in the very first session, and has been helping me become more self aware of my warning triggers. Very insightful and helpful!"
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Why do I get so angry when drunk?
Getting angry when drunk is a natural behavior for some people. One thing to remember is that alcohol lowers a person's inhibitions. It's not that drinking causes angry outbursts; it creates the perfect storm for them to happen. Alcohol lessens the activity in the brain's prefrontal cortex. That area is connected to a person's self-control as well as self-reflection. If you have less control over your actions, and you struggle with losing your cool, drinking is going to enhance that weakness. You will become angrier than you want to be when you're intoxicated. That's why it's essential to monitor how much you drink and realize that if you have a problem with anger, drinking probably isn't a good idea. If you're an angry drunk, your friends and loved ones may not want to be around you when you're drinking. If you struggle with an anger problem, it's essential to address it when you are sober. You may need anger management. But if you're masking your problems in drunken behavior, you won't know how bad your anger issues are. If you're an angry drunk, you need to take accountability for your actions. It's crucial to figure out what is causing your behavior. You may want to start at looking at what makes you angry while sober. Angry drunks need to address their actions before the problems get worse.
- Do your true feelings come out when you are drunk? Can one of them be anger?
Some people refer to alcohol as "truth serum. That's because drinking lowers a person's inhibitions. They don't have as much anxiety surrounding expressing their feelings. They feel relaxed, their brain is producing dopamine, and they're in an emotional place where they can be vulnerable without thinking about the consequences.
- How do I deal with an angry drunk wife?
When your wife is an angry drunk, she may instigate fights. Your drunken behavior isn't just a sign of substance abuse; there are probably other issues underneath. An angry drunk is self-medicating other mental health issues. Maybe your wife has a mental illness such as bipolar disorder, PTSD, or borderline personality disorder. People who have these issues sometimes struggle with anger. An angry drunk isn't a "bad person." They may say or do hurtful things, but they're not always aware of their behavior. Your wife is likely in pain. She is masking the hurt by drinking. While you perceive an angry drunk wife, she is trying to cope with emotional distress. However, being angry and in pain doesn't give anyone the right to be rude, emotionally, or physically abusive to another person. If you fear for your safety, it's crucial to protect yourself and reach out for help. If you feel you are in danger, it's okay to call 911 or exit the situation. The best thing you can do if your wife is an angry drunk is try to get her help. It's not going to be productive to talk to her when she is intoxicated. When your wife has sobered up, you can discuss how her behavior is affecting you. She might not realize she is an angry drunk. If you point out how she is hurting you with her behavior, that might be the way to lead her toward help.
- Can alcohol change your personality?
Alcohol doesn't change your personality. However, it can exacerbate specific attributes. If you happen to have issues with anger, you may see them more pronounced when you're drunk. If you suffer from depression, you might notice that you are more down when you drink. Alcohol doesn't transform your personality into someone else.
- Can you get angry and fight while drunk?
Some people become physically violent when they drink. If you are an angry drunk, it's best not to get into situations where you could instigate a fight. Angry drunks should stay away from potentially volatile situations.
- Does alcoholism cause anger?
Drinking and anger are linked. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, there is a considerable correlation between alcohol abuse and anger. Robert O. Pihl, who is a professor of psychology and psychiatry at McGill University, stated that in 50 percent of murders, rapes, and assaults, alcohol was involved. Pihl's statement demonstrates that alcohol and violent crimes are connected.
- Can a drunk person remember anything?
A drunk person can remember things, but it might be difficult for them at times. Because the brain is affected during drinking, a person may find it difficult to remember the chain of events that happened when they were drunk. Angry drunks can have a hard time recalling information. Alcohol can have an effect on short and long-term memory.
- Do drunk calls mean anything?
When a person is drinking, they may become emotional and express their true feelings. You might have heard the expression "drunk dial." An individual who has been drinking may call an ex and beg the person to take them back. They could
- Why do some people cry after drinking?
Alcohol can release people's emotions. They are less inhibited or anxious, and that makes you feel safe enough to cry.
- Why can't I stop drinking once I start?
If you have trouble with stopping drinking after you start, you may have an addictive personality. It's important to discuss these concerns with a licensed mental health professional. Many people struggle with substance abuse or alcoholism, and you can get help.
- Is alcoholism genetic?
There is a genetic component to alcoholism. If you have a family member who struggles with addiction, you are genetically predisposed to it. If alcoholism runs in your family, it's essential to pay attention to it. You could be at risk of developing a dependency on it.
- How do you handle a drunk person, especially if they get angry?
It depends on how the individual is behaving. If you are dealing with angry drunks, it's crucial to keep yourself safe. Don't engage in an argument with that individual. If they try to instigate a fight with you, remind yourself that they are under the influence, and you aren't going to get a rational response out of them. Try not to take anything they say personally, as their inhibitions are down, and they're probably not entirely aware of their words and actions.
Nevertheless, you don't have to put up with being abused. You can remind the person that they may not be saying or doing the same things if they were sober. They need to be aware that they are hurting people. It's okay to empathize with the individual, but keep in mind that they are not entirely mindful of what they are doing. Get them to a safe location where they are not at risk of being physically or emotionally harmed. Being drunk is a vulnerable state and you want to make sure that the person is safe. For angry drunks this is especially important. You don't want them to harm themselves or others. If that means taking them to the emergency room, then do it. You could save a life.
- Are drunks honest?
When a person feels safe, they will express their true feelings. That applied to those who are intoxicated at times. When you are drunk, you might show things that you may not have said when you were sober. Your honesty could reach new levels, and you might hurt people's feelings. But many people find that they are more transparent and vulnerable when drunk.
- Do alcoholics have feelings?
Alcoholics are human beings, and they have feelings just like anybody else. Some people use drinking as a way to numb their emotions. But those feelings are there.
- Do alcoholics get hot easily?
Some people find that they are flushed when they drink. Some people have a legitimate alcohol allergy, where they turn red after consuming it. You may notice people at bars who turn red after drinking a few beers or glasses of wine. That's common.
- Do you bleed more when you're drunk?
Alcohol is a blood thinner. Your blood clots when you drink, which can increase the risk of stroke. Because of this, you run the risk, if you get into an accident, of bleeding more when you are drunk.
- Why do couples get angry and fight when drunk?
Couples argue when they are drunk because they may have been holding in pent up emotions. When their inhibitions are down, honesty comes out. Their true feelings are revealed, and the heat is on. If you and your partner are fighting when drunk, and it's escalating to the point of anger, it's time to take a break and walk away. That may mean one of you needs to step out of the space. But it's much safer that way.
- What is moderate drinking?
Drinking in moderation is when you consume alcohol to enjoy it but to the point of becoming black-out drunk. You may have a couple of beers or a glass of wine at dinner. It's different than self-medicating with drinking.
- Why do I blackout when drinking?
You blackout when drinking because your blood alcohol level rises too high, and your body cannot keep up with it. That causes blackouts and memory loss.
- What does the term dry drunk mean?
A dry drunk is someone who engages in negative behaviors because they aren't drinking. For example, they don't have the coping skills to deal with their anger problems. They were using alcohol to mask the rage, and now the drinking is gone, but the anger is still present.
- What is a binge drinker?
A binge drinker is someone who consumes alcohol to the point where the blood alcohol count is 0.08 grams percent or above. For men, it's five or more drinks, and for women, it is four or more alcoholic beverages within two hours.
Each person has their issues they are trying to work through. It could be dealing with someone close to you who becomes angry when drunk-or it could be a recent lifestyle change, or something else altogether. When faced with challenges in life, the key is to rise above them and find ways to move forward and thrive. Take your first step today with BetterHelp. If you're interested in therapy or have any questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Therapy is a personal experience, and not everyone will go into it seeking the same things. But, keeping these nine things in mind can ensure that you will get the most out of online therapy, regardless of what your specific goals are.
If you’re still wondering if therapy is right for you, and how much therapy costs, please contact us at email@example.com. BetterHelp specializes in online therapy to help address all types of mental health concerns. If you’re interested in individual therapy, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and check out our Instagram. For more information about BetterHelp as a company, please find us on
- RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) - 1-800-656-4673
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 1-800-273-8255
- National Domestic Violence Hotline - 1-800-799-7233
- NAMI Helpline (National Alliance on Mental Illness) - 1-800-950-6264
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