Content reviewed by Nicholas G. Glines

Updated on 4/13/2023

Veterans experience emotions differently due to their experiences in active duty. Acclimating back into the “real world” can present a host of challenges for those returning from service. As a result, it is common for veterans to struggle as they learn to manage their emotions appropriately. These individuals have an increased risk of developing severe anger issues, often leading to substance use and other harmful behaviors. This blog dives deeper into this topic and offers coping strategies and treatment methods.

The effects of active duty can be crippling and long-lasting. Luckily, veteran programs are available that are tailored specifically for veterans struggling with anger management and addiction recovery. It is essential to recognize the prevalence of anger management issues among veteran populations and understand that there are programs available that can target the unique needs of those who have returned from service.

Addressing Anger Management Issues in Veterans

Every so often, anger can be a positive thing as it can increase performance by motivating a person to find solutions to problems. However, when anger is chronic or unmanaged, it increases interpersonal conflicts, encourages inappropriate risk-taking and increases the risk of self-medicating with substances.

Anger is a common emotion experienced by veterans returning home from active duty. Many veterans also experience co-occurring posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental health condition that may develop following a life-threatening event, such as combat. Anger in veterans may present itself on its own or in combination with other mental health conditions other than PTSD, such as depression or traumatic brain injury (TBI).

When considering how anger management problems develop in veterans, identify some general causes of anger. People become angry when they feel threatened, harmed or powerless. When veterans are on active duty, much is expected and required of them, often in extreme conditions. They become hypervigilant and must constantly be on guard. They may witness or experience traumatic, life-threatening situations during service, which can have long-lasting effects on their emotions. Following service, they may feel anger in everyday situations ranging from intrusive thoughts to external triggers that remind them of their challenging experiences during active duty.

Anger triggers are different for everyone, as they develop from past experiences. For veterans especially, triggers can be everywhere. Conversations, loud noises, advertisements and even articles of clothing can serve as emotional triggers. A large aspect of recovering from anger issues is identifying personal triggers and learning how to manage them properly.

Anger Management and Addiction Treatment Programs for Veterans

Treatment programs tailored to veterans must be intimate, compassionate and trauma-focused. There are online resources and in-person treatment programs available specifically for veterans, especially regarding anger management and substance use problems. Some of these include:

AIMS course: The Anger & Irritability Management Skills (AIMS) course is an online program designed to help veterans learn anger management techniques to deal with people and life events more appropriately. Take this quiz to find out if this program is right for you.

Substance abuse screening: This confidential Substance Abuse Screening (ASSIST) is designed for veterans to recognize if they are struggling with a substance use disorder. This assessment also provides the option to save a copy of your results and send it out to your physician or mental health professional.

Veterans program: The Veterans Program at New Hope Ranch is designed to help veterans secure long-term recovery from alcohol and substance use. This program takes place in a cozy residential treatment setting and offers individualized treatment alongside several therapeutic services.

Coping With Anger Management Outside of Treatment

While inpatient treatment may be the most effective in achieving long-lasting success from anger management and substance use problems, there are critical coping techniques that veterans can take advantage of outside of the treatment setting. These valuable techniques can replace harmful substance-using behaviors and encourage healthier ways to navigate distressing emotions.

If you or your loved one struggle with managing rage, consider the following tips to minimize anger:

  • Identify personal triggers. Knowing your triggers can help you manage your responses when you get angry instead of using aggression. Although anger may surface without warning, you can choose how to respond to it.
  • Recognize how anger physically manifests in your body. The next time you feel an angry episode approaching, notice the changes occurring in your body. Your heart may start to race, you may clench your fists or you may breathe faster. Once you become aware of your unique anger signs, you can develop healthier responses.
  • Take a time-out. If you are in a situation and start to get angry, ask yourself if you can walk away. Sometimes stepping back and reflecting on a given situation may be the best course of action, especially when you are unsure how to respond other than with anger.
  • Seek treatment. Tips for coping with anger may work for some but may not help others. Consider seeking treatment from a mental health professional if this is the case. Seeking extra support is not a weakness; if anything, it means you are ready to commit to self-love and healing. Wherever you are, know that you are not alone.

New Hope Ranch is a men’s addiction treatment center that offers a unique veterans program. This program is tailored to help veterans recover from substance use as they reintegrate back into their home communities. We offer trauma-focused, customized care for our military members. To learn more about the many benefits of our program or facility, call us today at (737) 600-8565.