We’ve all been there – you’ve both had a few too many drinks and somehow you end up rowing with your partner or your friend about the most inane thing. When it happens once in a while, it’s not too much of a concern, but when it starts happening regularly, you may need to do a stock take of whether alcohol is ruining your relationships.
A study by American psychologist, Brad Bushman in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology revealed anger is more prevalent in those less able to think through the consequences of their actions, so those who are prone to spontaneity are more at risk. Off the back of the study, Mike Fisher, founder of British Association of Anger Management is urging people to manage their drinking habits responsibly.
Talking to HuffPost UK Lifestyle he says: “I think my major concern and I can only base it on my evidence, is that there is so much denial around the individual’s relationship to alcohol. One thing I’m aware of, is that a lot of people who have anger issues use alcohol to relax – that’s their justification. There are others who recognise it’s becoming a problem and they don’t want to give it up but they have to, because they’ve identified that 85% of the angry incidences they have are alcohol-induced. Alcohol, I say to them, is not your friend."
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But why does alcohol make people so prone to aggression and arguments? Mike explains that the brain is the centre of the nervous system and co-ordinates responses to the secretion of chemicals and hormones within the body. Alcohol
significantly impairs brain function: speaking scientifically, it suppresses the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate and increases the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA.
In simple terms, he says: “What this means is alcohol slows down thoughts and reactions. The natural human ‘fight or flight’ reaction system, which is responsible for warning us about confrontational situations, is significantly reduced. People are more likely to misread social cues and have an inability to consider the consequences of actions that they may well regret when in a sober state of mind.”
Regretting your actions the night before is something most of us are familiar with, when sobriety and a hangover kicks in. A study published last year by psychologists at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, showed that angry women have a tendency to choose alcohol as a release. If you can identify with this, it might help to understand how it works.
Mike reveals: “This is a client group who use alcohol either to relax or to anaesthetise their feelings. They tend to implode, to suck in their anger. When they have a drink, the serotonin in their brain gets absorbed by the alcohol, and they get comfortable and happy. But then because they haven’t dealt with their anger or frustration, it takes a loved one to say the inappropriate thing to set them off.”
With drinking such an ingrained part of our culture, is there a solution?
“Yes,” says Mike. “Responsible drinking. Arguments fuelled by alcohol happens all the time – we see the evidence when people are binge drinking on a Friday night. We see it happening in our pubs. They’ve recorded over 13 million domestic violence incidents – I can tell you right now – a very high percentage of those are alcohol related.
“I have a client who knows that when he gets drunk, he has problems with his anger. So he’s quit drinking to get his anger under control. It’s a huge concern but alcohol and anger can be a recipe for disaster so people should really watch their drinking.”
Visit the NHS site for alcohol support.
The DrinkAware site has lots of helpful information on how drinking can damage your relationship.