Alcohol And Anger: A Violent Cocktail

Updated March 19, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

When your partner is angry and intoxicated, life can be confusing and unpredictable. Many people who are intoxicated and angry may become verbally or physically aggressive, acting in an incongruent way with how you may know them to be when they are sober. Because of this behavior change, living with this kind of person may feel like you are constantly walking on eggshells to avoid triggering an argument.

This Jekyll-and-Hyde routine of someone who acts angry when they are drunk can often leave their partners feeling conflicted; At the same time, when someone recognizes that their partner’s belligerent behavior is unhealthy or even abusive, they may overlook or minimize these actions because their partner is “not themselves” when they’ve been drinking. By rationalizing their behavior in this way, person who gets drunk and angry may deflect responsibility for their actions by blaming what they’ve done on the amount of alcohol they’ve consumed.

Despite how common these rationalizations have become, studies show that these are merely excuses we tell ourselves to help make sense of the seemingly nonsensical shift we see when those we love turn into people we do not recognize as they drink. Rather, science supports a far more grim reality than many of us may be willing to bear – that intoxicated, angry people are not only capable of anger and violence when sober but are actually predisposed to it, putting their partners and other loved ones at risk of serious harm.

Alcohol And The Brain

Being Drunk And Angry Is No Excuse For Harming Another Person

Alan Harper Neal once wrote: “Some people dismiss their own hurtful words with the excuse that they were drunk, angry, or tired. But those conditions and others don’t change our beliefs. They only indicate our comfort in revealing them.” These words eloquently reflect the science behind alcohol and its effect on the brain.

Alcohol is a . Simply put, this means that alcohol does not cause someone’s personality to change – it merely reveals traits that are already there. Alcohol can reveal more about some people’s personalities than others, often showing a side of them that shocks their friends and family alike. 

People who change the most when under the influence of alcohol may have learned to hide traits that were once deemed socially unacceptable. For people who are drunk and angry, this may mean that they are prone to anger or aggression when sober that they actively repress to avoid stigma or consequence, but feel free to let themselves be angry when drunk because it is considered more socially acceptable or excusable.

Furthermore, alcohol consumption can impair someone’s executive functioning skills, making it difficult for them to control their impulses and make rational decisions. As such, someone who has been drinking may not control their emotions in the same way they would while sober. Therefore, someone who already struggles with anger management might lose their ability to suppress their emotions and may even become aggressive due to this. Alcohol does not cause this reaction, but it does exacerbate it.

Alcohol And Domestic Violence

Let us be clear:  alcohol, by no means, causes domestic violence. Millions of people choose to drink and go home to their partner every day without causing them emotional or physical harm. Similarly, a great number of people can and will abuse their partners every day without ever consuming a drop of alcohol. There is, however, a strong connection between alcohol consumption and domestic violence that cannot and should not be ignored.

If you are experiencing any kind of abuse, know that it is safe to reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

Alcohol, more than any other intoxicant, is involved in perpetuating violent crimes. Research conducted by the WHO indicates that over 55% of people who experienced domestic violence believed that their partner had been drinking before perpetrating an act of violence against them. Their research goes on to suggest that “heavier, more frequent drinking increases the risk of violence” and that “intimate partner violence is more severe and more likely to result in physical injury when the perpetrator has consumed alcohol.” This may, in turn, increase the risk of lethal force being used when your partner is under the influence.

What To Do About A Person Who Is Angry And Drunk

If your partner is acting belligerent, day-to-day life can be difficult and even dangerous. You may not be able to predict what will make your partner angry or how they will respond when they’re intoxicated. Because of this, there is no definitively effective way to prevent your partner from blowing up. This is never your fault; if your partner is angry and drunk, there is nothing you can say or do to cause or prevent an outburst – their anger is almost always inevitable.

Many partners of people who get angry when drunk find that, while they can’t prevent their partner from acting aggressively towards them, they can minimize the amount of harm done to them by creating and using a safety plan. Having a safety plan in place can help a partner of a belligerent drinker better respond to dangerous situations, giving them several ways to get away from an angry outburst before things become violent. If you’re struggling to create a safety plan for yourself, consider the following strategies:

  • Watch your partner’s drinking habits and try to identify any patterns in their behavior leading up to an argument or outburst. If, for example, you notice that they start to become aggressive after the third drink, see if you can find an excuse to get away from them before they reach that point.

  • Do a quick walkthrough of your home to familiarize yourself with every possible entrance and exit. Create a plan to ensure you can get out of each room safely.

  • Pack an overnight bag with a couple of days’ worth of clothing, toiletries, and other essential items. Consider leaving this in your car, at a friend’s house, or somewhere you could easily get to if you needed to leave quickly.

  • Reach out to local friends or family to see who you could stay with if your home becomes unsafe. Ensure you know where their spare key is hidden so you can easily get inside if they are asleep or out of town.

  • If your partner is prone to taking your phone, consider investing in an inexpensive pay-as-you-go phone and hiding it somewhere in your home. This can ensure you have a lifeline to first responders if your partner becomes violent. If they take your keys, consider hiding some spare car and house keys somewhere they wouldn’t look.

  • Consider downloading a personal safety app that can communicate with law enforcement, first responders, and/or selected loved ones if you find yourself in an unsafe situation.

  • Create a “safe word” with your loved ones that you can use to let them know you may be in trouble. Ensure the people you contact most are aware of this word and plan what to do if they ever hear you use it.

  • Talk with any neighbors you trust about calling the police if they hear your partner yelling or breaking things.

  • Keep some doorstops around your home to make it more difficult for your partner to follow you into a room.

Know that, while the list above identifies some strategies for staying safe before or during incidents of abuse, it is by no means exhaustive; every person’s relationship is different and, as such, every person will need to come up with a unique plan that is tailored to addressing their specific needs. For help creating a more personalized, in-depth safety plan, consider contacting your local domestic violence program or calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline to speak with an advocate.

Getting Help For A Drunk, Angry Person

Finding help for someone who is angry and under the influence isn’t always easy. Sometimes, their harmful behavior may even begin to bleed into their everyday lives; you may notice that they are becoming more aggressive in their day-to-day interactions with you or others in their lives, seeming angry when sober. This can complicate an already difficult conversation when trying to address your partner’s problematic behavior.  

While many people may want to confront their partner and say, “Hey, you’re an angry drunk, and I think you need help,” this won’t always yield positive results. Many people who become angry when intoxicated may rationalize or excuse their behavior to avoid taking responsibility for causing another person pain. They may try to claim that their behavior isn’t as serious of a problem as you say, or perhaps even blame you for their actions. These are common responses to being confronted with the truth.

Unfortunately, there is no one “right” way of getting help with or for someone who regularly gets angry when drunk. Every person has to decide whether their relationship is worth trying to salvage or if the damage caused by their partner is irreparable. You ultimately know what is best for you.

If you’re willing to continue working on your relationship, consider talking with your partner when they are sober about their drunk behavior and how it’s impacting you and your relationship. Consider showing them text messages, photos, or videos that show the type of person they become when they’ve been drinking. While difficult to discuss, this can be a necessary wake-up call for your partner to help them realize that they have a problem. 

If your partner isn’t receptive to one-on-one conversations, or if you feel it would be safer to talk with them in a group setting, consider enlisting friends and family to help you talk with your partner if they’ve witnessed their belligerent behavior.

Being Drunk And Angry Is No Excuse For Harming Another Person

However you choose to have this conversation, be prepared to talk with your partner about potential treatment options. Anger management classes may not be enough to address this problem; you can choose a comprehensive treatment program that addresses both their drinking and anger management simultaneously to ensure your partner has the scaffolding necessary to change their behavior by learning to better handle and cope with their emotions. 

Studies show that one of the most effective interventions in a comprehensive treatment program is therapy; both individual and group sessions can help your partner learn more about their behavior and how it is tied to their thoughts and emotions, giving them the ability to take responsibility for their past actions while learning ways to prevent future harm. 

Other interventions are often used in tandem to support these efforts, such as other more holistic approaches like massage or meditation. Check in with your partner regularly when they are receiving treatment to help them identify what is and is not working so that you can make adjustments as needed.

If you decide that your relationship cannot be restored to a health dynamic or it is too dangerous for you to be involved with your partner, choosing to leave may spare you significant heartache. This can be an empowering, liberating decision, but it can often come with unforeseen complications; for many partners of belligerent drinkers, leaving their relationship can often put them in even more danger. Their former partner may be angered by this decision, causing them to lash out.  

Whether you have chosen to stay in or leave the relationship, many people who struggle with alcohol consumption and anger management may also benefit from individual counseling. Talking with a licensed mental health professional can provide you with a healthy outlet for expressing your thoughts and emotions, allowing you to process through any lingering feelings you may have about your partner’s past words or actions. Many people may gravitate to online therapy because it allows you to meet with your therapist at convenient times and from preferred locations. This means that if you are worried about your partner finding out that you are seeking therapeutic support, you can meet from a location outside of the home. 

Know that online therapy has helped many people successfully overcome their addiction to things like gambling, smoking tobacco, and other illicit drugs. A meta-analysis revealed that participants in online interventions for addiction experienced positive outcomes and behavioral changes that they maintained months after the end of the study. In a separate investigation conducted by the Centre for Psychiatry Research, study leaders assigned 234 participants with significant anger management issues to four weeks of online mindful emotion awareness treatment. The results of the study affirmed significant reductions in anger problems, further strengthening online therapy’s efficacy as an alternative to face-to-face therapy.

Are you interested in reading about other people’s experiences with online therapy? Check out some of the reviews of ReGain counselors below, written by people who have gone through challenges with partners who have anger management or alcohol addiction issues.

Counselor Reviews

“Anet is very competent at her job. She is trustworthy, doesn't "take sides", asks great questions, is empathetic, and has helped my boyfriend and I in more than just our direct relationship issues… She is also familiar with addiction, that my bf was dealing with. My BF and I have grown significantly closer since we have had our sessions with Anet over the last few months. We understand each other's needs much more now, and as a result, we don't accidentally hurt each other like we used to do. I highly recommend choosing Anet as your counselor.”

“Working with Ralph was a great experience for me and my boyfriend. My boyfriend was apprehensive about any form of therapy, but Ralph’s approachable and non-judgmental demeanor made it easier for my boyfriend to be receptive to him. He cited a lot of techniques and had us learn and use them in our communication. What helped a lot was also the small attainable goals he helped us set that we actually achieved, which made us feel productive without feeling overwhelmed. He’s very flexible with his schedule and always checked in to see how we were doing. I would highly recommend him to any couple who could use some guidance.”


It can be emotionally devastating to watch a person you love sink to their lowest versions under the influence of alcohol. In most of your interactions, you may navigate your life alongside a funny, sociable, energetic partner; however, under alcohol’s intoxicating effect, a dark and angry shadow may emerge. 

Your partner could likely use some professional support in processing and healing from issues that led to that anger. That said, neither you nor anyone else should have to experience physical or emotional abuse at the hands of a person who becomes belligerent when intoxicated. If you need support, or your partner is ready to reach out for help, take the first steps today by contacting a licensed therapist on ReGain.

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