05/03/2012 10:21 am ET Updated Jul 03, 2012

Do You Drink When You're Angry?

We all have all our moments/hours/days (years?) of feeling angry. Recently, I've made an effort to raise my irritation threshold, and have worked hard to not let a hard day or stressful event surrounding work, family, dogs, etc. be an excuse for pouring myself a glass of wine. Sometimes it works, and I may take a walk to clear my head or venture to a quiet corner, close my eyes and meditate for 15 minutes or until the anger passes. But on the odd occasion, I'll succumb to the booze instead, which has a way of taking the edge off ever so gently after a few sips, burying the anger for a short period of time.

Research has proven a strong association between anger and drinking, and now, a recent study conducted by psychologists at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, shows that anger and alcohol mix a little too easily for many women.

During the study, a group of 30 women were split into two groups. Researchers purposely irritated one of the groups by asking them to complete impossible puzzles while mocking them for their incompetence. Afterward, the women were asked to sample different kinds of ginger ale and beer in what they thought was an unrelated taste test. The results? The women who'd been angered drank nearly twice as much beer than their unruffled counterparts. Hmmmm. Wouldn't you?

"Women are less likely than men to express their anger assertively, and suppressing that irritation results in built-up tension," explains study author Nora Noel, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina. "Many women (and men) view alcohol as a way to help relieve that tension." The problem is that turning to alcohol instead of finding healthy ways to express yourself doesn't end well for anyone.

So what to do about it? Identifying that you have a tendency to drink when you're pissed off is the first step, according to Dr. Noel. The next step is learning healthier ways to control your anger -- or release it -- to help curb a desire to turn to liquid ways of coping.

While meditation has been helpful for me, other ways to stave off the anger without reaching for the bottle are exercise, writing and talking to a friend. "Expressing anger assertively means speaking up for yourself and letting others know when you're uncomfortable," says Dr. Noel. Venting to a friend is a proven way to help lower your levels of anger-fueled tension, she says.

Caren Osten Gerszberg is a freelance writer and co-founder of the Drinking Diaries. Caren's articles have appeared in The New York Times, Travel & Leisure, National Geographic Traveler, Parents and other national magazines and websites. Her column, "Mom U.", about her daughter's college admission experience, appeared bi-weekly on Read more about Caren's travels on her new blog, Embark.

For more information and to read a selection of my work, please visit my website at Friend us on Facebook (at or continue the conversation on Twitter (@drinkingdiares). Pre-order Drinking Diaries: Women Serve Their Stories Straight Up on Amazon here. Friend the Drinking Diaries on Facebook or continue the conversation on Twitter .