When Your Depression Feels More Angry Than Sad
Are you hot-headed, irritated, and generally affected by the myriad of annoyances that pop up on a daily basis? Has it been this way for a while? Are your relationships starting to falter? Is your work life starting to decline?
Being angry all the time is not a healthy way of life. In fact, it is often a sign that you may need depression counseling.
Depression? It’s true. Are you surprised?
Anger and depression often go hand in hand; especially for men who are often raised to put sadness aside for the tougher, less vulnerable emotion, anger.
As it happens, the persistent sadness or sorrow that typically identifies depression for most people may get buried under a mix of frustrated, anxious, stressed out crankiness for others.
In those cases, anger seems to surface first as they feel unable to control or deal with their innermost hurts and insecurities.
Furthermore, this type of anger may happen so often for some sufferers that depression and crucial opportunities for early depression counseling are missed altogether. Thus, suffering goes on too long, fueling pain and isolation, even draining some of the will to live.
Over time, anger can also drive a wedge between depressed people and those closest to them. It can push them deeper into unaddressed emotional pain, as they keep everyone at arm’s length with unpredictable rage or a constantly foul temper.
Angry depression rarely presents in typical ways, such as retreat and withdrawal.
How many people deal with depression this way? Let’s consider the science.
Research in recent years reveals a clear link between feelings of anger and depression again and again.
Published a few years ago in the online 2013 September edition of The Journal of the American Medical Association of Psychiatry, one depression study spanned three decades. Through observations of 500 people suffering from depression, it recorded a high degree of overt irritability, sudden episodes of anger, and a low tolerance for discomfort in over half of the participants.
These angry responses appeared to increase the severity of depression significantly and accompanied other mental health disorders during the thirty years subjects participated in the research.
However, that study began with known depression sufferers. What if an angry person isn’t aware that depression fuels their anger?
While anger may be noted as a symptom of depression, it is often missed as a replacement response for sadness. Most people, including many doctors tend to think of depression only as sadness and silent withdrawal.
Conversely, anger and aggression may be viewed as simply being a part of who a depressed person is. Or it may be attributed to some overall behavioral problem, instead of recognized as the most persistent clue that depression is at play.
Thus, anger’s link to depression and subsequent treatment can be missed repeatedly. A person may endure additional pain due to misunderstanding and misdiagnosis.
Fortunately, as more focus is directed toward depression (and male mental health, in particular) research regarding anger management treatment and healthy expression of anger are uncovering more about anger’s link to depression. And how to read anger accurately before violence or suicide result.
Are there signs that your anger is masking depression?
So, what’s your situation?
Perhaps you know you should not be so offended all the time, so bothered by the kindness your partner tries to extend or irritated by the energy and conversation at work.
Can you think through and identify the emotions that precede your anger? Are your angry outbursts followed by hopelessness or a sense of powerlessness?
Have you been trying to rein in persistent anger for more than two weeks, months? Longer?
How would you describe what you feel when you deal with other people? Would others describe you as generally prickly or constantly pushing them away with a harsh attitude or over-the-line reactions?
Sometimes there are somatic, or bodily, symptoms accompanying an anger experience. Do the following seem familiar?
• accelerated heartbeat?
• elevated blood pressure?
If so, are these symptoms of depression routinely familiar as well?
• confusion, sadness, or hopelessness following outbursts
• major shifts in your weight
• loss of interest in things you once enjoyed
• energy loss, fatigue, disturbed sleep patterns
• unexplained aches and pains
• thoughts of self-harm, harming others or suicide
Yes? Maybe? Not sure? If you recognize these symptoms, depression counseling could help you sort things out.
People who experience an anger and depression combination alternately explode and suppress symptoms so you may need help determining what’s going on inside. In the meantime, there are things you can do to help yourself along the way.
Key ways to keep anger and depression from fueling each other
• Acknowledge your anger
Tell yourself the truth. Anger is messing with your life.
• Identify what’s going on internally
. Name your feelings as you experience them. Increase your emotional awareness and understanding.
• Read your anger as a signal to pay attention
. Observe it and accept it rather than escape it or suppress it. Ask yourself, “Is something deeper going on?”
• Embrace introspection
Tune into your self-talk. What do you say and how do you say it? Are you hard on yourself? Why? Take steps toward self-compassion.
• Challenge anger-feeding beliefs
that place unreasonable demands on people or situations.
• Notice constant complaining
Stop harassing others. Stop hassling yourself. It keeps you passive and unproductive, fueling more depression and frustrated anger.
• Accept that much of life
may be unfair, unpredictable, or indifferent to you. This helps dispel the sense of powerlessness that comes from constantly seeking a fair, tightly controlled life.
The idea is to stop your depressed suffering and douse unhelpful anger as soon as possible; particularly if either experience is getting in the way of enjoying your life.
You and your loved ones deserve the opportunity to live well, safe, and emotionally intact.
About the Author
Dr. Stan Hyman is a licensed psychotherapist and life coach in private practice in Miami, Florida. He works with people struggling with powerful issues such as depression, addictions, anger, anxiety, stress, and work life balance.