Anger and low moods often coincide and it is sometimes difficult to see where one starts and the other stops. Sometimes anger can simmer until it reaches a point where the person explodes into a rage and may even become physically aggressive. Men seem particularly prone to anger and moodiness when they feel depressed. So, in this Sharepost I’m looking at how anger and depression relate and what can be done to help.
Is there anyone who has never experienced anger? I doubt it and there are plenty of reasons why any one of us feels angry. The basis of anger is often frustration and we’re all aware of our temper starting to build when our plans are thwarted. Our own bodies can contribute. Anything that affects body chemistry such as hormonal imbalance, medications, drugs and alcohol can add to stress.
Many people who suffer with depression are aware of Freud’s adage that depression is anger turned inwards. Well, we certainly know that anger and depression often co-exist and the purpose of psychotherapy is to help the person unearth the hostility and resentment that help fuel depression. We know however anger alone isn’t a cause of depression. And, whilst many people with depression become sensitive to criticism, more argumentative, impatient and irritable, these tend to be the signs and symptoms of depression itself.
In the normal course of a day we fall back on a number of socially acceptable ways to ease the pressure of our anger and stress. Many people find a good old fashioned grumble works wonders. Other people focus on lifestyle issues such as diet and meditation. Some go for long walks or play sports. Maybe you do them all These aren’t pointless distractions, they have a very useful purpose. If we don’t vent our anger there’s a danger it simply builds up and festers. Anger and hostility are two of the risk factors for heart disease, immune problems and digestive upsets.
Professional help for depression and anger may be found through cognitive therapy. One of the ways cognitive therapy helps is by working with you to identify certain patterns of negative thinking that lead to hostile interpretations and suggesting ways of thinking and behaving differently. Anger management programs often borrow their techniques from cognitive therapy. If you opt for an anger management program you should be aware that not all the people running these programs have a clinical background. They may not, for example, tune into the fact that your anger issues are symptomatic of deeper problems that should be medically or psychology treated.
You can help yourself and others by thinking about the effect your anger is having. In the short-term your outbursts may ensure compliance, but it is almost certain to stir resentment and hurt feelings. Anger often leads to isolation. People don’t like conflict so may keep their distance. This may be what you want but there’s a danger that it feeds into the isolation frequently sought by people who suffer with depression. Try to exercise a little self-control and talk to the person who is pressing your buttons about how it’s making you feel. They may go off in a bit of a huff, but you aren’t in control of their emotional reaction to your comments, especially if you’ve taken the time and trouble to explain without an edge of threat or hostility.
Anger is a perfectly normal human reaction. The problem comes when it occurs out of character, for a lengthy period of time, or overwhelms you in a fit of rage and physical aggression, for disproportionate reasons.
Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.