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I’m Not Depressed, I’m Just Angry


When you think about depression, I’m betting that you think of someone who is sad, down, tired, crying, and has no energy. And while this is certainly true, it isn’t the complete picture. Depression can also have components of anger and irritability to it.


Symptoms of Depression

The most common symptoms of depression that people think of are

  • feeling persistently sad

  • decreased motivation

  • sleeping more (or less) than usual

  • decreased concentration

  • feeling hopeless

In fact, anger isn’t even listed as a symptom of depression in the official book that we use for diagnosing, the DSM-5! Well, except for in children where irritability and acting out are considered diagnostic symptoms. However, when studies asked people seeking help for depression or other psychiatric disorders about anger symptoms, most reported having some.


How Many People Have Anger Symptoms with Depression


  • Studies show what is termed a “strong link” between anger and depression. One study showed that 2/3’s of the people with depression asked, self-reported symptoms of anger or irritability.

  • A second study showed about half the people with depression have the symptom of emotional dysregulation.

  • Men will often report anger symptoms including rage & anger more often than women.


Types of Anger Seen with Depression

There are 3 types of anger typically associated with depression:


Irritability

This is defined by feeling anger or frustration over seemingly trivial things. It is out of proportion to the event that caused it. So you might find yourself reacting negatively, feeling generally negative and dissatisfied, and snapping at others


Hostility

This is a step up from irritability. It is negative feelings towards someone or something and is marked by a display of feelings of ill-will, malevolence, or opposition. This is an outward expression of anger.


Anger Attacks

Anger or rage attacks are rapid, intense explosions of anger for what may seem like a trivial trigger. Others around you might express surprise that you are angry because to them your feelings are out of proportion to what’s happening. You feel out of control during one of these attacks.


Why Depression Might Present as Anger


Studies on this have shown a couple of different things. First of all, people with depression display difficulty regulating their emotions. If you add in a tendency to ruminate on negative feelings, this will produce anger and outbursts. People who report that they are irritable or have been getting angry, also report this type of thinking.


Secondly, there have been several studies that showed that although both men and women experience depression, men have a much more difficult time talking about it and the feelings associated with it. Men are socialized to be tough and not to cry, whereas women are freer to be sad and tearful. This may lead men to express their depression differently, causing it to be expressed more as anger, irritability, or aggressiveness.


Treating Depression with Anger

There are many different medications that you might be prescribed by your doctor if you are depressed. Unfortunately, many of the medications used today do not do much to help with this particular symptom of depression. Therefore, therapy becomes much more important in treating anger in people with depression.


Some of the types of therapy that are used for this are CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy), IPT (Interpersonal Therapy), and or problem-solving therapy. Specific techniques might include:

  • Keeping an anger diary to track possible patterns. Usually, this involves tracking the antecedents, behaviors, and consequences of any anger outbursts or episodes.

  • Relaxation Techniques might include deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or guided imagery.

  • Education on depression, its symptoms, and how anger plays a role in depression.

  • Teaching on the use of distraction usually consists of moving away from whatever is making you angry and concentrating on something calming.

  • Cognitive restructuring targets and changes negative thoughts which might be contributing to the anger.

  • Social skills training to help you improve your social support system.



Closing Thoughts

If you find yourself getting angry for very little or no reason, you may be experiencing anger as a symptom of depression. If you would like to talk more about this or would like depression treatment, please follow the link!

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