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Why depression may look like anger

Anger can be a symptom of depression, which is something that people don’t tend to realise. Many people with depression who experience intense anger don’t understand why they feel this way and don’t recognise the connection.

Within this blog, we will look at how and why anger can be a symptom of depression. We will also outline the treatment options that are available for people who are currently struggling with their anger and their depression.

Anger in depression – how does it present itself?

A person with depression may experience anger in a number of different ways. It can present itself in the following ways:

  • Sensitive to criticism
  • Critical and angry towards themselves
  • A short temper
  • Frequent road rage
  • Irritable
  • Verbally and physically violent to others or themselves

A person with depression may turn their anger in on themselves, rather than displaying visible outbursts. This can result in a person carrying out self-sabotaging or self-harmful behaviours.

They may also experience other symptoms of depression, including intense sadness, guilt, an inability to concentrate and indecisiveness. A full of list of depression symptoms can be found here.

Why is anger sometimes a symptom of depression?

A person with depression typically has a negative bias, where they see the world around them through a negative filter. Some examples include:

  • When remembering past events or conversations, they will recall them in a negative light or only remember the negative parts of them
  • They will typically react to current situations that they are going through in a negative way, finding it difficult to think of any positives
  • A person with depression will also tend to think negatively about the future

For many people with depression, this negative bias causes intense sadness and hopelessness. But for some, it can result in anger. Whether a person with depression does go on to experience anger, sadness or any other symptom typically depends on a number of factors, including their upbringing, culture and society as well as their biology.

Seeking help and support for anger and depression

If you are struggling with depression and anger, it is incredibly important that you speak to a health or mental health professional. They will be able to provide you with access to an assessment, diagnosis and treatment such as medication and therapy so that you can deal with the problems that you are currently facing.

Many people choose to start out by speaking to their GP. If you are nervous about going to talk to them, do a little preparation beforehand. Write down a list of your concerns, examples of how anger and depression have been impacting on your life, information on the intensity of your anger and any other symptoms of depression that you experience, as well as details of if and when these symptoms peak and trough throughout the day or week.

They will be able to provide you with support themselves, or refer you to a specialist treatment service, such as Priory Group, so that they can provide you with the help you need.

If you would prefer, you can also come directly to Priory Group. One of our experienced psychiatrists will be able to provide you with an assessment, a diagnosis and also recommend treatment, which may include medication and therapeutic support. This can then be provided to you at one of our hospitals or wellbeing centres.

Types of treatment that can be used for anger and depression

When someone is experiencing depression and anger, it is often recommended that they carry out a therapeutic programme to help them to understand and manage their symptoms going forward. There are different forms of therapy that can be helpful to different people, which are available at Priory Group.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

CBT can help you to better recognise your angry or depressed thoughts and feelings, and learn how to redirect them, so that they have less of an impact on your day-to-day life.

This therapeutic programme helps in the following way:

  • Developing an understanding of their anger - you learn to understand why you experience anger, how you experience anger and the ways in which your anger impacts on both yourself and others
  • Cognitive restructuring - you work with your therapist to learn how to identify and acknowledge anger-provoking thoughts and replace them with more rational ones
  • Distraction and relaxation techniques - these techniques are taught in order to help you learn how to move past thoughts and situations that would typically cause you to feel angry

Compassion focused therapy (CFT)

CFT can be a valuable form of therapy for people with depression who feel angry towards themselves.

It gives you the opportunity to learn how to be more self-compassionate. Through the sessions, you are encouraged to begin treating yourself in an encouraging, kind and positive way, just as you would to any other person experiencing such intense emotions

Emotion focused therapy (EFT)

EFT can help you to learn how to feel and express emotions in a healthier way, helping to free you from any suppressed anger that you have been struggling with.

It encourages you to verbalise your angry inner thoughts and feelings, so that you can better recognise and take notice of them. As part of the programme, you can also discover new to address these thoughts so that you can deal with them in a healthier, more compassionate way. 

Coronavirus information

We have now resumed face-to-face therapy at some of our hospitals and wellbeing centres, as well as continuing to offer this remotely. We continue to offer access to inpatient services where this is required. For more information on our online therapy service, please visit our Priory Connect page. For the latest information on how Priory are responding to coronavirus, and keeping our patients and staff safe, please visit our COVID-19 preparedness blog.

Blog reviewed by Daniel Fryer (BA (Hons), MSc, Dip. in Animal Assisted Therapy, Dip. in Clinical Hypnotherapy, Dip. in Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy), CBT therapist at Priory Hospital Bristol

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For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding mental health and wellbeing, please call 0800 840 3219 or click here to submit an enquiry form. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here

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