Depression and anger: how are they linked?

Why anger may sometimes by a sign of depression, and what you can do to cope with angry outbursts linked to depression.

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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'll look at how and why anger can be a symptom of depression. We'll also outline the treatment options that are available for people who are currently struggling with anger and depression.

Is anger a sign 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'll recall them in a negative light or only remember the negative parts of them
  • They'll typically react to current situations that they're 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.

What may depression and angry outbursts look like?

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.

How to deal with depression and anger

If you’re having difficulty getting your depression and anger outbursts under control, there are coping strategies you can adopt to try and regulate your emotions better. Some of these will help you in the moment, whereas others are to be used over a long-term basis to help you cope with depression and anger:

  • When you feel a situation causing you to become angry, count to 10 before responding. You could even take yourself away from the situation first and come back when your emotions are under control
  • Work with a friend or a relative to identify possible solutions to your anger. Reaching out for support from someone you trust is hugely beneficial to resolving anger effectively. Don’t focus on what made you angry and instead, look at how you can resolve it rationally
  • Get plenty of exercise. Exercise is useful for people struggling with their mental health. Reduce stress, anxiety and irritability by going for a brisk walk or run. In the long run, it can help with symptoms of depression too
  • Practise relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation or yoga to relieve stress. This will help you to think clearly about your actions and reactions
  • Remember throughout that asking for help doesn’t make you weak. If your anger and depressive episodes become too much to bear, seek professional help. Start with an appointment with your GP

Getting support for anger and depression

If you're struggling with depression and anger, it's incredibly important that you speak to a mental health professional. They'll 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're currently facing.

Many people choose to start out by speaking to their GP. If you're 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 your life, information on the intensity of your anger symptoms and any other symptoms of depression that you experience. It's also useful to provide details of if and when these symptoms peak and trough throughout the day or week.

Your GP will be able to provide you with support themselves, or refer you to a specialist treatment service, such as Priory, for the specialist help you need.

If you'd prefer, you can also come directly to Priory. One of our experienced psychiatrists will be able to provide you with an assessment and diagnosis, and recommend world class treatment for depression at one of our hospitals or wellbeing centres.

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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