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How anger is linked to depression

February 19, 2024
Dan Kearsley

Sadness, hopelessness and despair are some of the better-known symptoms of depression, but did you know that anger can be a symptom, too?

Usually when we’re angry, it’s easy to pinpoint the reason why. However, with depression, anger can simmer under the surface and then flare up, seemingly out of nowhere. The feelings of anger may then linger, long after the outburst has taken place.

What is depression?

Depression is a mood disorder that causes an ongoing feeling of sadness and your interest in things to fade.  

Depression can affect how you think, feel, and behave, which can lead to a range of emotional and physical symptoms, from feeling hopeless to changes in appetite or sleeping patterns. Depending on how severe your symptoms are you may find doing normal day-to-day activities difficult or you may even feel as though life isn't worth living.

Depression is not a sign of weakness or something that you can just ‘snap out of’. Usually, people require some form of treatment in order to feel better.

Some of the more common symptoms of depression include:  

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Being unable to enjoy leisure time, such as time off work, holidays, hanging out with friends, hobbies or sex  
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt – fixating on past failures or self-blaming
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Fatigue, tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
  • Having a sense of looming danger, panic or doom
  • Feeling tense, nervous or unable to relax  
  • Feeling like you can’t stop worrying, or that bad things will happen if you stop worrying
  • Trouble with sleeping – not being able to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, or suicide attempts

Read more about depression and further symptoms here.

Anger and depression

Sometimes, people label anger as a negative emotion, but it’s actually completely normal. It’s okay to feel angry in certain situations, for example, if someone has hurt you, let you down, or you find something to be unfair. Generally, it’s better to allow your emotions to play out, rather than to suppress them.  

However, if you find yourself feeling angry often and you’re not sure why, or your levels of anger feel out of proportion to the situation, you may want to consider whether you could be experiencing depression.

It’s not always clear why feelings of anger arise with depression and everyone’s experience is different. But, if you’re no longer enjoying the things that you used to, this can create feelings of frustration, and if depression is stopping you from sleeping, this can have an impact on your mood and make you feel more irritable. It’s also possible that feelings of anger can create feelings of depression and that both can impact each other.  

Anger as a result of depression might look like:

  • Struggling to control your temper
  • Feeling extremely sensitive to criticism  
  • Being quick to criticise others
  • Frequently snapping at the people closest to you
  • Frequent road rage and a lack of patience  

How to deal with feelings of anger

  1. Identify and manage your triggers

The next time you feel angry, ask yourself what caused it and rate your emotion: are you mildly irritated or furious? How did this change second by second? What thoughts went through your mind? Greater awareness of our anger response makes it easier to understand and manage in the future.

  1. Challenge your thoughts

‍If your friend is late to meet you, you might jump to the conclusion that this is because they don’t respect you. Examine the evidence for this. Does your friend treat you with a lack of respect in other ways or do they show you that you matter to them? Are they late because they don’t feel you’re important or is it more likely that they’re trying to do too many things at once?

  1. Try relaxation techniques  

When you notice feelings of anger or frustration building up, try to manage your emotions using relaxation techniques. We all relax in different ways, but many people like to go for a walk or run, or practise yoga, mindfulness or meditation. Breathing exercises can also be very effective when you’re struggling to keep calm in the moment.

Controlled breathing exercise:

Find somewhere quiet where you can sit down alone. Breathe in through your nose and out of your mouth for five minutes, breathing out for longer than you breathe in. To make sure that you’re breathing from your diaphragm, place your hands on your stomach with your fingertips together - they should move apart as you breathe and your stomach expands. You may feel a little dizzy to start with as your brain adjusts to the increased level of oxygen, but afterwards you should feel more relaxed.

  1. Write it down

Journalling is the practice of writing down your thoughts and feelings in order to understand them better. It’s also a good way to release your emotions instead of bottling them up, so that you don’t get stuck ruminating on negative thoughts. Having an outlet for your feelings and taking the time to analyse them can help you to stay in control of your emotions.  

  1. Show yourself compassion  

Depression affects everyone differently, but it’s not uncommon for people living with depression to become self-critical. The person who struggles to find motivation might be hard on themselves for not achieving their goals. The person who cries every day might feel like a burden to their partner, who reassures them. The person who overreacts to a situation may feel like they’ve let themselves down.

While it’s good to be self-aware and reflective, it’s also important that you don’t let your inner-critic take over. The way that we talk to ourselves has a direct impact on our self-esteem and wellbeing, so be mindful of your inner voice and treat yourself with compassion. Remember that living with depression is difficult and it’s not always possible to show up as the best version of yourself. Read about how to be a better friend to yourself here.  

Treatment for depression

Taking the first steps towards getting help for a mental health disorder can be tough. We often have internalised stigma and we may feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness, however, this is absolutely not the case. Many people experience mental health issues in their lives and there’s no shame in asking for help.

It’s a good idea to speak to a professional sooner rather than later, as mental health symptoms can get worse as time goes on. As a first step, make an appointment with your GP who will be able to assess you and explain which treatment options are available. This may include medication or therapy.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for depression. CBT encourages you to challenge negative thought patterns and gives you the tools you need to stay in control of your mental health.

At ieso, we offer typed CBT, which means that patients can login from wherever they are and ‘speak’ with a therapist privately by typing back and forth. It's just as effective as face-to-face CBT, plus it’s more flexible. Our appointments are seven days a week, between the hours of 6am-11am, and they’re remote, so you don’t have to travel. Our service is free for some NHS patients. Sign up to see if you’re eligible here.

ieso Online Therapy
This blog has been written by a member of the clinical team at ieso.
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