Is It Anger or Depression or Both?

Sometimes discerning the differences between anger and depression isn’t so obvious. Most of the time, when people think about what depression looks like, they focus on symptoms of sadness, hopelessness, fatigue, or a general sense of apathy. And when they think about anger, they imagine someone who’s dysregulated when they get triggered.

However, one of the more common symptoms of major depressive disorder is irritability. Similarly, someone who has angry outbursts may have underlying depression without realizing it. The two often go hand-in-hand, and understanding this connection can be an important part of understanding your mental health.

Understanding Your Anger Outbursts

What makes you get really angry in life?

Take a moment to really think about it. Maybe you hate feeling disrespected by others. Or perhaps you get irritated when things don’t go your way. You may also experience a prevailing rage toward social injustices.

Sometimes anger is situational, like getting angry when a colleague takes credit for your work, but other times it can represent more of an undercurrent permeating through daily life. If it’s more general, you might notice yourself getting reactive around others, even if you aren’t exactly sure why.

Anger is a normal emotion that everyone experiences, and it is not inherently indicative of any mental health condition. However, intense anger may speak to something else. Some research shows that anger attacks may actually be a manifestation of depression symptoms. One study found that about one-third of people with depression also experienced intense anger. This anger came in the form of somatic symptoms, including chest tightness, increased body heat, and flushing, and they also sometimes coincided with aggressive behavior.

Sometimes internalized feelings of helplessness or unworthiness, which may stem from trauma, can cause people to redirect their anger toward themselves. For example, if you experience low self-esteem, you might get really angry at yourself when you make a mistake. This could lead to you punishing yourself (i.e. with drugs, alcohol, or other self-sabotaging behaviors). These responses can cause or exacerbate your depressed mood.

The Relationship Between Depression and Hostility

Hostility exists on a wide spectrum, but it refers to being spiteful, vindictive, or cruel to others. Occasional hostility may be a stress-based reaction, but chronic hostility tends to mimic bullying, and it can significantly erode relationships.

Some people with depression experience hostile feelings without acting on them. For example, you might find yourself resenting when others are happy or doing well in life. This can trigger complex feelings of guilt and shame. Sometimes, it reinforces problems with self-pity.

Other times, hostility actually causes you to hurt others, whether that’s through physical aggression, passive-aggressive comments, silent treatment, or gaslighting loved ones.

Steps to Managing Depression And Anger

Sometimes depression and anger are interconnected. In any case, it’s important to have coping strategies to implement when you:

Label how you feel: The next time you note yourself experiencing an intense emotion, take a moment and pause. Identify what you’re feeling. Remember that you can experience multiple emotions, including sadness, anger, and anxiety, simultaneously.

Engage in more mindfulness: Simply being present and engaging in mindfulness can sometimes soothe intense feelings. Deep breathing helps regulate your nervous system and can promote a sense of calm that moves throughout your body.

Engage in a physical activity: Taking a brisk walk or simply stretching your body can sometimes break up heightened emotions. It also allows you to separate yourself if you’re feeling reactive around others.

Engage in emotional expression: Sometimes it’s helpful to write down negative thoughts or feelings to better understand them. This can be particularly useful if you experience suppressed anger or feel like you’re dealing with excessive anger. It can also be beneficial if you feel like your depression continues getting worse. You may realize that you’re struggling with other emotions like helplessness or fear underneath the surface. The goal is to find healthy ways to release how you feel without negatively taking it out on yourself or others.

Seek mental health support: A qualified and compassionate mental health professional can help you better navigate your emotional needs. This applies whether you have a diagnosable mental health condition or if you’re simply struggling with difficult symptoms.

Focus on what you can control: Anger can be a common reaction to feeling out of control in daily life. If you’re feeling angry, pause and take a moment. Think about what you can focus on right now to feel better. What might immediately help reduce stress? Finally, although it may seem paradoxical, self-compassion can help neutralize increased anger or sadness.

Therapy for Anger or Depression in Austin, TX

Anger can be a prevailing undercurrent amid mood disorders, and depressive symptoms can also exacerbate unresolved anger. If you’re struggling with your mental health, you are not alone, and you can learn how to take care of your emotions without hurting yourself or others.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with how you experience anger. But if you feel like you can’t control your emotions- or if it seems like they’re swallowing you whole- seeking professional help can support you in better understanding yourself. I would be honored to help you on this journey. Please contact me today to schedule an initial consultation.

4601 Spicewood Springs Road Building 3, Suite 200
Austin, TX 78759
(512) 988-3363

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