How are Anger and Depression Connected?
“Anger is just sad’s bodyguard.” If you know someone who suffers from depression, you may resonate with this quote.
Depression is more than just feeling sad or hopeless. It’s a serious mental illness that affects daily life. It also manifests differently for everyone.
Typical symptoms include a persistently low mood, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, and disinterest in usual activities and hobbies.
For some people, depression may also be linked to other mental disorders such as an eating disorder, substance abuse, or insomnia—but for others, depression may present itself through a less common symptom: anger.
Anger is a normal, if unpleasant, emotion we all experience. However, in the case of depression, anger may be overwhelming, volatile, and difficult to control.
A person who experiences both depression and anger management issues may struggle with:
- A short temper
- Overly self-critical or angry thoughts
- Hypersensitivity to criticism
- Frequent road rage
- Explosive outbursts over unimportant matters
- Verbal and/or physical abuse towards themselves or other
- Anger attacks
Although anger is not a mental health disorder on its own, it can be an indicator of a greater issue and may require professional help. If someone close to you struggles with anger and depression, here’s how you can support them.
9 Ways to Support Someone with Anger and Depression
As with any illness, depression requires love, care, and most of all, understanding. This may be difficult, especially if a loved one has said or done hurtful things while depressed.
Although you should never accept bad behavior, it’s important to remember that depression is a complex mental health condition. Not everything may be as it seems.
People with depression sometimes experience major depressive episodes (MDEs). During an episode, their mental health may decline, leading to overwhelming feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
For some people, these feelings may manifest through anger. One study in 2013 reported that over half of participants with MDEs also reported overt feelings of anger and irritability.
When offering your support, here are a few ways you can help without enabling or accepting negative behavior:
1. Don’t forget to take care of yourself
To be an effective support person, you need to prioritize your well-being. You are not their therapist nor can you be emotionally available 24/7, especially if you feel burnt out or unsafe.
Take time to tend to your own needs. Practice self-care by enforcing boundaries and voicing your opinions. Reinvest time into friends, family, and interests outside of them.
Physical and/or verbal abuse is never okay, even if the person is unwell. If their behavior has greatly affected your mental health or resulted in domestic violence, it’s time to step away. Consider reaching out to the helplines listed here for additional support.
2. Educate yourself on depression
Not everyone experiences depression the same way. This also applies to treatment options; what may work for one person may not work for you or your loved one. Research is key.
According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, major depressive disorder (MDD) affects over 16.1 million Americans and is often associated with anxiety disorder. A different study has also linked anxiety with increased levels of anger.
In cases of either or both conditions, medication (e.g. antidepressants), support groups, or therapy may be effective in managing symptoms.
3. Learn their triggers
Triggers are psychological responses to reminders of past trauma and may prompt upsetting emotions, such as anxiety or stress.
Although triggers may be mild, they can also turn physical. For example, a person with depression and anger issues may direct their emotions on themselves through self-harm. According to the Recovery Village, adolescents have the highest rates of self-harm.
To help someone with triggers, identify their specific warning signs. Ask questions without being pushy and note what may have caused a sudden mood swing or an angry outburst.
In some cases, triggers may lead to suicidal ideation. If you suspect someone is suicidal, do not leave them alone. If needed, call 911 or encourage them to speak to a crisis hotline such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
4. Don’t judge, blame, or attack them
Mental illness often affects interpersonal relationships. When supporting a person with depression and anger issues, don’t judge or blame them for their mental illness. Shame is rarely helpful and may push them away from you or provoke an emotional outburst.
However, do not condone their bad behavior either. Honest communication is vital when addressing not only their needs but yours as well.
5. Make an effort to invite them out and do engaging activities together
People with depression often have low self-esteem. They may be consumed by negative thoughts and believe they are unloved or hated and try to socially isolate themselves.
Take the first step and invite them to go out. Encourage them to re-engage with past hobbies by doing activities together. By being physically present—and verbally reaffirming that you care for them—your support may be felt when they need it most.
6. Don’t retaliate or engage in a fight/argument
When faced with an emotional outburst or an anger attack, do not engage with them negatively. Try to keep your cool and acknowledge their feelings without undermining your own. Diffuse the argument by speaking calmly and listening to what they have to say.
If they’re acting in a way that is physically unsafe for you, remove yourself from the situation. If you believe they may harm themselves, call a helpline or 911 immediately.
7. Find healthy coping mechanisms to diffuse anger (breathing exercises, meditation, etc.)
Healthy coping mechanisms can help alleviate anger and manage depression.
Deep breathing exercises, such as the 4-7-8 Breath, can settle frantic thoughts, quiet overwhelming emotions, and relax the body. You may also suggest mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the practice of acknowledging your senses and feelings without judgment or action via mediation. Mindfulness can be effective in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.
8. Have resources readily available
Emotional outbursts can drain what little energy a person with depression has. By directing them towards resources available both off- and online, they can seek help even when they’re at their lowest.
If they are comfortable with it, check in to keep them accountable with their treatment plan. Remind them of healthy coping strategies and suggest fun distractions. Help them with things they may find overwhelming such as filing for insurance, making appointments, or reaching out to helplines.
9. Encourage them to seek professional help
Psychotherapy can help treat depression and anger management issues. One study showed that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be effective in treating patients with excessive anger and depression.
Begin by gently encouraging them. Mental health professionals like therapists and counselors can provide tools and resources friends and family members cannot. Therapy can also provide a safe space to discuss difficult or intimate topics.
If in-person appointments are not an option, therapy can be conducted online without sacrificing comfort or quality of care.
Get the Help You Need with Emote Online Therapy
Getting help can be scary if you don’t know where to start. At Emote, you don’t have to take that first step alone.
Our team of certified therapists is here to empower you and your loved ones. Whatever challenges you may be facing, you can face them together or, if you prefer, individually through one-on-one encrypted sessions.
Learn coping skills, discuss difficult subjects, and diffuse overwhelming emotions like anger or depressive episodes by reaching out at a moment’s notice.