The Impacts Of Co-Occurring Anger And Depression

Medically reviewed by April Justice
Updated February 27, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide, which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is having suicidal thoughts, contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. Support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Experiencing anger and depression simultaneously can be confusing for some, as anger is not often discussed as a symptom of depression. Understanding what depression and anger can look like may help you identify the signs in yourself or a loved one, as growth can be difficult when you're unsure of what you're experiencing. Recognizing your challenges with depression and anger may also allow you to find ways to cope with them effectively.

Struggling with depression and anger at the same time?

What is depression?

Depression is a complex mental health condition characterized by persistent sadness, low mood, and other distressing symptoms. If you're living with this mental health condition, you may also experience a lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities and symptoms like the following: 

  • Changes in appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual
  • Increased fatigue or loss of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Difficulty caring for your hygiene 
  • Difficulty completing daily tasks
  • Irritability and anger 
  • Thoughts of suicide or death 

Although this list is not exhaustive, it may be beneficial to reference it for yourself and your loved ones. Left untreated, depression can lead to other mental and physical health challenges, including sleep disturbances, substance use disorders, and co-occurring mental illnesses.

What is anger?

Anger is a healthy emotion that can occur to anyone. However, it can be valuable to understand the difference between healthy anger as an emotion and anger-motivated unhealthy behaviors that can cause interpersonal, relational, or legal challenges.  

There are three types of anger-related symptoms, including behavioral, emotional, and physical. A person with anger management challenges may display a combination of the following symptoms: 

  • Excessive irritability or anxiety
  • Overwhelming rage
  • Difficulty organizing thoughts
  • Fantasizing about hurting yourself or others
  • Heart palpitations
  • Headaches
  • Pressure in the sinuses or head
  • Fatigue
  • Tingling in the body
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Lashing out quickly 
  • Difficulty interacting with others
  • Erratic or unpredictable behaviors when angry  

The impacts of anger and depression

When you experience anger and depression to extreme degrees or find that they are debilitating to your everyday life, it can create unhealthy physical and mental health effects. Additionally, it may start to impact the people around you. Anger and depression can affect how you view, handle, and live your life. You may respond more poorly to life's stressors than you normally would if you weren't trying to cope with one or both concerns. 

Experiencing severe depression can lead to anxiety, increased anger challenges, and withdrawal from the people and activities you enjoy. Withdrawing from the activities that once brought you happiness might result in losing friends who don't understand that you are depressed. It could also lead to job termination or missing out on other opportunities. Each of these consequences can make your depressive symptoms worse, which can start a repetitive loop of increased withdrawal and more severe depression. This cycle might trap you in a negative, unhealthy pattern that keeps you from living the fulfilling life you seek. 

Unhealthy anger-motivated habits can also be harmful. Extreme and unhealthy behaviors can cause physically and mentally damaging results. If you find yourself frequently in an upset, angry, or argumentative state, loved ones may begin to pull away from you after a while, or you may pull away from them. 

While it may be normal to have disagreements sometimes, if your anger is excessive, it can drive away your friends and family members. If this occurs, it may feed into depression, causing you to feel alone. Irritability can also be a common symptom of depression, so you might feel angrier during this process. When not adequately recognized and mitigated with healthy coping strategies, anger, and depression can result in an unhealthy cycle.

Treatment for anger and depression

There are several types of treatment methods that you can seek out for anger, depression, and other mental health challenges. Talk therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes are common strategies to address these challenges. However, different treatments work more effectively for some people than others. In addition, what's appropriate to manage anger might not work for depression and vice versa. 

Talk therapy 

One type of talk therapy that is often utilized for depression and anger is known as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). With this therapy, a mental health professional teaches you to identify and replace your unhelpful thoughts with healthier beliefs and ideas. Over time, you may learn how to improve your behavior through unique coping strategies personalized to your situation. 

Another type of effective therapy for depression and anger may be cognitive processing therapy (CPT). CPT looks at your childhood or past traumas as a possible source of anger or depression in your present moment. These methods consider what caused you to feel this way and focus on resolving those childhood challenges to change how you react, think, and feel in the present. For some, healing from the trauma that they experienced can be an effective way to move forward. 

However, not everyone experiencing depression or anger has experienced trauma, and as such, therapy may involve looking deeper to see where depression and anger issues may have begun. There are also over 400 therapeutic modalities to try, so if one doesn't work for you, you might choose to try another. 

Group therapy 

Group therapy may also be an effective option for addressing depression and anger. With a group therapy session, you can meet with other clients experiencing similar symptoms to discuss your experiences and receive peer support under the guidance of a therapist. In some cases, group therapy might involve your family if it occurs in a family therapy format.  

Being in a group therapy setting with your loved ones may help you recognize how much they care for you and motivate you to seek support for your concerns. Speaking with others who know what you're experiencing might help you feel seen, heard, and validated. It may also allow you to learn valuable tips for improving your life based on what worked for others. 

Struggling with depression and anger at the same time?

Alternative counseling options 

If you're struggling with anger, depression, or both simultaneously, seeking professional support can be beneficial. However, many people living with depression or anger challenges may struggle to find the energy to go to an in-person appointment regularly. In these cases, online therapy can be a productive way to find a therapist with the qualifications you seek.  

Online counseling platforms like BetterHelp have thousands of licensed therapists specializing in different areas. You can get matched with a counselor who meets your preferences without having to leave the house. When matched with a counselor, you can choose between phone, video, and live chat sessions, allowing you control over how you speak with your counselor when you're struggling. 

Online therapy can be effective for individuals experiencing various mental health obstacles. One study conducted in Sweden over four weeks found that therapy delivered via the Internet could help those living with co-occurring anger and aggression. The study relied on two methods: mindful emotion awareness and cognitive reappraisal.  

Takeaway

Depression and anger are two mental health concerns that can be difficult to manage and cope with. Leaving these challenges unaddressed may adversely impact you and those around you. However, each can be successfully treated with the proper intervention and tools. If you want to discuss your symptoms further, consider contacting a licensed therapist for guidance.

Learn to separate anger from behavior

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