What Is Angry Depression, And How Can It Be Treated?

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis, LCMHC
Updated June 13, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
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Angry depression generally refers to the simultaneous experience of anger and depressive symptoms. This type of depression can manifest in different ways, with the feelings of anger being focused externally or internally. Biological, psychological, and environmental factors may all play roles in the potential development of angry depression. This mental illness can impact a person’s relationships, professional life, and overall mental health. Therapy is often the best way to treat angry depression, and sessions can be attended in person or online.

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Angry depression is more common than you think

The connection between anger and depression

The connection between anger and depression can be intricate, as both emotions may intertwine in various ways, often creating a complex emotional landscape for individuals experiencing them simultaneously. 

Anger attacks can be a manifestation of depression symptoms, indicating a complex interplay between anger and depression in individuals experiencing both conditions. Understanding the relationship between depression and anger can be helpful for effectively managing these symptoms and improving overall mental health in individuals with this mental health condition.

Understanding this relationship can be essential for those affected and their loved ones, as well as mental health professionals seeking to provide effective support and treatment.

Depression

Depression itself can be an emotionally complex condition that usually goes beyond feelings of sadness and hopelessness. It can encompass a wide range of emotions, including frustration, guilt, and anger. When anger is entwined with depressive symptoms, it can intensify the emotional burden experienced by the individual, potentially making it more challenging to navigate their feelings and seek appropriate help.

Anger

Anger can play a significant role in manifesting depressive symptoms, as it may act as a coping mechanism for dealing with emotional pain. When individuals struggle to express their feelings of sadness or despair, they may turn to anger as a more effective and seemingly empowering emotion. This defensive strategy can mask the underlying depression, possibly making it more difficult to identify and address the root cause of their emotional distress.

Anger vs. irritability

It can be important to differentiate between anger and irritability when discussing the connection between anger and depression. Irritability, a common symptom of depression, typically refers to a heightened sensitivity to minor annoyances or a general feeling of being easily upset. On the other hand, anger is usually a more intense emotion that can involve feelings of hostility, aggression, and even rage. While irritability can contribute to the overall experience of depression, the presence of anger tends to add a unique layer of complexity that may require tailored therapeutic approaches.

Angry depression

Angry depression can manifest in various ways, depending on the individual and their unique circumstances. Some people may exhibit outward signs of anger, such as verbal outbursts, aggression, or physical violence. Others may experience their anger more internally, such as feelings of resentment, self-blame, or persistent negative thoughts. In some cases, anger may be directed toward specific targets, such as family, romantic partners, or even oneself.

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Forbes quotes psychologist and author of When Depression Hurts Your Relationship, Shannon Kolakowski, PsyD.: “Experiencing irritability, hostility, anger, and being sensitive to rejection are all common symptoms when depressed. Less well known is the fact that not only is irritability a sign of depression but it often signals a more severe level of depression. Hostility and irritability are also linked to a higher likelihood of having other mental illnesses, like anxiety. Other emotions such as sadness, shame, or helplessness often underlie the irritability, but irritability is what shows up on the surface”.

Causes of angry depression

Angry depression can be a complex condition with multiple contributing factors. It might be helpful to consider the potential causes in terms of biological, psychological, and environmental aspects. However, it can be important to remember that these factors are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and their interactions can also play a role in developing angry depression.

Biological factors

Regarding biological factors, a genetic predisposition may contribute to the onset of angry depression. This generally means that some individuals may be more likely to develop the condition due to their genetic makeup or family history. However, not everyone with such a predisposition may develop angry depression. 

Additionally, chemical imbalances in the brain could be another contributing factor. These imbalances can affect the way the brain processes emotions, which may lead to feelings of anger and depression. Much like the genetic component, chemical imbalances may play a part in developing angry depression but don't always guarantee that it will happen.

Psychological factors

Unresolved emotional issues may contribute to the emergence of angry depression. These issues may stem from past experiences or traumas that haven't been addressed, potentially leading to feelings of anger and sadness. It can be crucial to acknowledge that not all individuals with unresolved emotional issues may develop angry depression, but it can be a risk factor.

Environmental factors

Lastly, environmental factors, such as stressful life events and interpersonal conflicts, may also play a role in angry depression. Significant life changes or ongoing conflicts with loved ones can increase stress and negative emotions, possibly triggering the condition.

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Angry depression is more common than you think

Potential impacts of angry depression on daily life

Angry depression can significantly impact an individual's daily life, potentially affecting personal relationships, professional life, and overall mental health. Understanding these impacts can be essential to empathize with those experiencing this condition and support them effectively.

Personal relationships

In personal relationships, angry depression can lead to increased conflict with loved ones. A person struggling with this condition may experience heightened irritability and anger, causing disagreements and misunderstandings with friends and family. This can strain relationships, as those close to the individual may struggle to navigate the interactions.

Additionally, social isolation can be another consequence of angry depression. The individual may withdraw from social activities and avoid interaction with others. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and create a vicious cycle that's often difficult to break, as disconnection from supportive relationships can intensify the depression.

Professional life

In the professional realm, angry depression can negatively impact a person's productivity. The combination of anger and depressive symptoms may make it challenging to focus on tasks, frequently resulting in decreased job performance. Moreover, strained workplace relationships may arise due to the emotional volatility associated with angry depression. 

Forbes explains contributing factors: “Certain workplace factors negatively affect mental health. Additionally, the way we often work isn't sustainable. Employees are under incredible stress and pressure which results in them working more hours and taking fewer breaks. This is fatiguing their minds and overall hurting the workforce’s mental health”.

Overall mental health

The effects of angry depression on overall mental health should not be overlooked. Anger can intensify depressive symptoms, potentially making it harder for the person to cope with their feelings and engage in activities that would typically bring them joy or relief. 

Seeking help online

As with most types of depression, therapy can be one of the best options for treatment. Online therapy can offer valuable benefits for individuals coping with angry depression, including convenience and flexibility. With the convenience of connecting to a therapist from the comfort of one's home, individuals facing the challenges of angry depression may more easily overcome barriers like time constraints and feelings of isolation. This effective and flexible approach may allow for a more personalized therapeutic experience, enabling individuals to work through their emotions and develop effective coping strategies at a pace that suits their unique needs and circumstances.

One study reviewed two decades of research to evaluate the difference in efficacy between in-person and online therapy. The study found that “video-based teletherapy may be a feasible and effective alternative to in-person services for reducing depressive symptoms. Continued research on the effectiveness of telehealth in clinically depressed samples, and further elucidation of the effective barriers entailed by each delivery modality, can help the field better determine which patients will derive the greatest benefit from each mode of intervention”.

Takeaway

A person living with angry depression may live with typical depressive symptoms, as well as feelings of intense anger that can be focused on external or internal targets. Causes of angry depression can include a combination of environmental, psychological, and biological factors. As angry depression can negatively impact relationships, careers, and general mental health, it can be crucial to seek treatment. In general, therapy can be one of the best treatment options, and those with angry depression may choose to connect with a local therapist or attend online sessions.
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