Why Am I So Angry? How Depression And Anger Are Connected

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated February 23, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

All depressive disorders can accompany a mixture of emotions. If you live with depression, you might notice profound moments of sadness, numbness, or fatigue. However, some people don’t know that depression can be associated with anger, rage, and irritability. Understanding the complex links between depression and anger could help you cope if you notice these emotions arising in your daily life.

Explore coping techniques for depression and anger management

Is anger a symptom of depression? 

Many people associate sadness, apathy, or a feeling of emptiness with depression. While those emotions may be manifestations of depression, some people may also experience irritability, frustration, or angry outbursts. A 2013 study found that more than 50% of clients treated for depression at five US medical centers showed persistent irritability or anger.

In addition, researchers estimate that 30% to 40% of people with major depressive disorder experience severe anger or rage. In some ways, these bursts of anger can resemble anxiety attacks, with symptoms including flushed skin, erratic heartbeat, profuse sweating, and a sensation of tightness in the chest. However, the person may feel rage instead of intense fear and anxiety. For some people, anger accompanies behaviors like shouting, slamming doors, or breaking objects.

Some studies indicate anger attacks are more common in men with depression than women. It’s unclear whether this difference is biological since neuroscience has not found any conclusive features distinguishing male and female brains. The gender differences in the frequency of anger attacks might have more to do with social factors. Men are often socialized to express anger more readily, while women may be taught to suppress anger or associate it with other symptoms.

How does depression lead to anger?

Researchers are still working to untangle the complex relationships between emotions in people with depressive disorders. In some cases, anger in depression may arise because of frustration. Anhedonia, difficulty experiencing pleasure or happiness, is a common feature of depression. If you’ve repeatedly tried and failed to spark happiness using activities you previously enjoyed, you might experience frustration, which could lead to feelings of irritation and anger.

Depression can also be an isolating experience. Some people with this condition report thinking that no one understands what they’re experiencing. Feeling misunderstood might lead to anger and irritation. In addition, attempts by well-meaning people to “cheer you up” when they don’t grasp what you’re experiencing may seem annoying.

Could anger be a cause of depression?

Some psychologists have suggested that anger may contribute to developing depressive disorders. Older psychoanalytic models regarded depression as a condition arising from rage that couldn’t be directed outward. In this view, people who cannot express or acknowledge their anger toward another person might direct it at themselves instead. According to the theory, self-criticism, and feelings of inadequacy might lead to depression. 

While this Freudian model is no longer widely accepted, some still think high levels of anger might make individuals more susceptible to depression. According to one theory, depression could arise when a person cannot overcome or escape a situation that makes them angry. The resulting sense of “entrapment” or helplessness may be expressed as depression. 

Another possibility is that depression may be a side effect of attempts to suppress emotions like anger, which is often stigmatized in society. When an individual tries to push down their anger, they may wind up suppressing all their emotions, including positive ones. This idea is supported by research suggesting that people with difficulties controlling their emotions could be more prone to depression.

How to cope with anger and depression

The exact relationship between anger and depression isn’t completely understood (and may not be the same for everyone). Still, there’s a fair amount of evidence that learning to process your rage may ease other symptoms. One study published in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease found that high levels of anger and hostility were associated with more severe treatment-resistant depression. Below are a few ways to cope with these symptoms. 


Attempts to clamp down on anger may be one cause of depressive symptoms. Suppressing your emotions can often prevent you from dealing with them. Psychologists have found facing your feelings in a non-judgmental way may be more effective in reducing their impacts. When you acknowledge the anger you’re experiencing instead of trying to pretend that you’re above it, you might find that you’re better able to resolve it.


It may also be helpful to acknowledge and accept the aspects of yourself that make you angry. Instead of giving up on self-improvement, working to change may be easier when you can forgive yourself for occasionally making mistakes. 

You could try talking to yourself the way you’d address a friend going through a similar challenge, telling yourself that you’re working on it and every human has imperfections at times. Some studies have found that self-compassion can reduce persistent self-criticism and alleviate depression.

Deep breathing

Though it may be a cliché to suggest that someone feeling angry should “take a deep breath,” this trope is rooted in an awareness of a natural phenomenon. Anger is often a stress response and may be reinforced by the body’s sympathetic nervous system (which controls the fight-or-flight reflex). Taking deep, slow breaths and expanding and contracting your diaphragm may help you release your rage by counteracting that instinctive stress response.

Active relaxation

Taking deep breaths isn’t the only thing that can decrease your physical stress response. Relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation also appear to reduce aggression and stress. To practice progressive relaxation, breathe in and deliberately tense up a specific muscle or group of muscles. Then, relax them as you breathe out. Repeating this with different areas of the body each time can gradually develop a widespread feeling of relaxation that may help you control your emotions. 

Expressive journaling

Giving yourself a healthy, creative outlet for your anger might let you more effectively process it without lashing out at others. One common approach is writing in a journal about the situations that seem to lead you to feelingirritable and hostile. This creative, emotional expression has been shown to positively impact bodily symptoms of stress like high blood pressure.

Mindfulness meditation

Another technique that might dissipate your anger is mindfulness meditation. This practice incorporates some of the abovementioned methods, including acceptance and deep breathing. Research has shown that it can lead to lasting, beneficial changes in brain structure and cognition. Studies indicate that regular mindfulness practice can decrease persistent anger, potentially reducing your tendency to dwell on inciting events. 

To meditate, sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and relax your body as much as you can without slouching over. Next, begin to take deep, slow breaths, focusing on the sensation of breathing in and out. Whenever you notice your attention wandering, return it to your breath without criticizing yourself or attempting to suppress your distracting thoughts.

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Explore coping techniques for depression and anger management

Seeking therapy

Psychotherapy under the guidance of a mental health professional can also be an effective way to change the habits of thought that make you feel irritable, angry, and hostile. Researchers have found evidence that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can reduce persistent anger. In addition, CBT is a well-supported treatment for depression, so it might also benefit your other symptoms. 

Many individuals appreciate the convenience of online therapy. If you struggle with motivation because of your depression, you may be better able to stick to a regular course of therapy when you can connect online instead of in person. Attending therapy over the Internet through a platform like BetterHelp can allow you to process your feelings of anger in a familiar, comfortable setting.

Repeated studies have found similarities in the effectiveness of internet-based and face-to-face therapy. Online interventions have shown promise for anger management, in particular. A 2014 paper reported that those receiving treatment for anger online showed a substantial decrease in symptoms, suggesting that this method may benefit you if your feelings of rage contribute to your depression. 


Anger and depression can feed on one another. Suppressed rage may fuel depression, while the frustration and isolation of living with depression can lead to irritation and hostility. Learning to confront, acknowledge, and constructively express your angry feelings may make it easier to cope with a depressive disorder. Consider contacting a therapist if you’d like to learn more about coping with these symptoms.
Learn to separate anger from behavior
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet started