What are the signs that you are suffering from anxiety and depression?

I am 23 years old. I lost my dad at 9 and my mom at 18, so I grew up in the hands of my mom and I lack fatherly affection and training. Since I lost my mom I have been entering relationships to help me fight loneliness and depression but I have been a bad partner and I’m hurting all my loved ones around me. I get angry easily and I am always hot tempered because I see the world in a different way. I don’t know what to do as currently I’m so much in love with this lady but I keep on stressing her everyday no matter what she does to make me happy I’m always sad. I don’t know if it’s because I lack the energy and training to be a good partner or if it’s because of all the sad things that have happened to me, so I hardly have good relationships with the people around me and I want the world to dance to my tune by being in charge of everything.
Asked by Jayzee

Dear Jayzee,

First of all, I want to commend you and say “way to go” on recognizing that there may be an issue with anger management and ways to productively communicate your feelings to those around you. You have been through a *lot*, and it's common to struggle with depression and anxiety after losing parents. I’m so glad you’ve come to BetterHelp for support. Although your counselor here will be able to hear more about your life and help you come up with healthy strategies, I can give some advice to get you started (especially if you are still waiting to be matched with a counselor).

Learning how to communicate anger can be like learning a foreign language if you didn’t grow up with role models for appropriate expression. However, it is 100% a skill set that you can gain as an adult! A lot of anger management is about identifying the triggers, assessing your “automatic thoughts” and then developing healthy ways to respond. 

We are creatures of habit, and we tend to be stressed or saddened or angered by predictable things. It is important to start learning about the common themes of what makes you feel this anger or rage. Is it when your partner does something annoying? When you feel like you are not good enough? When you are bored or lonely? When you are sexually aroused? Everyone is different. The best way to do this is to start keeping a log of the times you experienced these feelings. Jot down in a journal or in an app like Google. Keep these times, including:

-- Where was I when this happened?

-- What was I doing?

-- How was I feeling?

Over time, you will see themes that can help you attack the triggers.

It’s also important to identify your own patterns of self expression. For example, it’s possible that your self-expression in the past has been punished or mocked or that you’ve seen others punished or mocked for self-expression. For example, if your siblings or peers teased you for everything you said, then it may be difficult to speak up now (because it’s hard to get rid of that nagging voice telling you that people around you are waiting for you to mess up). Or perhaps you saw one of the adult caregivers in your home mock others. Even though you logically understand that your feelings and thoughts are valid, it’s hard to undo this kind of lesson (especially when it happens early on and / or repeatedly). This is especially where a therapist will be helpful as we are trained to help you evaluate automatic thoughts (such as “everyone is going to laugh at you” or “no one wants to hear what you have to say.”) Further, we can help you come up with alternative thoughts to replace these and practice using these alternatives until it becomes natural (such as “people who love me also love to know what I’m thinking,” and “I have the right to express myself,” and “I don’t need to say things perfectly; my thoughts are better out than in.”

Another piece of advice for you is to practice deep breathing in the moment when you are feeling your anger surge. Learning deep belly breathing (or “diaphragmatic breathing) is a great tool to add to effective stress management. Taking time to breathe deeply for a few minutes is a free and easy to learn method to take you out of the fight or flight zone and into a zone where you can think more clearly and not experience those side effects. You can Google “deep breathing” or “diaphragmatic breathing” to start learning a technique that really helps most people. You can find mobile apps to help (for example the Breathe2Relax or the Virtual Hope Box app – both are free and evidence-based) or watch videos online that can walk you through it. These are skills that can assist you throughout your entire life (for example, dealing with road rage, poor customer service, annoying family). You can also disrupt the fight or flight response in the moment with just a minute or two of intense exercise (for example, push-ups, jumping jacks or walking up and down a flight of stairs). This helps use some of the adrenaline and glucose that are released into your bloodstream when you have encountered a stressor and leaves you thinking a bit more clearly.

All of my suggestions above focused on helping you maintain your relationship. However, it is possible that this is not the right partnership for you. Consider listing what you would like to have in a partnership (whether it is with your partner or someone else). Making a realistic wish list can help you identify your priorities. And please keep in mind that you are valuable and WORTH meeting these priorities. Ask yourself questions like:

- How should my partner and I solve problems when we disagree about little things (for example, the best way to wash dishes)? How should we solve problems when we disagree about big things (for example, how we want to spend money)?

- What kind of activities do I want to be able to do with my partner?

- How should my partner and I talk about what we want in sex?

- What kind of sense of humor is important to me? What kinds of things make me laugh, and is it important that my partner shares this?

- How much are looks important to me?

- What kind of dates do I expect? What do I like to do when getting to know someone or spending time with someone I care about?

- How fast should my partner get back to me when I text or call? Do we always need to pick up the phone, or is it okay to have the call go voicemail if I’m busy?

- Should my partner and I do fun things apart or only together? Is it okay if we do fun things with our friends without the other partner?

- How important is it that my partner get along with my friends?

- How important is it that my partner get along with my family?

- What are my limits? Are there any things that I absolutely will not allow from a partner (like physical violence, certain kinds of substance use)?

After making your list, consider how it felt. Do you feel you deserve to have these needs met? (I think you do deserve to have a good partnership that meets your needs). Are the needs realistic? Which ones are the highest priority? Of these high priority items, which ones do your current partner meet?

Your friends and family are so lucky to have you – a person who *wants* to be better and who can see areas for improvement. You’re ahead of the game and I see great things in your future!

Sending you many good wishes,


Note: If you are in crisis and feeling like hurting yourself, please call 911, go to your closest emergency department, or call the suicide hotline (the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) immediately at 800-273-8255. You could also go to their website to chat at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.