Everyone feels angry now and then. However, if you frequently experience anger over the small irritations in life, or often find yourself regretting something you said after an angry outburst, there may be an underlying condition causing your anger.
Anger is not usually thought of as a symptom of a mental health issue. However, anger can be related to depression and anxiety for many different reasons. In this post, we will look at the relationship between anxiety, anger and depression, and ways to manage anger in stressful situations.
Anger can impact your most important relationships and how you feel about yourself. There are several techniques to prevent angry outbursts, and one of those is self-care. So, before we begin, try not to be too hard on yourself – there are legitimate reasons you feel angry. Now it's just a matter of handling your anger in a way that does not make you feel worse in the long run.
Symptoms of Anger Attacks
Imagine you had a stressful day at work. You come home and see dirty dishes in the sink despite having asked your spouse to help you with housework. As a result, you become overwhelmed by anger and throw a dish across the room. Later on, you feel guilty for getting so angry over a few dirty dishes, and you ask yourself – was it worth it? This scenario can easily make the symptoms of depression or anxiety worse.
It's expected to get angry sometimes even over the small things, but chronic anger is different than occasional anger. Chronic anger is persistent and can make everyday challenges feel more frustrating. Those who experience chronic anger attacks may not recognize that their anger is a symptom of a deeper issue, such as depression or anxiety.
In many ways, an anger attack is similar to a panic attack. If you've experienced four or more of the following symptoms, you might say you've had an anger attack:
- Racing heart
- Chest pain or tightening
- Excessive sweating
- Shortness of breath
- Fear of losing control
- Intense anxiety
- Feeling like attacking others
- Acting violently towards others
- Throwing objects
- Destroying objects
- Hot flashes
- Cold flashes
If you experience frequent anger attacks you might:
- Get angry over small frustrations
- Have experienced one or more anger attacks in the past month
- Have expressed inappropriate anger towards others
Anger attacks often result from feeling emotionally trapped. For example, if you find yourself in a frustrating situation such as a traffic jam when you're running late, your anger and anxiety levels may rise, and you may not know how to manage your emotions. As a result, your heart might begin to race, and you may fear you'll lose control.
Having an anger attack is an overwhelming experience. Once it's over, it may leave you feeling worse than before it occurred. We'll look at the possible reasons depression and anxiety lead to anger and ways to handle feeling emotionally trapped.
Relationship Between Depression and Anger
Depression is often associated with feelings of sadness and loneliness. Other symptoms include:
- Feeling hopeless
- Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Decrease or increase in appetite
- Lack of energy
- Agitation, anger or restlessness
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Trouble concentrating and making decisions
- Unexplained physical pain
Anger is a less recognized symptom of depression, but for many individuals, it can be a major part of having depression. It is common for depressed individuals to turn their anger inward. A depressed person may be overly critical of themselves and struggle to focus on their positive qualities. In such a case, it can actually be healthy to get angry at the inner critic and take positive actions to feel better about oneself. However, a depressed individual may feel helpless against their inner critic. If this sounds like you, you can help hush the inner faultfinder by treating yourself as you would a friend. In turn, this can help you cope with inward anger.
Some depressed individuals show their anger outwardly. If you find yourself experiencing frequent anger attacks, and if you also feel depressed, the two are likely related. You are not alone if you sometimes express your depression through anger, and there are many reasons you may feel this way, even if it is not clear to you at the time. Outward anger is a more common symptom of depression than many may think. Below are a few reasons depression and anger often go hand in hand.
1. Difficulty Regulating Emotions
Sometimes part of depression is struggling to regulate emotions. Depression is considered a disorder of impaired emotion regulation. It may be more difficult to control anger if you're struggling with depression symptoms at the same time. This makes sense considering the symptoms of depression. For example, one symptom of depression is trouble concentrating. If you feel overwhelmed by anger in a stressful situation, it may be hard to concentrate and find a solution to the problem causing the anger. Speaking with a therapist can help you identify the source of your depression and find ways to regulate your emotions when facing triggers.
Individuals with depression may ruminate about past events more than individuals who are not depressed. There is nothing wrong with going over thoughts or negative experiences in your mind in moderation. This helps you gain insight and understanding of an event so you can move on. However, when you ruminate about a bad experience over and over with no solution in mind, and if it makes you feel more sad and angry, it is considered a maladaptive form of self-reflection because it makes you feel worse. Also, rumination can promote negative thinking, which can put you on edge and lead to anger outbursts.
It can be hard to resist the temptation of ruminating. The best way to break the ruminating cycle is to distract yourself as soon as you catch yourself ruminating. You might play a game or watch a movie – whatever it takes to stop rumination in its tracks. With practice and time, you'll be able to resist the urge to ruminate.
4. Environmental Factors
Culture, upbringing and environment also play roles in depression and anger. For example, someone who was raised around others with quick tempers may grow up to express depression through anger. Even if you come from a home where anger outbursts were a common occurrence, you can still learn strategies to cope with anger in a positive way. It's never too late to break negative thought patterns.
5. Difficulty Differentiating Between Emotions
Depression makes it hard to tell the difference between various emotions sometimes. A depressed individual may not be able to tell whether they feel sad, angry, guilty or frustrated. This can be overwhelming. When you cannot identify the emotion you are feeling, it is more difficult to manage the emotion. You may get stuck ruminating or act impulsively.
Nevertheless, it is possible to improve your ability to recognize your emotions so you can manage them. A mental health professional can help you identify your emotions, or you can practice recognizing different emotions at home. To do so, make a list of emotions you commonly feel. The next time you experience an emotion, look at the list and ask yourself what emotion on the list seems to describe what you are feeling best.
6. Over-Personalizing and Overgeneralizing
One of the symptoms of depression is a sense of low self-worth. If you are you feeling down about yourself due to depression, it's understandable if you take something someone says personally, even if they did not mean it the way your mind interpreted it. As a result, you might get defensive and react with anger. With depression, it is difficult enough dealing with the inner critic. Hearing someone else make a judgment could easily lead to anger and hurt feelings.
Individuals with depression also tend to overgeneralize and jump to conclusions too soon. For example, if your spouse did not do the laundry, you might feel like that means they don't love you, and this could lead to anger. Although you have a right to feel angry for not getting help with household chores, the truth is that your spouse does love you. There is another reason they did not do the laundry, but it can be hard to see things realistically when depression blocks your view.
By knowing your triggers, you can control your reaction in tough situations. You can take a moment to consider if you are reacting to a past experience rather than the present experience. It also helps to know your worth. That way, the next time you feel like taking something personally, you can think through the situation more logically instead.
How Anxiety Can Cause Anger and Irritability
If you experience anxiety, you may know what it feels like to get easily frustrated during high-stress situations. Part of anxiety is having the fear something will go wrong. For this reason, there happens to be a strong link between anger and anxiety. Even though the relationship between anxiety and anger outbursts is not yet fully understood, researchers believe that anger and anxiety often go together. Consider the symptoms of anxiety and how the symptoms of anxiety and anger attacks are similar:
- Feeling tense
- Having a sense of impending doom or danger
- Increased heart rate
- Trouble thinking about anything other than the fear or worry
- Having the urge to avoid things that cause anxiety
When you consider the above symptoms, it is easy to imagine how a frustrating experience could cause an already-tense individual to get angry. Let's look at the main reasons anxiety and anger often coexist.
1. Fear of the Worst-Case Scenario
Imagine a situation where you are not sure of the outcome. For example, you might imagine a loved one has not answered their phone for hours. If you have an anxiety disorder, like generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), you might feel intensely afraid that they are not answering their phone for the worst reason you can think of. You might imagine they got into an accident, or you might wonder if they are having an affair. These worries may be so strong that they may lead to a full-blown panic attack.
Now imagine your loved one walks through the front door and your anxiety leads to lashing out. Afterward, you discover their phone sitting on the kitchen counter, and you are overcome with guilt. It can be hard to calm anxiety when an internal monologue paints a picture of something frightening. However, by practicing self-talk using a logical voice, you can work to overcome irrational thoughts that may cause anger and anxiety.
2. Anger Provides a Sense of Control
A strong sense of fear is often at the base of anxiety. Anger, however, can often help individuals feel in control of a scary situation. For example, imagine you are in a traffic jam, and the intense fear of losing control of your vehicle overcomes you. However, you're trapped in traffic, and there is nowhere to turn. Suddenly, you feel extremely angry that you're stuck, so you impulsively drive up the shoulder and turn down an alleyway. This could be a dangerous move for you and others, but anger and anxiety took the wheel.
If this sounds like something you might experience, consider talking to a mental health professional to get to the source of your anxiety. A therapist can also teach you relaxation techniques to help you manage a mix of irritation and anxiety.
3. Low Tolerance for Frustration
An anxiety disorder can make it hard to tolerate irritation and frustration. Frustration tolerance is being able to withstand the stress of a challenging or frustrating experience. Having a low tolerance for frustration can surface when a goal is delayed, or plans don't work out. If you have anxiety, you may react to the frustration intensely, and this can escalate into anger.
One way to handle a low tolerance for frustration is to accept problems as a part of life. Prepare to ride out any stressful emotions, and let yourself feel them rather than fight them. Frustration tolerance is something you can learn through self-awareness, patience and time. Next time you find yourself in a frustrating situation, take a moment to recognize the freedom and space you have to choose how you react to the situation.
Tips for Managing Anger Caused by Anxiety or Depression
Regardless of whether anxiety or depression is causing you to feel angry, there are many ways to manage anger. Here are some techniques you can try next time you face a challenge:
- Take a break: When something makes us angry, it's natural to react immediately. However, with some practice and effort, you can learn to pause after encountering a trigger. Take a break from the situation that is making you angry for an hour. This gives you a chance to think rationally and prevents you from saying something hurtful you might regret later on. You could go for a walk, listen to music, take a relaxing bath or do anything that might prevent you from acting on impulse.
- Focus on the facts: It can be easy to create a painful inner narrative when you don't know the facts of a situation. Next time you catch yourself boiling inside over-generalizations, take a moment to replace negative thoughts with more realistic, balanced thoughts.
- Distract yourself: When you feel angry, depressed and anxious, it's time to step away and do something you enjoy. Watch a funny movie, read a book, cuddle with a pet, write in a journal or do anything you enjoy that gives you a break from difficult emotions. You'll feel less overwhelmed by anxious or angry feelings when you take a moment to practice self-love and get some distance from the situation so that you can gain some perspective.
- Consider the timing: Sometimes, you do not need to find a solution to a problem immediately or resolve a conflict if the timing is not right. For example, if you often feel more irritable at night when you're tired, it may not be the best time to resolve a conflict with a spouse. Allow yourself to sleep first, and talk about the issue later. It's okay to avoid triggers that make you angry. Set yourself up for success when handling situations that you know will be more difficult for you.
- Focus on problem-solving: By focusing on solutions rather than emotions, you force yourself to think logically about a challenging situation. This may help relieve angry feelings because you direct your energy towards solving a problem.
- Practice relaxation techniques: Try different techniques to give yourself a sense of calm and practice them every day. You might try deep breathing exercises, for example, which can reduce anxiety and anger. You can perform many breathing exercises anywhere, anytime. The more you practice, the better you will get at learning how to relax, so it's important not to expect a significant change overnight.
- Aim to understand: It helps to face your fears and try to understand what's causing them. Take time to reflect on your fears and how they may be making you angry. Once you identify the true source of your anger, you will able to manage your emotions better.
Tips for Regulating Emotions
There are different ways you can practice regulating your emotions to help you overcome a range of challenging situations. Next time you feel sad or angry, try the following:
- Reframe the situation: Try looking at a stressful situation that would normally cause a negative emotional reaction and interpret it in a positive way. By actively adopting a more positive mood, you may experience lower levels of depression and a greater sense of well-being.
- Accept your feelings: Acceptance involves being aware of your emotional and psychological state and acknowledging how you feel without feeling threatened by your emotions. You can choose to accept the anger or anxiety you feel, but make the decision not to react on the emotions immediately. Accepting and acknowledging your emotions puts you in a position to transform them before you act or make any changes.
Contact Brookhaven Retreat Today
Anger, depression and anxiety can be challenging to overcome on your own. As a whole, they may feel like a giant cloud in a sunny sky that only you can see. You do not have to face depression, anxiety and anger alone – there is help available to you so you can gain insight into the underlying cause of your emotions. At Brookhaven Retreat, our compassionate, skilled staff are here to listen, provide support and offer techniques for removing any dark clouds from your life.
As a women-only mental health treatment center, we focus on your needs in all aspects of mental health. With The Lily Program®, you'll get the chance to talk one-on-one with a professional about anxiety or depression. You may also connect with others in group therapy or engage in activities like art therapy or equine therapy. Whether you experience anxiety, depression or another mental health issue, there is hope, and you can live an authentic, joy-filled life. Take the first step, and reach out to us today.