Depression is one of the top two most commonly occurring psychological issues, with anxiety being the second. Surprisingly, many professionals view anger as playing a significant role. Sometimes clinicians refer to depression as, “anger turned inward.” This concept, popularized by Sigmund Freud, is a broad statement and doesn’t apply to all individuals or all cases. However, it does offer a glimpse into the connection that unresolved anger plays in depression.
Much research has been done to gain insight into how anger affects depression. One study found that anger has “negative consequences” in regard to emotional disorders, possibly resulting in the worsening of symptoms and diminished treatment outcomes. Based on their data, the researchers noted that “anger appears to be an important and understudied emotion in the development, maintenance, and treatment of emotional disorders.” This study expanded on one that took place in 2013 which suggested the idea that depressed individuals who internalize feelings of anger increase the risk of symptom severity.
Learning to Express and Cope With Anger
Why do we self-sabotage by aiming our anger inward instead of expressing our emotions in healthy and productive ways? Oftentimes it’s because there is a continuously critical inner voice that reinforces feelings of shame and unworthiness. Unfortunately, hearing this cognitive tape over and over tends to compound feelings of depression. Consequently, it becomes much more challenging to rally our energy towards combating a depressed mood.
Adaptive vs. Maladaptive Anger
In order to begin the process of reversing this self-defeating pattern, it is important to distinguish between adaptive anger and maladaptive anger. In this sense, maladaptive anger is anger turned inward, typically perpetuating negative self-talk, victimization, and depression. On the other hand, adaptive anger motivates us to fight back against what we consider to be abusive. Consequently, adaptive anger can be quite useful. A good example of this would be recognizing that turning anger inward is unhealthy, or maladaptive, and committing to taking action to break the cycle.
Learning to properly express and cope with anger involves confronting the things which have caused us pain. The more we give ourselves space to process our anger, instead of turning it inward on ourselves, the greater our capacity will be to work through depression effectively.
Identifying Maladaptive Anger
Typically, if you’re feeling helpless or hateful toward yourself, or being overly critical of yourself, your anger is maladaptive. Thoughts and feelings such as these may come from past experiences, but no matter the cause, this type of anger only serves to reinforce a sense of frustration and suffering.
Additionally, you can learn to identify what maladaptive anger feels like and the moods that characterize it. Maladaptive anger tends to invoke a feeling of being dragged down deeper and deeper into a pit of depression or an abyss of anxiety. Conversely, adaptive anger comes with a feeling of relief, as it is followed by constructive action.
Seeking Help Is a Sign of Strength, Not a Sign of Weakness
There is no doubt that exploring strong feelings can be a scary process. However, connecting with these emotions is the first step towards recognizing how your anger manifests. Once you understand your patterns, you can begin to build a roadmap of coping techniques to help you work through your feelings and fight depression.
Coping techniques can span anywhere from bringing awareness to self-talk, to seeking professional help from a mental health care professional. Regardless of the route you choose, sanding up to your inner critic as a means of recovering from depression is definitely possible! Learning healthy, productive ways of expressing your anger and emotions is the first step.
Do Not Hesitate to Seek Professional Help
Do not hesitate to seek professional help if you or a loved one is suffering from depressive thoughts that are negatively impacting your quality of life. While basic self-care and coping techniques can help, it’s not uncommon to need additional support. Trained professionals can offer insight and accountability as you navigate your journey towards a happier life.
Sometimes all it takes to achieve lifelong recovery is the willingness to reach out for help. Fortunately, there are countless resources available to support you. If you don’t know where to start, give Starbent Recovery a call. We are mental health and substance abuse treatment facility with extensive experience in treating anger management and depression. We know that, with the right support, anyone can have a healthy and happy life. For more information on our services, call us today at (800) 673-0176.