The Links Between Anxiety, Anger and Depression
Anger can be the match that sparks a dip in your mood or a bout with anxiety, and according to what I've been reading recently this is because the part of your brain that normally keeps a lid on angry feelings is impaired when you're depressed.
In Harvard studies, scientists have found that angry feelings in a control group of non-depressed, 'normal' people are usually cooled by activity in the frontal cortex. This is part of the brain responsible for thinking/reasoning. However, in some severely depressed people, a lack of both recognition and control of anger can lead to episodes of rage, sometimes violent. Another group of those with major depression, who are free of anger attacks, show a lack of activity in both brain areas; both their feelings and reasoning about anger are deadened.
The results of these studies estimate that about 1/3 of those with severe depression in the United States also suffer bouts of anger. Depression follows on from episodes in which people feel irritable, and when the depression is properly treated the anger subsides. It's a chicken or the egg thing, though. They don't yet know which causes which, only that they seem to go hand in hand for a significant proportion of those with depression. Raises questions, plenty of them.
When anger's trying to tell you something about anxiety
Anger's a tricky emotion at the best of times, and it may just be fact that you're going to experience irritation, frustration or impatience when you're feeling down. I don't think anybody really needed a study to tell them that depression and frustration and/or panic often coincide. It may be a consequence of feeling like you have to struggle against every little thing just to get through the day. Many times it's also part of the package with PTSD. Rage is a factor -whether it looks like a great, fiery beast or not. Maybe irritability is even helping to mask underlying insecurities, or grief.
One of the best things I do for myself is allow some emotional space around all that. Accept being angry, where it's reasonable to do so, always give myself a way out no matter how 'right' I think I am (it's easy to get stuck there), and where I can, avoid blame.
Using awareness of anger to understand panic
- What does anger look like to you?
- Did you grow up being able to experience and express it?
- Are you able to express it now? How, when, with whom?
- What’s the relationship between when you feel angry (if you’re aware of that), and your struggles with anxiety?
They aren't easy questions to ask, or answer.
There's a great deal we don't know about how an anxious mind processes anger but I do know not dealing with it, denying it, increases the chances it'll wreak havoc with your life, maybe even stop you finding ways to treat anxiety.
White, K. (2011, October 30). The Links Between Anxiety, Anger and Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 26 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/treatinganxiety/2011/10/the-links-between-anxiety-anger-and-depression