Freud defined depression as anger turned inward, and often it is just that. If you feel you're not attractive enough, not successful enough, not popular enough, or not whatever enough, it's easy to decide that your unhappiness is your fault, and blame quickly turns to anger at yourself. But what if we think our unhappiness is someone else's fault, or the fault of circumstances that we can't see a way to change?
Psychologists and psychiatrists have long considered angry outbursts in children and adolescents as symptoms of depression, but only recently have they recognized irritability and anger as a symptom of depression in adults. Even suppressed anger, in the form of caustic comments, frequent criticism of others, and general nastiness can be forms of unrecognized depression.
How can this be? Well, among the chief symptoms of depression are the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. One way to fight those feelings is to display a sense of personal power. Yelling, threatening, or putting others down with sarcasm or criticism may temporarily make you feel better, but alienating others eventually leaves you more alone and feeling hopeless and helpless again.
What if you don't recognize your anger? Many people don't. You may think, "I'm not angry. I'm sad." If so, ask yourself what you're sad about. Then look deeper.
"I'm sad because I was passed over for a promotion." Deep down, do you feel you were unjustly passed over? (Cheated?) Do you think your boss gave the promotion to a favored employee because he doesn't appreciate how hard you work? (Ignored you?)
"I'm sad because my friend died." Deep down, are you feeling abandoned by your friend? Or perhaps that someone or something is responsible for your friend's death?
"I'm sad because my daughter is marrying and moving to another state." Deep down, do you feel abandoned, unloved and ignored?
Those deep down feelings are triggers for anger. And whether those feelings are reasonable or unreasonable, you feel threatened and/or anxious. Realize that anger is an automatic response to a real or imagined threat or anxiety. You can't control the fact that your body is getting ready to fight. What you can control is your reaction. This is where your logical mind has to kick in and analyze your deeper feelings. Sometimes when you do this, you'll realize that you are angry, and not simply sad. Then you have to learn to dispel your anger. Calm yourself by taking several deep breaths. Learn to meditate. Exercise. Reducing chronic or long term anger is important because anger leads to physiological and psychological changes over time. Don't punish yourself by hanging on to anger!
Your moods may include irritability, jealousy, suspicion and increased depression.
Physiologically, you may see a rise in blood pressure which eventually can lead to stroke or heart problems. Your immune system can be compromised as well.
Finally, now that you realize what or whom you're really angry at, start thinking of ways to deal with the real problem.
Stephanie Kay Bendel is the author of EXIT THE LABYRINTH: A Memoir of Early Childhood Depression – Its Onset and Aftermath, MAKING CRIME PAY: A Practical Guide to Mystery Writing, and A SCREAM AWAY, a romantic thriller published under the house name, Andrea Harris. She has also written numerous short stories and articles on writing.