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Anger & Depression

Learn how anger and depression are linked from anger management expert Dr. J. Ryan Fuller in this Howcast video.


Anger is frequently spoken about in the same sentence as depression. And probably, that goes back to Freud. Originally, depression was conceptualized by Freud as anger turned inward. So oftentimes, anger has been subsumed under depression as a psychopathology. Now, recent research doesn't really indicate that that's necessarily the case. With that said, even though anger is something that is oftentimes characterized by high physical activity and approach behaviors and depression is something that typically when people think of it involves escape or withdrawal behaviors and low activity, there are some similarities. They're both negative emotions. And in fact, in anger management trials, one of the studies we did... We had people coming in with very, very intense, extreme anger management issues. And it turned out there was high comorbidity with major depressive disorder. So even though these were people who were out and they were engaged in really active angry behaviors, they also had high symptoms of depression. So it may not be necessarily that depression is anger turned inward. But that doesn't mean that the same person can in fact be experiencing both depression and having anger management difficulties. Now the good news is and we weren't sure this was going to happen. But we had these people come in for anger management treatment. And when they came in, they had high levels of anger and they had high levels of depression.

The treatments we provided, we based them on cognitive interventions, relaxation interventions, and then skills like problem solving and a sort of communication. So that was the focus. We also did things though to bolster their motivation so that they wanted to participate in the actual anger management. Now with that said, fortunately, it turns out that the anger management treatment was very, very successful. Their anger symptoms came down dramatically. That was about their experience of anger. And also, the behaviors they engaged in that were self-sabotaging. What was also the case though was their depressive symptoms went down as well. So while there are empirically supportive treatments for depression. And certainly if you're experiencing depression, we want you to speak to a professional who can provide you with an evidence-based treatment for depression.

We also have some evidence that if someone has anger and depression, it's possible that by learning these skills, these cognitive behavior therapy skills, it might in fact be able to bring down the symptoms of both. But again, whether it's depression or an anger issue, it's something you definitely want to consult, a psychologist or a psychiatrist or other mental healthcare provider to deal with. They're both very serious issues. But fortunately, both of these in fact are highly, highly treatable.

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