Depression Isn’t Just Sadness

Prolonged sadness is the classic hallmark of depression, and it’s the symptom that’s most often discussed when people recognize depression in themselves and others. But recent light has been shed on another common but rarely acknowledged symptom: anger.

When anger is recognized as a symptom, it’s commonly thought to be turned inwards in people with depression—those struggling may engage in or think about self-injurious behavior, or engage in negative self-talk. For many, this holds true. But anger and aggression can also be directed outwards at spouses, colleagues, friends, or strangers. Sustained irritability or feelings of aggression should not be dismissed as “just having a personality flaw,” but should be taken seriously and discussed with a medical professional.

Because many men are reluctant to acknowledge or seek treatment for depression, this problem of misreading aggression by labeling it as a negative personality trait compounds the crisis that men face in regards to their mental health.

However, men aren’t the only people with depression that also struggle with anger. NPR recently highlighted this issue and interviewed Ebony Monroe, a registered nurse residing in Houston. Monroe had been increasingly irritated and says that “If you had told me in the beginning that my irritability was related to depression, I would probably be livid. I did not think irritability aligned with depression."

Similarly, in an essay for Healthline entitled “It Took Me Six Years to Realize My Anger Was Depression,” writer Christal Yuen details how the anger she began experiencing in adolescence was dismissed by both herself and her family as “a typical artistic temperament” or “teenage moodiness.” The common misconception that depression was characterized solely by sadness, not anger, prevented Yuen from gaining insight into her condition for many years. She writes:

This specific stereotype delayed how I understood depression by a decade.

Anxiety is more than nervous energy, shyness, or fear. Bipolar disorder is not a super power of villainous and heroic intent. Depression isn’t just blues and sadness.

Translating mental health into simple concepts may help the majority understand, but if a few stereotypical symptoms become the only thing that people hear about, I only see it doing more harm than good.

Anger can manifest alongside other symptoms of depression, which include:

  • Fatigue or decreased energy
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
  • Insomnia
  • Changes in weight from decreased or increased appetite
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Loss of interest in activities

If you or a loved one have been struggling with increased anger or irritation, or experiencing other depression symptoms, reach out to a medical professional to seek treatment.

Please be advised that the information presented here is for information purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. All readers are encouraged to discuss any issues or concerns they may have with their behavioral health providers.