How is anger connected to depression?

This is just a brief introduction to how anger is connected to depression, and how we can be more supportive to those living with this illness.

Anger isn't always expressed explosively in adults or children. Internal anger can be the result of stuffing other emotions such as anxiety, fear and hurt. Prolonging stuffed emotions can eventually lead to depression - as the energy it takes to keep these emotions locked in can create adverse reactions to the brain, fundamentally altering its structure and effecting the neurons used to transmit messages within the limbic system. The amygdala is part of the limbic system and is associated with emotions, memories and arousal. It also initiates the fight or flight response (survival instinct).

Anger is a primary emotion linked to the fight or flight response and is part of the neocortex (another part of the limbic system). When our anger has been activated, it provides us with the energy to respond to the potential danger or threat. Suppressing this energy interrupts or disconnects the pathways between the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex (the thinking part of the brain) which can eventually develop into depression and desensitise us to our other primary emotions.

Therefore, depression is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of being strong for far too long.

At times, explosive anger can be healthier to the individual than implosive anger, although it’s ignorant to assume that just because someone isn’t displaying their anger outwardly, and doesn’t seem bothered by anything, doesn’t mean they are mentally healthy. Subtle changes in behaviour can be detected in a person who stuff their emotions.

Observe the behaviour in those around you who seem to distant themselves, appear emotionally numb, or even vacant looking, and be mindful to become more open (non-judgemental) and available to discuss their thoughts and feelings with them.

Try not 'fix them' them, or offer suggestions on how they can 'snap out of it'. The most valuable thing you can offer someone with depression, is your presence, a listening ear (if they feel ready, or able to talk) and compassion.

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