When you hear the word “depression,” what comes to mind?
Most people imagine someone who looks sad, is crying or isn’t interested in spending time with friends and family. Did you know that depression can also cause agitation and irritable mood, especially in children and teens? This behavior can also be seen in adults: think about the friend who just lost his job, experienced a breakup or is short on cash. He or she could appear sad but could also seem frustrated, irritable or have a short fuse; responses that make sense during and after tough times! Anger is actually a secondary emotion, meaning that it is a response to another feeling. People can outwardly express anger when they were triggered by feelings of anxiety, guilt, fear, frustration or sadness.
What can you do if you or a loved one is responding in an “angry” manner when it’s likely prompted by depression?
Accept all of the feelings you’re seeing or experiencing and validate them. It’s always okay to experience an emotion; the behaviors we use to express emotions is what can get us in trouble.
Do some thinking or asking about the root cause of anger. Try and determine the primary emotion and process it.
Apologize if you realize you have responded poorly to someone based on your inner experience, not their actions.
Ask for a “do-over” where you or your loved one can respond again after acknowledging their anger prompted the initial response.
Depression is a complicated set of experiences that can manifest in many different ways. Patience with yourself and loved ones only encourages progress!