Remember the crazy fight scene between Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in the movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith?
The one that started with throwing knives and high kicks to the face and turned into passionate sex among the shards of glass?
Unfortunately, we don’t all have movie magic to frame our anger into something sexy. For many of us, anger serves as a crippling response to anxiety in our life and can exaggerate feelings of isolation and helplessness.
We want to overcome our anger but find ourselves in a never-ending cycle of anger, anxiety, and depression.
No, anger is not sexy. It is burying us in pain.
Understanding the Connections Between Anger, Anxiety, and Depression
The connection between anger, anxiety, and depression may seem like a tangled web of dread and, in some ways, it is. Anxiety and depression can cause spouts of anger which, in turn, can increase symptoms of anxiety and depression.
It has been researched and shown that anger for any emotional disorder has the ability to increase the severity of symptoms and opposition to treatments.
When looking further into the problem, perhaps, the easiest approach is to examine each ailment and its relationship with anger on its own before putting the whole puzzle together.
Anger and Anxiety
Many of us don’t think of anxiety when we think of anger. Anxiety is commonly associated with nervousness and fear, while anger is associated with blinded bravery towards an opposition. Interestingly, though, feelings of anxiety and fear are often at the core of anger.
When you are feeling anxiety, you’re receiving signals from your body that there is potential danger around. Automatically, your systems turn on their fight-or-flight response the way you would if a stranger started edging you towards a dark alley. Do you fight your attacker or flee?
The problem for those with chronic anxiety is that those sensors in the brain that alert you to danger are turned on all the time. You begin feeling this fight-or-flight response in situations that may not warrant them.
Some of us may flee, regressing from social situations. Others may fight, and this manifests itself as anger.
Regret, embarrassment, and shame often follow these episodes of anger. As a result, more anxiety occurs, creating an unbreakable chain.
Anger and Depression
Depression causes many to become hyper-critical of themselves. They feel unworthy which feeds self-loathing, which then feeds their hyper-critical voice to shame them for feeling sorry for themselves. So, where then does anger come in?
If you had a bully at school who told you daily that you were unloved and stupid, you’d get mad and defensive. We refer to this anger as adaptive anger, a typical response to violations. This anger fuels your action to combat what is unfair and protect yourself.
Those with depression are not exhibiting this adaptive anger towards their inner-critic. Instead, they exhibit maladaptive anger or internalized anger. This type of anger encourages feelings of worthlessness, victimizing, self-hatred, etc.
Gaining Your Freedom from Anger
Breaking the cycle of anger, anxiety, and depression takes time and patience. One common treatment for tackling such a complex relationship is anger management. In anger management, a patient receives tools for coping with each individual component of the cycle while understanding how their anger is contributing to other areas of their life.
Some skills that anger management might provide include tools to help you manage anxiety through breathing techniques and reorient your fight-or-flight responses.
Additionally, anger management can teach you how to fight your inner-critic by role-playing. In this exercise, you speak as their inner-critic, using the ‘you’ pronoun to speak to yourself. This technique separates you from your anger which allows you to employ adaptive anger against your inner-critic, relieving some of the pain.
In conclusion, talk with your provider about anger management treatments to help stop the cycle between anger, anxiety, and depression. Once freed from the web of despair, you can begin living a calmer, happier life.