"Sadness isn’t the only symptom of depression - anger and irritability can also be signals that something more serious is going on."

While feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and guilt are typical symptoms of depression, there are other signs as well.  It’s not uncommon for men to also struggle with anger and irritability when they’re fighting depression.

Anger and irritability can show up in a lot of different ways.  For example, a guy may become overly sensitive to criticism, highly critical of himself or others, lose his sense of humour, experience frequent road rage, have a short temper, be controlling, or be verbally or physically abusive toward others.

Because these symptoms aren’t typically associated with depression, men may not realize that depression could be the underlying cause.

Here are some tips on how to manage issues with anger and depression.

Part 1: Defusing anger in the moment

Being able to recognize when you’re getting upset gives you with the opportunity to slow down and prevent things from getting worse.

1. Use your body’s senses as an early warning system

Similar to managing stress, listening to your body and paying attention to the physical signs of anger can help. Watch for your muscles tightening (e.g., shoulders, jaw, fists), feeling flush or heated, an increased heart rate, breathing harder, or sweating more than usual.

Over time, you’ll get better at noticing these early signs of anger before you lose your cool.

2. Step back, and when possible, walk away

Once you’re able to recognize that you’re getting angry or upset, it’s important to take a step back and give yourself a moment to calm down.

You can say “I need a breather, let’s check back in half an hour” or “Hold up, I need to take a break and think about this.”

3. Deep breathing and muscle relaxation

Deep breathing can help calm your body down, while also focusing your attention on something other than what was getting you upset.

  • Work toward breathing in for 4 seconds, holding for 4 seconds, exhaling for 4 seconds, and repeating. This technique can also help focus your attention away from depressed thoughts.

While you’re doing this, also try to relax any muscles you’re holding tension in (like your shoulders, jaw, and face).

4. Ask yourself if it’s worth it

Most of the time when we get angry, it is out of proportion to the situation we’re in. Anger can be useful in a dangerous situation (like when you feel physically threatened), but most of the time getting angry simply doesn’t help.

5. Give your anger a healthy outlet

When you’re body gets amped up, it needs a place to let the tension out. Snapping at someone or picking a fight is not going to help.

If you feel yourself getting worked up, try giving your tension a positive outlet – like going for a walk or jog, doing some stairs, lifting weights, shooting a basketball, or kicking a soccer ball around. Learn what works best for you.

Part Two: Managing and preventing anger

Learning what’s underlying irritability and anger is critical for preventing it from negatively impacting your life and relationships.

1. Identify specific triggers

Take a moment to look at what’s triggering your anger. Our Stress Test may be able to help you sort out which factors, like your finances, relationships, or other stressors, may be tied to your anger. If you know certain things cause you to get upset, you will be in a better place to put in some strategies for managing them – some of our Practical Tips might help.

2. Take our Self Check

Anger issues can also be caused or made worse by an illness like depression, which messes with your emotions. Remember, depression is a ‘mood disorder’ – it doesn’t only make people feel down or hopeless, it can also make people feel irritable and angry.  Our Self Check is a depression screening tool that can help you see if depression might be contributing to your anger and irritability.

3. Talk it out

Whatever is causing your anger, it’s important to talk about it with someone – bottling things up simply does not work. Talk to a friend or family member, or seek professional support.

Sometimes simply talking about things releases some of the pent-up stress that’s underlying anger and irritability – plus it can give you an outside perspective to get a better sense of what might be going on and how to manage it.

4. Find healthy outlets and work them into your routine

Physical activity can be a great way to manage anger. Try to get in some physical activity every day, like going for a 15-20 minute walk. If going for a 5 minute walk is all you have the energy to do, start there.

Engaging in physical activity can also help you keep in touch with other people – social interaction is a huge help when you’re feeling worked up about something, as it provides an opportunity to get things off your chest, benefit from other people’s perspectives, or simply get your mind off from what’s bothering you.

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