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5 Ways to Deal With Anger — and Possibly Head Off Depression, Too

If you’re feeling irritable or unusually angry about all sorts of things lately, there’s a possibility that you may be depressed and not realize it. According to NPR, anger isn’t a symptom listed in the “bible” of psychiatry — the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — even though it often goes hand in hand with depression.


That may change, though, if mental health professionals who treat depressed patients with anger and irritability issues get their voices heard. In the meantime, the communications representative for the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance said that he was able to get better once he addressed his anger issues.

While anger is a normal human emotion, it’s true that negative emotions like irritability and anger can have long-lasting effects on your health, both mentally and physically, so it’s really no surprise that mental health professionals are beginning to connect persistent anger with clinical depression. The good news is that positive emotions such as gratitude have been scientifically linked to a number of beneficial health effects, essentially making it a two-way street, whether you’re talking anger or joy.

While the exact mechanics of these mind-body links are still being unraveled, what is known is that your brain, and consequently your thoughts and emotions, play a distinct role in your experience of physical pain, and can contribute to the development of chronic disease.

As a result of these kinds of findings, there's been an upwelling of mind-body therapies that take this interrelatedness between your emotions and physical health into account in the following five ways:

1. Constructive anger channeling — The key here is to channel your anger into a controlled and constructive outward expression. This can actually help release tension and stress. An example of this would be using your anger to fuel an intense exercise session, or to clean house. Constructive anger, in which people discuss (as rationally and calmly as possible) their angry feelings and work toward solutions, has also been shown to benefit both health and interpersonal relations.

2. EFT — If you have a short fuse when it comes to anger, try using energy psychology techniques such as the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). EFT can reprogram your body’s reactions to the unavoidable stressors of everyday life by stimulating different energy meridian points in your body. It’s done by tapping on specific key locations with your fingertips while custom-made verbal affirmations are said repeatedly. This can be done alone or under the supervision of a qualified therapist.

3. Light therapy — Even though many people turn to antianxiety and antidepressants prescribed by their physicians to help with anger management and depression, there are numerous other ways to deal with these issues before you resort to prescription drugs. One of these strategies is light therapy, which has shown great promise in relieving anxiety and depression.

Full-spectrum light therapy is often recommended over antidepressants for the treatment of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), but it may be preferable even for major depression. Light therapy alone and placebo were both more effective than Prozac for the treatment of moderate to severe depression in an eight-week long study. 4. Exercise — Embarking on an exercise program has surprisingly good results in helping you uplift your mood. Mindfulness meditation and even a change in diet are good complements to an exercise program that will get on track to relieving your depression.

5. Magnesium — Research published in PLOS One revealed that magnesium supplements led to improvements in mild-to-moderate depression in adults, with beneficial effects occurring within two weeks of treatment. "It works quickly and is well tolerated without the need for close monitoring for toxicity," the researchers said.

If you’re thinking about supplementing, you may also want to consider omega-3s, as animal-based omega-3 fats EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are also crucial for brain health.

The 2001 book, "The Omega-3 Connection," written by Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Andrew Stoll, was among the first works to bring attention to, and support the use of, omega-3 fats for depression, and they've been shown to lead to improvements in major depressive disorder.

Of course, supplements aside, the best way to get your omega-3s is by making sure you're getting enough of them in your diet, either from wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel or anchovies.