Of late, there have been several studies linking major depressive illness with symptoms of irritability and angry outbursts.
In one of them, researchers analyzed data from participants in a National Institutes of Mental Health Study that focused on depressed patients at intake, then followed them for up to 31 years. Of the 536 participants, 292 experienced episodes of anger and irritability that manifested as argumentative behavior, shouting and poor impulse control.
According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, the symptoms of depression are described as low mood that interferes with one’s ability to function at work or to engage in activities once found enjoyable. But this latest research verifies what many therapists already know through experience: chronically angry people are very often depressed. So the guy in your office who flies off the handle with little provocation may not be just a jerk after all – he may be suffering from a major depressive illness.
Most of us have heard the signs of depression: sadness, feelings of worthlessness, sleeping too much or not enough, etc. But researchers are coming to the realization that its precisely this list that may keep health professionals from recognizing depression in overtly angry patients.
A study conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan and Vanderbilt University found that symptoms of anger and irritability present more often in depressed men than they do in women. This study was driven by a puzzling question among mental health professionals: if women are 70% more likely to become depressed, why are men 4 times more likely to commit suicide?
To answer this query, the team gathered research from 5,700 adults who were long-time participants in a mental health study conducted by Harvard Medical School; 41% were male. In addition to the tradition list of depressive symptoms, they add a new list: rage anger attacks, risky behavior, hyperactivity, aggression and substance abuse.
What they found was provocative: when looking at the interviews through the anger/irritability lens, they found that 26.3% of men reported having at least one depressive episode in their lifetime, compared to 21.9% of women.
The above mentioned studies were published in JAMA Psychiatry.