Friday, 3 October 2014

Anger and Low Moods

Anger and low moods often coincide and it is sometimes difficult to see where one starts and the other stops. Sometimes anger can simmer until it reaches a point where the person explodes into a rage and may even become physically aggressive. Men seem particularly prone to anger and moodiness when they feel depressed.

Is there anyone who has never experienced anger? I doubt it and there are plenty of reasons why any one of us feels angry. The basis of anger is often frustration and we're all aware of our temper starting to build when our plans are thwarted. Our own bodies can contribute. Anything that affects body chemistry such as hormonal imbalance, medications, drugs and alcohol can add to stress.

Many people who suffer with depression are aware of Freud's adage that depression is anger turned inwards. Well, we certainly know that anger and depression often co-exist and the purpose of psychotherapy is to help the person unearth the hostility and resentment that help fuel depression. We know however anger alone isn't a cause of depression. And, whilst many people with depression become sensitive to criticism, more argumentative, impatient and irritable, these tend to be the signs and symptoms of depression itself.

In the normal course of a day we fall back on a number of socially acceptable ways to ease the pressure of our anger and stress. Many people find a good old fashioned grumble works wonders. Other people focus on lifestyle issues such as diet and meditation. Some go for long walks or play sports. Maybe you do them all! These aren't pointless distractions, they have a very useful purpose. If we don't vent our anger there's a danger it simply builds up and festers. Anger and hostility are two of the risk factors for heart disease, immune problems and digestive upsets.

Professional help for depression and anger may be found through cognitive therapy. One of the ways cognitive therapy helps is by working with you to identify certain patterns of negative thinking that lead to hostile interpretations and suggesting ways of thinking and behaving differently. Anger management programs often borrow their techniques from cognitive therapy. If you opt for an anger management program you should be aware that not all the people running these programs have a clinical background. They may not, for example, tune into the fact that your anger issues are symptomatic of deeper problems that should be medically or psychology treated.

You can help yourself and others by thinking about the effect your anger is having. In the short-term your outbursts may ensure compliance, but it is almost certain to stir resentment and hurt feelings. Anger often leads to isolation. People don't like conflict so may keep their distance. This may be what you want but there's a danger that it feeds into the isolation frequently sought by people who suffer with depression. Try to exercise a little self-control and talk to the person who is pressing your buttons about how it's making you feel. They may go off in a bit of a huff, but you aren't in control of their emotional reaction to your comments, especially if you've taken the time and trouble to explain without an edge of threat or hostility.

Anger is a perfectly normal human reaction. The problem comes when it occurs out of character, for a lengthy period of time, or overwhelms you in a fit of rage and physical aggression, for disproportionate reasons. 

Friday, 26 September 2014

Supporting a Man and his Depression

When men and women are depressed they tend to turn inwards but men may appear to take this to a different level. You'll certainly notice behavior change. Not only may he reject all offers of help and support he may become tetchy or even hostile. As for advice, well you may need to tread carefully with that one.

Of course if your man (your husband or partner) had problems accepting advice or help before he became depressed there’s no reason to expect he will now. If anything the defenses are up and, to him at least, there’s a smell of role change in the air. Perhaps he has always been the breadwinner, the rock and the person you turn to and he doesn’t want that to change. Plus of course, the socialization of men often tends to make traditional males highly self-contained. He has probably grown up with the notion of men as being assertive, independent, job-focused, unemotional and brave. Alongside this you could maybe read stubborn, unreasonable, inflexible and pessimistic, well, in so far as his health and wellbeing is concerned.

With all these negatives what’s a partner to do? First, it’s useful to know the signs of male depression. Even in these more enlightened times it’s perhaps unlikely for him to openly state that he feels down or depressed, so it’s often a case of reading the signals. Unfortunately the signals can leave many a partner feeling baffled, upset and wondering what on earth they have done wrong. He may spend more time out drinking, or immersing himself in work. When asked why, he’ll shrug you off, find excuses or become irritable. Small things can turn into big upsets, all of which have the effect of making you feel defensive and pushing you away. Paradoxically, if you do back off fully he’ll feel even more isolated and more rejected and his mood may worsen further.

Now some advice; neither you, nor anyone else, have it within their gift to take his depression away. It’s important to emphasize this because you may start to believe you are inadequate in your attempts to help him feel better. In and amongst the long moody silences he may sometimes ramble on about why the world is such a bleak place and look to you for answers. Don’t feel you have to answer. You can try to offer support in different ways and you can sympathize with his plight, but you are not a source of worldly wisdom.

Try to stick with your routine. Don’t stop seeing your friends and family because you are worried. You must take care of yourself and you begin to isolate yourself there’s a danger you will become angry, resentful and even depressed yourself.

Don’t become an emotional punch bag. If he says cruel things or when he openly rejects your support, tell him how it makes you feel. Don’t do it in a confrontational manner by blaming him, but say that it hurts and maybe ask if there is a more specific way you can help him. He may say “yes, just leave me alone” but you’ve sewn an important seed.

Even if your man is depressed and rejects you, it can still be helpful to ask him for help or advice in certain matters. The fact that he still feels needed and useful and that his opinion still counts can provide boosts to his self-esteem and reminds him that you are a partnership.

These are just a few words of advice. If someone else has influence, maybe a close friend, why not draw them in too? Remember though, depression is a process and sometimes a long hard road for the person who suffers with it. If the depression is relatively mild, it may self-correct within 3 months or less, but if more severe it will inevitably benefit from medical intervention.