The links between anger and depression might surprise you. And these discussions aren’t raised enough when it comes to gun violence.
But before we dive right in, let me make it clear that I’m not going to spend the next few hundred words arguing for or against gun control. We happen to have guns in my household but I don’t feel strongly one way or the other about gun ownership. I do have strong feelings about responsible gun ownership and that’s where the gun control debate goes awry.
What is responsible? Who should have guns? Who should be denied and on what basis? What types of guns can we have? Should these decisions apply to all lethal weapons? Who should be able to legislate this?
If you’re looking for answer to those questions, I don’t have them. I know the laws and the loopholes. I know the procedures and precautions. But I’m not gun expert nor a gun control activist and I certainly didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.
What I am concerned about is what is driving the gun violence, in this country and around the world.
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. Some of it is driven out of hate or out of fear. Some of it is ideological in nature while some of it is pathological in nature.
But there’s a bigger problem that is often mentioned and ignored and it’s one I want you to know about on a personal level. The problem is the state of mental health.
I’ve certainly had my share of issues with anxiety and depression. And it’s always taken me a while to figure it out. To therapists and doctors that would suggest that I was depressed, I’d say, “I’m not depressed – I just can’t sleep!” Or “I’m angry, not depressed!”
What many people don’t realize is that depression creeps up on people in ways other than laying in bed all day with the covers pulled up over their head. It can take the form of insomnia, which is what I suffered a year after my son was born, or it can take the form of anger, which is how it manifested itself after my parents separated and ultimately divorced.
That’s not to say that everyone that is angry or can’t sleep is depressed. It’s to say that there are so many people out there that don’t even realize what they’re struggling with that they don’t know how to seek help.
Here’s how I know.
One night, I was thinking a lot about the issue and Googled “anger and depression.” I knew there was a link but I guess I wanted to hear more and know more. I stumbled across a post that resonated with me but when I got to the comments, I almost lost my breath.
Anger and Depression Surrounds Us
Five years after the post was written, it is still flooded with comments. Comments of people who are in the depths of despair because they don’t know where to turn. And I wanted to share a few of them with you.
“im just turning 18 and i have these problems but little things set me off and it seems like a different personality comes out when i get mad and i like it, and the more i think of how mad i am the angrier i get it scares me cause all i can think about when im like that is hurting people. i dont want any thing to happen because im 6 foot 3 inches and i could really hurt someone if i got a hold of them i’ve never taken any type of drugs accept for doctor prescribed abilify and that didnt help me, i need help bad”
“Wow, I set down and typed in help. I then found your blog. You would have thought I wrote this. I feel the rage and now I see maybe it isn’t something I can’t control on my own. That it is part of the despair I feel at times. Maybe it is time to accept I need help.”
“As far as rage, for me I am full of rage at having to feel all this awful stuff while everyone around me seems relatively healthy and can engage in life normally. So I feel like a total freak in addition to feeling rageful, despairing and pinned to the ground with anxiety. I feel like I’ve lost my mind.
“I don’t know if you also have this aspect to your experience, but for me, I just have this feeling/belief that nothing is going to help. That I’m so totally and permanently broken in some way that any and all suggestions and attempts to help seem pointless. This is perhaps the worst part of the whole nightmare.”
“I am 15 year old teenage guy and you described it so well its like an out of control anger that you cant control I know for me that its usually some little thing that just irritates me and I flip out because I am un-happy with my self and frustrated and hopeless on the inside so I take it out on the world around. I think I got also have sort of anxiety problem because whenever I walk into a room or a building I tense up and immediately start accessing and analyzing people and putting them on a risk factor scale in my mind its the weirdest feeling ever. I never used to be like this before, before I was depressed(still am but get angry now) but I would try and mask it and keep it away from people cause I didnt wanna hurt people especially my mother but now I dont care at all about anything and anybody nothing bothers me and I am starting to lose all interest in everything. Do you have any advice for me or what I should do?”
“I have only just begun to accept i have an anger problem and i had never really linked it to my depression but it makes sense to me on many levels. Depression is almost the absense of feeling and anger is the re emergence of feeling, tainted with a real sense of utter horror when you suddently regain a perspective and see that while you were in self iimposed isolation, the world moved on without you.”
“I hate myself and everyone else. Sometimes I wish I were dead. I’m so angry and when I’m not angry, I’m sad. I’m only 22 and I feel so trapped and helpless. I have no family as my mother died and my father killed himself 12 years ago. I don’t know what to do. I’m so mad but there’s nothing I can do. This world is cruel. I struggle to think there are good people out there. I know there are, but I am not one of them. I’m so ashamed. Of what, I do not know.”
“I drive trucks for a living, before that i was in college for graphic arts and webpage development, i also served in the millitary with 2 toures to iraq and graduated HS with a 3.8 GPA. i had wonderful parrents and good friends. So for the life of me i cant figure out why i get so angry at times that i literaly loose houres of my day thinking about the different ways to kill, dismember, tourcher, and mame people that cross my path the wrong way or say the wrong things. Because of my training in the millitary and 12 years of compatition martal art training, i know i know more then the average person to be able to protect myself, therefore, i know a great deal of different ways to hurt people. This only adds fuel to my fire cause i know i can do these things i think about doing.”
“I’m so tired and sickened with life. I have so much but so little to live for, im so confused….help me. Help my loved and hated ones….”
“In my young adulthood there were days where I armed myself with a knife to go out and hoping someone would provoke me. Fortunately it never happened. I once stood with a knife in front of my dad, who is a trained policemen, hoping he would provoke me. He easily disarmed me. And there were days where I wouldn’t leave the house (I lived alone) because I was afraid I would really hurt someone. However I typically tried to hurt myself rather than others. I think it was because I never fought back”
“For as long as I can remember I have had outbursts of anger. I just thought people were doing stupid things and making me mad. But I can feel something inside of me not wanting to be that way but I couldn’t stop. I am 43 years old now and it has become some bad that I black out for no reason at all-i have become violent and hurt people. I say horrible things and I dont remember anything that happened at all. I cry majority of everyday and all i want to do is stay in bed. but when the black out begins…i am told that it is horrible. I call people and say things that I would never say…i destroy the house and like I said, I have become physically abusive. I just want help, I dont like being like this and I dont know what to do.”
“my anger’s getting worse for the past year, I lose empathy and I want to kill and it’s frighteningly not impossible to do. Before I blame myself all the time and it scares me that now I blame others instead. I feel like I’ve given up and accepted that I’m like this and the people around me are the ones who have to deal with it.”
“I think of committing suicide at least once a day. I have had an extreme urge to shoot myself a copule of times, but luckily I don’t own any guns or know someone who do. Many times I have imagined visiting a friend who owns a gun (if I had any), convincing him to show it to me because “I just want to see and hold it” and then when he is not looking, simply putting it in my mouth and pulling the trigger.”
“I struggle with a job at the moment where I have dealt with harassment and sexual harassment. I thought of killing these people for what they did to me when all I wanted to do was have a nice job for once an work. Instead I was used to finish work for my previous boss since she is incompetent and incapable of doing her own job. I’m still trying to find another job being unhappy and never got any justice dealing with so many jerk off co-workers who are like a gang in current jobs today. I’m glad at least I know I’m doing the right thing by trying to find another job instead of possibly committing violence.”
“remember anger is depression turned outward! And pain is below anger. Find out what you have pain about . . .it may take some time. But the root cause is what is causing the anger.”
I don’t share these with you to make you feel frightened. It’s because I want you to see the magnitude of pain that people are in. People that don’t know how they got this way or what to do about it. And these are the people you work with or live next door to. These are not the people who have made headlines. But they aren’t that far away.
Anger is Depression Turned Outward
Consider some of the more recent mass killings that have occurred around the world.
On the shooter, Omar Mateen, responsible for killing 49 people and injuring at least 50 more at Pulse nightclub in Orlando:
Mateen was a normal husband at the beginning of their marriage but started abusing her after a few months, she said. She said Mateen was bipolar, although he was not formally diagnosed. – CNN
From the mother of convicted killer James Holmes, responsible for killing 12 people at a movie theater in Aurora CO:
Holmes said her son showed signs of becoming psychotic by his early twenties. His cognition was declining, he was having trouble thinking and even more difficulty being around people.
He was delusional, Holmes said, with a mentality that he would be “worth more” if he killed people.
“These are the things that people need to really hone in on, and don’t try to do like he did and I did, which is try and just keep going or solve everything yourself,” Holmes said. “You need the help of a professional.” – ABC News
More recently, the investigation into David Ali Sonboly, who had been planning his attack on Munich for over a year, revealed the following:
Documents found in his home confirmed that he suffered from mental illness, including depression and anxiety, Munich prosecutor Thomas Steinkraus-Koch said Sunday.
Police found medication in his home and are trying to determine whether he had been taking it. the shooter had a history of having been bullied by his peers, and in 2012 had been injured in an attack by other young people that had been reported to police. – CNN
But the one case that has never escaped my mind was that of Adam Lanza, who was clearly mentally ill as he carried out his cold, heartless attack on Sandy Hook Elementary. He isolated himself and raged at society and spent time online espousing the virtues of mass murder:
Perhaps most troubling of all was that this severely mentally ill young man, obsessed with violence and surrounded by automatic weapons, who had cut out almost everyone he cared about, made all these terrifying posts on a public forum.
No one said anything, and no one tried to stop him. – Newsweek
It’s that last bit that gives me goosebumps. To see how many people are fraught with mental illness and are surrounded by people who don’t know and aren’t equipped to help them. Or worse, they’re surrounded by no one at all.
What do we do? What can we do? We can certainly make it more difficult to put guns into the hands of those that are ill-equipped to deal with them. But perhaps our efforts are best spent helping, loving, understanding, supporting those that need it most and teaching our children to do the same.
If you or someone you know is experiencing rage, anger and depression, and is seeking help, I recommend some of the following resources:
For anyone feeling suicidal or violent, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline either online (with a crisis chat feature) or call 1-800 -273-TALK to talk to someone.