Is there a connection between anger and depression?

Answered by: David Kahn

Freud first posed the connection between anger turned inwards and the onset of depression in his classic paper, "Mourning and Melancholia."

While many depressed people are self-critical, it is a stretch to say that they are basically angry at the outside world and just happen to be turning it in on themselves. Self-criticism is a symptom of depression, and we often see it alleviated by effective treatment.

Another approach is to look at the chemistry of aggression and depression. In both conditions, low activity of the neurotransmitter serotonin appears to play an important role. Some depressed people, in fact, can be quite aggressive, either showing irritability towards others, or in the worst case, violently harming themselves in suicide attempts.

Researchers suggest that low serotonin activity may be the culprit when suicide involves violent means.

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David Kahn, M.D.

David A. Kahn, M.D.

Dr. Kahn is the Diane Goldman Kemper Family Clinical Professor of Pyschiatry Emeritus, Columbia University Medical Center; and attending psychiatrist, New York Presbyterian Hospital.

He received his B.A. from Haverford College in 1975, completed medical school and internship in medicine at Columbia, and was resident and chief resident in psychiatry at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. He then received an NIMH extramural research fellowship at the Psychiatric Institute, where he worked in the area of mood disord...
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