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Angry All the Time? Your Problem Might Be Depression Not a World Full of Idiots

Jessica Stillman
3 min readOct 26, 2021


You probably don’t need me to tell you this, but people are really angry out there at the moment. Airline passengers are logging record numbers of hostile incidents. Doctors are getting death threats in response to their efforts to save lives. And I won’t even go into the sorry state of political discourse.

Why all this rage? It might be pent up frustration from the pandemic. It might be the result of a culture that insisted for years that “the customer is always right.” Or maybe the world is just so full of jerks that anger is inevitable.

But there’s another possibility too. A handful of psychiatrists warned in a fascinating recent NPR article that constant anger is often less about the world around a person and more about what’s going on within them. Frequent anger, they insist, is an often overlooked sign of depression, which suggests our collective touchiness might really be a sign of profound sadness.

The stealthiest sign of depression?

Picture a person with serious depression. Did you imagine someone with low mood and lower energy struggling to get out of bed? That’s the popular image of the condition, but according to the experts writer Nell Greenfieldboyce speaks to that’s only one way depression can manifest. It might also look like you constantly getting ticked off at your loved ones, co-workers, or random customer service reps.

Out-of-control anger is recognized as a sign of depression in children, Maurizio Fava, a psychiatrist and professor at Harvard Medical School, points out to Greenfieldboyce. But it’s not understood as often as a symptom of the same condition in adults. That’s a mistake, in his opinion.

“Why would someone who happens to be irritable and angry when depressed as an adolescent suddenly stop being angry at age 18?” he asks.

“Irritability is not that much less frequent than sadness and anxiety in patients who are presenting for psychiatric treatment,” agrees Brown University psychiatrist Dr. Mark Zuckerman.

This confusion about symptoms results not just in misdiagnoses by less informed clinicians. It also stops some people who could benefit from treatment for…



Jessica Stillman

Top columnist/ Editor/ Ghostwriter. Book lover. Travel fiend. Nap enthusiast.