Man sitting on side of road with his head in his hands struggling with irritable depression

Irritable Depression: When Sadness Feels Like Anger

Typically when you think of depression, you think of the classic symptoms: sadness, low energy, insomnia, and appetite changes. Sometimes, however, depression presents with a slightly different constellation of symptoms, especially in children and young adults. In fact, in children, sadness might not even be present, and irritability alone can lead to a diagnosis of depression. A targeted irritable depression treatment program can help. Contact Promises Behavioral Health at 844.875.5609 to learn about our inpatient depression treatment programs and how they can help you improve your mental health and quality of life.

The Diagnostic Criteria for Depression

The basic criteria for diagnosing depression must include at least five of the following symptoms. They must include either sadness or loss of interest as one of the five:

  • Sadness, “the blues,” low mood, feeling glum, bummed out, or down for no apparent reason.
  • No longer being interested in doing things that previously were compelling or interesting. In some cases, this escalates into a complete loss of interest in doing anything at all and withdrawing from social activity. In other cases, the activity continues, but pleasure/enjoyment ceases.
  • Appetite changes that result in weight changes. Increases or decreases may be part of depression, but only significant weight loss is noted as a diagnostic criterion.
  • Changes in sleep patterns: oversleeping (can’t get out of bed, sleeping an excessive number of hours) or inability to sleep.
  • Feeling tired, washed out, and exhausted despite sleeping.
  • An increase in fidgety, purposeless movement such as pacing, nail-biting, or chewing the insides of your mouth or a complete absence of such actions (the technical term for this is psychomotor agitation).
  • Excessive guilt and feeling worthless.
  • Difficulty concentrating, feeling overwhelmed or unable to complete basic mental or physical tasks; feeling unable to do everyday activities such as driving, food shopping, answering emails, etc.
  • Thoughts of death, thoughts of suicide, plans of suicide, or attempting suicide.

In adults, a sad mood must be present to diagnose depression. In children, this is not the case. The first criterion, sadness or a low mood, need not be present in children if the dominant mood is irritable.

The Irritable Depression Subtype

Irritable depression is a mental health condition that combines elements of both depression and irritability. It can be difficult to distinguish from other forms of depression, as the symptoms may overlap. However, with irritable depression, an individual will often experience signs of distress along with increased levels of agitation or irritation.

Most people who suffer from irritable depression will experience certain symptoms that are common to this condition, such as:

  • Feelings of sadness
  • Lack of energy or motivation
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Restlessness
  • Feeling overwhelmed by everyday activities
  • Social withdrawal and isolation 
  • Acting out in negative ways
  • Lashing out at those around them

It is important to note that irritable depression differs from bipolar disorder because the mood swings associated with this condition are not as extreme. Additionally, people who suffer from irritable depression may experience greater periods of stability between episodes. At the same time, individuals with bipolar disorder are more likely to cycle quickly between periods of depression and mania.

Fortunately, irritable depression is a very treatable condition. With the help of a mental health professional, individuals can work to understand their triggers and develop effective coping strategies to manage the symptoms associated with this condition. Additionally, medications such as antidepressants can be useful in helping to regulate moods and reduce feelings of agitation. By seeking professional help, those who suffer from irritable depression can learn to manage their symptoms and improve the quality of their lives.

The Benefits of Getting Professional Help for Depression

When dealing with depression, it is important to get professional help. Professional mental health professionals can offer a range of treatments that are tailored to individual needs.  This can include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and medication, both of which have been found to be very effective in treating depression.

CBT helps people recognize negative thoughts and behaviors, as well as learn new ways of thinking that can help reduce depression. Cognitive restructuring allows people to challenge their beliefs about themselves and the world around them so that they can adopt more positive perspectives. Additionally, CBT helps people develop coping skills to manage stressors that may contribute to depressive symptoms.

Medication is often prescribed when other treatments, such as CBT, are not effective. Antidepressants can help to reduce symptoms of depression and make it easier to cope with life’s challenges. It is important to keep in mind that medication may take up to several weeks to work, so it is important to be patient and consistent with treatment.

By seeking professional help for depression, individuals can learn how to manage their symptoms and make positive changes in their lives. Additionally, having a supportive network of family and friends is an important aspect of managing depression.

Find Help for Depression at Promises Behavioral Health

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, there is hope and help available. Promises Behavioral Health offers irritable depression treatment in centers around the country. Our comprehensive programs provide evidence-based treatment for adults with various mental health and substance use issues. Our multidisciplinary teams of professionals are committed to helping you achieve your goals in recovery. For more information, contact Promises today at 844.875.5609 or via our online form.

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