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Anxiety and Depression: What is underneath it all?

Anxiety and Depression

We live in a time where we have access to information from all over the world, at any time of day. Our devices can put us in touch with the world, and it can saturate us with media stories, which are not often very positive. Consuming media nowadays can be overwhelming. We might feel powerless, especially when there are world events that leave us gutted. If you are left feeling angry at all the injustice, and without anywhere to put it, this can bring up old feelings of anger and injustice from the past, from life events that feel unresolved. It can leave you feeling raw, tired, uncertain, undone.

Anger and injustice

Feeling angry is a common human response when something upsets you. Yet, anger that has not had a chance to express itself, often at injustice, can turn on itself and become depression. You may have learned to repress your anger during your upbringing, because anger was seen as an unwanted, unacceptable, or negative emotion. You learned to adapt your behaviour or control your emotions so that you are perceived as “good”, and sometimes this can lead to avoiding conflict in relationships. Internalized anger can also be a trauma response. 

When you hold it in for a long time, the anger at the ‘unfinished business’ has no choice but to bubble over at inopportune moments or explode all at once like a volcano. You might feel guilt or shame about being angry, and then those emotions take over, pushing anger into the background, and leaving it unexpressed yet again. And shame tends to play its own role in depression as well. Finding an appropriate way to fully express anger can be a challenge when you have not learned how to do this growing up, so it might not come naturally. In any case, anger is communicating something, so it is best to not ignore it, or it can turn inward.

Pain and grief

Pain and grief

Anger is also considered a secondary emotion – it is on the surface, and an indicator of something else. Once anger is expressed, you can start to see what the underlying feeling is – often it is pain or fear. When the anger touches on pain, there can be a need to grieve the losses of injustice. When you have the opportunity to experience, express, and process anger and grief, you can find relief from depression on the other side – experiencing freedom, joy, and lightheartedness, which are typically repressed or subdued when in a state of depression. The relationship is often cyclical: injustice – loss - anger –> grief –> relief. When you don’t grieve, the cycle can continue fueling depression: injustice – loss - > anger –> depression.  



When fear is the underlying emotion to unexpressed anger, this can lead to anxiety. When you feel a compulsive or unconscious need to control things that are outside of your control, this can cause symptoms of anxiety, and sometimes this is expressed as anger (when things do not go your way). Similar to the pain and anger you feel in the face of injustice, it will provide relief to grieve the loss (of control) and accept all that you cannot control. Letting go of fear can relieve anxiety, and processing pain can relieve depression, although it may not be the only root cause of depression, as other feelings about things that have happened to you can play a role as well.

How does anger show up when it is repressed?

Anger can present itself as irritability, sarcasm, resentment, passive-aggression, impatience, frustration, annoyance, or even numbness when it is repressed. Unexpressed anger can be at the root of depression and anxiety, as well as a number of other physical ailments when they are chronic, such as cardiovascular and digestive issues. At the same time, anger can be a symptom of depression, so they can be two sides of the same coin, or they can feed each other in a cycle.

Why reach out to a psychotherapist?


Psychotherapists are trained to help you process anger, grief, pain, and fear. They offer a safe space in which to express your feelings and explore and address the root causes of depression and anxiety. 

About the author


Suzanne is a Student Intern at Your Story Counselling Services, as part of the Master of Social Work program. Suzanne aims to hold space with empathy and compassion, to provide a space to work through a range of challenges that life can bring with it (i.e. relational issues, depression and anxiety, trauma, communication and boundary setting, burnout, parenting and chronic illness). She works with a trauma-informed, feminist, decolonial and 2SLGBTQIAA+ affirming lens.

Interested in booking with Suzanne? Book here:  

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