WHAT’S ONE KEY THING YOU CAN DO IF YOU’RE DEPRESSED? By Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

Feel melancholy, out of sorts, tired, cranky, a lack of energy, no enthusiasm, a sense of doom, a negative attitude, wake up early in the morning and can’t fall back to sleep, don’t feel like reading, writing, playing golf or any of the hobbies that you usually love?

Any of the above can be a sign of depression.

Should you immediately call your family practice doc for an Rx of Prozac or for a psychiatric referral?

I wouldn’t. Not yet…

I’d take some time to think about what’s going on in your life. Carefully go over the last few days before the symptoms started or got worse. What did you do? Who did you talk to? Did a friend or family member say something that hurt your feelings? Were you rejected? Left out? Disrespected?

The key underlying feeling that often triggers depression is ANGER.

Not expressing anger is usually the problem.

In therapy, a common dynamic in chronic depression is years of repressed anger. Parents who don ‘t have the time or inclination to help their children express themselves foster the development of kids who are continually sad. These sad kids grow up to be sad adults who wind up on therapists’ couches.

Together the therapist and patient work to discover what happened to cause the problem. Eventually they learn all about the repressed, hidden anger that has been a constant unwanted companion.

Self-analysis can be extremely helpful. If you discover who made you angry and deal with it appropriately there’s a good chance your mood will lighten and your energy will return.

Talking to the person who hurt you can often make you feel better. Sadly, you sometimes learn that the person you thought was your friend is insensitive and incapable of accepting responsibility for their hurtful actions. If they can’t change, you might need to find a new friend.

Resolving issues with a parent is more complicated. You can’t get a new one, but you can accept your mother or father’s limitations. You’re not obligated to take their words or actions to heart. Just because they think they’re right, doesn’t mean they are right. There’s a good chance your perspective is more accurate and helpful to the way you want to live your life than their perspective.

Whatever happens, dealing with your anger, can be very, very helpful.

Agree? Disagree? What do you think?

Art Smukler is the award-winning writer of Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery, Skin Dance, a mystery, and The Man with a Microphone in his Ear. All are available as paperbacks and eBooks.

9 thoughts on “WHAT’S ONE KEY THING YOU CAN DO IF YOU’RE DEPRESSED? By Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

  1. It might have been more helpful in your initial post, Doctor, to clarify the type of depression you were talking about. As i told you in my post on your most recent article, I have suffered major depression since the age of 17. but, I was always a very sensitive child. If I were to consider anger as the only cause of my depression, it would relate to the fact that at age 16 I was completely involved in my school, had a load of friends and a great boyfriend. Life was good living in San Diego! Then, my dad’s job changed and at the end of the school year we moved to Portland. A beautiful city but so rainy and dark all the time! I didn’t want to go, I was very angry for a very long time, months. By the time I was 17 the depression feelings came and went. But that isn’t the only thing that happened in my life. I was a good baby, never cried, easy to please. but when i was 7, I had a baby brother who never ever stopped crying. one day i went over to his crib and popped him on the butt! My mother ran over, yanked me by the arms raised me over her head and slammed me down the floor, then picked me up and shook me violently yelling that she was going to break every bone in my body! Could my depression have started then? sure. but, I later found out that depression of the major kinds RUNS IN THE FAMILY! My grandmother had it, my uncles have it, my mother has it, my sister has it. Yes, anger plays a part, but there are many more things at play with true major depressive disorder!


  2. I agree with you that “In therapy, a common dynamic in chronic depression is years of repressed anger. Parents who don‘t have the time or inclination to help their children express themselves foster the development of kids who are continually sad. These sad kids grow up to be sad adults who wind up on therapists’ couches.” I have a solution, and it’s the Kelly Bear Feelings book! It is an easy-to-use tool for parents, therapist or other caring adults to use with a 3 to 9 year old child. As the adult reads the book, Kelly Bear shares his feelings and experiences FIRST and then asks children about their lives.  After each page, a child answers as though he or she is conversing with Kelly Bear. When an adult listens carefully, without judgment, the child feels valued and accepted.  The resulting adult-child communication and bonding fosters the child’s self-understanding. See: http://www.kellybear.com/Kelly_Bear_Books/KBBooks-Feelings_Book2col.html  for sample pages, one of which is on anger.


  3. I have to agree about repressed anger in depression represented in a person with mood swings. Chronic, generalized depression is a totally different diagnosis, I think. Also, I don’t think the author is suggesting that you never take medicine or treatment, just that if it’s sudden and intense, that you examine the situation: who? when? why? As a person who does not generally express anger, having lived with people who do (parents and spouse), I agree that depression can result from minimizing your own feelings. There are studies that say that people who express anger live longer than those who typically don’t. Must be something to that repression theory. I think this is one way for some people to look at their situational depression and find a way to control it themselves. Sometimes, drugs only mask the problem. Often setting boundaries and expressing your own expectations can help release a lot of pent up hurt/anger. It’s just a tool that sometimes helps.


  4. I disagree!! Depression is clearly one disorder that conforms to the current biopsychsocial model for mental disorders. Depression has a great number of potential sources, and in the vast majority of clients, several are in play. So there cannot be a single recommended initial intervention. Several need to be considered and a well considered suite of interventions chosen. If a single initial recommendation is what you’re seeking, then I’d say seek a thorough assessment!!!
    Dr.Edward N. Tipton, PhD, LP


    1. An excellent point. I was referring to more of the dysthymia disorders, not the profound major depressions. But, I agree that in cases where one can’t self-treat, a complete psychological evaluation is the wise thing to do. Thanks.


  5. Interesting post. How would you recommend a person traumatized about age two in his late 30s deal with depression from the event? Ive spoken to therapists, tried medication, etc…. nothing works much. Because of the peculiarity of the situation on the whole, I grew up being taught what I now know is fairly extreme depression was normal and common. So what my emotions tell me are genuine and real based on much of what I was taught I am told to ignore and seek more, but I tend to find that if the search doesn’t have a real, tangible goal, something attainable and desirable (rat in a maze), the search is not one I can conduct regularly. Fatigue, etc… becomes the norm. When younger, a teen, I learned to seek sex (common) but that isnt a sustainable search, and Im aware of that at an age yet where my libido remains strong enough to make abstinance for a few month uncomfortable. Im not sure theres an answer. My last therapist made light of everything, said there was nothing he could do. So, I don’t know. I liked what you wrote and thought this wouldn’t do any harm.


    1. Long term depressions are very difficult. They are not to be taken lightly and are very emotionally painful. Addictions like sexual, alcohol, gambling, and other drugs are commonly used to “self medicate” in an attempt to reduce the pain. A combination of a self-help group like SA sex addicts anonymous and intensive psychotherapy with someone who respects the intense melancholy and emptiness that you suffer can be very helpful. Best Wishes.


    2. I had a similar (though probably less traumatic to most) situation when I was about 9. Just stayed with me into my 40’s. I went to a counselor who did EMDR, a kind of rapid eye movement therapy. All I know is that this situation has never bothered me again. I have an MSN and have had different kinds of therapy, and I’ve read enough to give this modality credibility. It might be worth a try.


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