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Anxiety and Stress Disorders

Does Depression Cause Violence?

06/17/2002

Question:

Can a person display irritability and violence because of long-term depression and anxiety disorder? Is there a way of dealing with this when you can’t communicate with the person’s doctor who is treating him? These instances usually happen at night when he is up - he sleeps most of the day.

Answer:

Depression and anxiety disorders are conditions that affect people in many different ways. Anxiety is occasionally part of depression, or may exist without depression in the form of panic attacks, generalized anxiety or specific phobias (or extreme fears). Anger and irritability are common symptoms in depression, and occasionally occur in anxiety without depression. In addition, there are other mental illnesses where anger, and the inability to control ones anger are the main symptoms.

Violence is another issue from anger. Violence, especially towards another person, is never an acceptable way to deal with anger, whether that anger is associated with depression or some other cause.

People who suffer from mental illness where anger occurs need treatment -- not only with medications, but with counseling and behavioral therapy to learn healthier ways of dealing with the anger.

Certain illegal and street drugs can also lead people to have bursts of uncontrolled anger, including metabolic steroids, cocaine and PCP. Friends and family members who live with people with anger do NOT need to live with violence.

Victims of violence, especially interpersonal violence from a friend, spouse or lover, are at high risk for mental and emotional illnesses, as well as the physical injuries that may occur from the violence.

Children who grow up in homes where there is abuse between the adults also are at high risk for developing emotional and mental illness.
 
If you live with someone who is violent to you, your first priority should be your health and safety, and the health and safety of others in the household, such as children and elderly people.

Your local domestic violence intervention center or telephone number can give you information on making a safety plan and resources in your community to help you. When you are safe, or have a safety plan, you are better able to help another person.

Encouraging that person to see their physician regularly, take their medication appropriately, get counseling and mental health services, and take care of their physical and emotional health by eating healthy foods, drinking plenty of water and juice, getting a sufficient amount of sleep, getting regular exercise and avoiding street drugs, alcohol and cigarettes can help.

If you don't feel safe helping someone with these behaviors, then it may not be a safe relationship for you to be in. Good luck.

For more information:

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Response by:

Nancy   Elder, MD Nancy Elder, MD
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati