What do anger, self-compassion, and depression have in common? According to results from a recent study, quite a lot. Michela Balsamo of the Department of Psychological Sciences at Annunzio University in Italy, self-compassion is strongly linked to depression in people with trait anger. Balsamo assessed 230 Italian college students for levels of trait anger, depression, and temperament in order to find out if temperament and self-compassion influenced depressive symptoms in those prone to anger. The basis for this research was the fact that recently, anger management skills have been used for treating depression because some studies have shown a clear link between trait anger and depression. More specifically, some existing research has suggested that people who are easily angered may internalize their frustration and anger, resulting in depressive symptoms. However, understanding the path from anger to depression, and whether or not targeting anger independently is effective, has not been fully explored in the available body of research.
Therefore, Balsamo examined these elements in the Italian sample and found that self-compassion was the missing link. Individuals who were high in trait anger had little self-compassion and little tolerance for others. So when they felt frustrated with others or with themselves, they would react in anger by turning their emotions inward and outwardly exhibiting symptoms of depression. Balsamo believes that this finding shows that self-compassion and self-tolerance are unique internal components that could be addressed in therapy. By teaching people skills to increase self-compassion and tolerance, they would be better able to manage their anger. This would result in less internalizing of emotions and decreased symptoms of depression.
Self-compassion is also viewed as cooperativeness, a necessary ingredient for interpersonal interactions and therapeutic gain. When cooperativeness is low, agitation and internalizing is high. Targeting cooperativeness via self-compassion could reduce the negative reactions of people with anger and allow more positive reactions to develop. In sum, Balsamo hopes that these results will influence current therapeutic approaches for people with anger and depression. “Clinicians focusing on self-compassion may gain greater efficacy when they incorporate these aspects within their interventions for clinical depression,” added Balsamo.
Balsamo, Michela. (2013). Personality and depression: Evidence of a possible mediating role for anger trait in the relationship between cooperativeness and depression. Comprehensive Psychiatry 54.1 (2013): 46-52. ProQuest. Web.
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