Can Hate Really Lead to Depression?

Hate Leads to Depression

(Editor’s note: This article presents merely an overview of a multi-faceted problem. It is not an exhaustive examination of the complicated issue.)

Forensic psychiatrist Dr Keith Ablow’s commentary Inside the Mind of the Facebook Killer explains how and why this case of hatred devolved into deep, deadly depression. The explanation holds no comfort, but it does answer “Why such people commit horrific crimes”: “…he believed there was no understanding or shelter left for him in this world, that he reportedly lost a romantic connection, lost money gambling, lost his place to live, had his paychecks attached by creditors and that he visited his own mother and told her he wanted to die or kill someone — but felt he got no help. And, then, I believe he came to feel that he was beyond all help — not only that life had nothing left in it for him, but that life could have no meaning for anyone.”

Other hate-filled people can be simultaneously depressed or develop depression as a result of lacking, or ignoring, the skills for channeling miserable emotions into constructive behaviors such as talk therapy, investing energy in helping the wider world or in pleasant hobbies instead of negativity, and/or in the forgiveness of oneself and of others. Spirituality, after all, is about becoming a better person than you have been, but hateful, depressed people lose sight of that idea on purpose or as the result of obsessing over their hateful ideas.

Hatred can lead to depression in one of two ways: 1) As the result of hate crimes. Victims of hate-filled bullies, predators (think of rapists, bombers of buses, planes and other public spaces, cyber and other bullies, etc.) and other hate crime perpetrators (thieves, libelers, etc.) feel depressed because of the unwarranted animosity shown to them, and 2) As the inevitable result of nurturing hatred without mercy for oneself or the hated person/cause. Those two scenarios puzzle a lot of people. Let’s take the puzzle apart, somewhat, to understand what it’s about.

Let’s examine the first type of hatred leading to depression. The problem of being victimized by hate crimes and the people who commit them led to the development of the US-based Documenting Hate website. The site lists resources for making emotional recoveries to prevent or to recover from ensuing depression. The same phenomenon is causing Europeans to reject predatory migrants in order to prevent further social erosion in their EU countries, and the depression which follows the hateful rampages there.

Dr. Prabhjot Singh fits into the first model of hateful victimization leading toward depression. Chair of the department of health system design and global health at the Mount Sinai Health System, Singh was the victim of focused anti-social behavior directed at him. He responded to his depression by increasing his spirituality and by doing what he could to soothe other depressed victims of hate crimes.

What of the second model, haters who become depressed or are depressed and hateful at once? Psychotherapist Edith Jacobson studied and wrote about self-hating people. Self-hatred is neurotic, harmful to the self-hating person and the people who care about them. When the situation continues to the mindset of “pointlessness,” a danger zone for the public has been reached. The self-hating person loses the sense of boundaries. They become willing to harm themselves and others, even if those others have nothing to do with the onset of the self-hatred. Blame becomes a tool for abusing others, an excuse for acting out aka acting on that pervasive sense of negativity. The self-hating individual blames other people, processes, luck, life, or anything at all for their emotional state. The blank can be filled in forever. It is a waiting line for excuses rather than valid reasons. Haters tend to come up with a blood-curdling array of such excuses, and act on them to the bewilderment of victims and observers.

The Empath’s Survival Guide, Dr Judith Orloff’s newest book, indicates that empaths can be mistakenly diagnosed with depression (and other problems) though the difficulty is actually an overload of empathy. That overload can be misinterpreted by some psychotherapists as self-hatred and/or depression. More poignantly, Orloff’s works also cite narcissists as problematic in the hate-depression regard. They are people lacking empathy from a mild to severe degree. They’d do anything to manipulate situations and people without regard to moral conventions, life-altering results or simple decency. Think of Brian Blackwell, the academic genius who murdered his British parents after using their credit cards to impress his girlfriend. His depression snowballed as his fantasy life unraveled with maxed out credit limits and parental anger at what Blackwell had done. His bolloxed values epitomize Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and the progression from hatred of self or others to depression. That model of mental illness has led to many sad headlines about other people around the world and throughout the centuries.

Most people suffering self- or other forms of hatred and depression, however, are not experiencing excesses of compassionate empathy nor narcissism, but downright seething, visceral anger. It keeps minds and guts churning, sometimes until the person’s behavior backfires.

Expressions of hatred in any form can be intertwined with depression, and that can be expressed in baffling ways, or even easily understood. The tension that this causes for the sufferer and for anyone involved with them (relatives, neighbors, colleagues, etc.), is difficult to control or to lessen. It is not simply as Yoda claims: “Fear is the path to the dark side…fear leads to anger…anger leads to hate…hate leads to suffering.” As Dr Ablow noted, it is a matter of private and public safety. It is also a matter of supporting mental health professionals working to develop a method for protecting the public from troubling people already on their radar and/or that of law enforcement. And, it is cause for letting them know of anyone who should be on their radar.