Introduction: Current psychiatric classification systems underestimate the part played by anger and aggressiveness in unipolar depression. This study was designed to assess the relevance of anger, irritability, aggressiveness, hostility, and psychomotor activation in major depressive disorder. Methods: A total of 222 newly admitted consecutive outpatients with major depressive disorder (mean age 48.9 years, 64.4% females) were enrolled in the study. They had no comorbid axis I or II DSM-IV disorder, and they received no treatment with antidepressants in the preceding 2 months. They were assessed with the SVARAD, a validated scale for the rapid assessment of the main psychopathological dimensions. Principal component analysis was performed on SVARAD items. Results: We obtained a three-factor solution accounting for 47.4% of total variance. The factors were interpreted as ‘anger/irritability’, ‘depression’, and ‘anxiety’, respectively. The anger/irritability dimension was clinically relevant in 23% of patients. Anger/aggressiveness was especially frequent (21.6%), whereas psychomotor activation was infrequent (0.9%). Discussion: In depressive disorders, there are psychopathological dimensions other than depressed mood and anxiety that deserve greater clinical recognition and research. Our study suggests that one of these symptom clusters includes anger, irritability, aggressiveness, and hostility. The relevance of this dimension was not related to concurrent pharmacological treatment. Misdiagnosis of bipolar II disorder is also unlikely to explain our findings. Possibly, personality factors might at least partly explain the occurrence of anger and aggressiveness in several depressed patients. Attachment theory suggests that anger might also be conceived as part of the protest-despair-detachment reaction to a loss, either actual or symbolic.

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