Why Do I Cry When I'm Mad?

Young depressed man crying in bed

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Have you ever been really angry and found yourself in tears? While some people shout and scream when they’re angry, some people cry when they’re mad. Depending on the circumstances, this experience can be confusing, embarrassing, and frustrating, so you might wonder why it happens.

Crying is in fact a very common response to anger as anger is often the result of feelings of hurt or sadness, says Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and professor at Yeshiva University, New York City.

“It can be easier to express anger initially, rather than the vulnerability that comes with acknowledging and displaying dejection,” says Romanoff. Once you express your anger, she says you can more easily access the pain and other underlying emotions it is connected to, which is why you might cry when you’re angry.

Here’s what you need to know about your emotional response to anger and how you can manage it.

Emotional Reactions to Anger

Anger can elicit a host of emotions, ranging from aggression and negativity to sadness and depression. Below, Romanoff explains some of the emotional reactions people experience in response to anger.

Aggression 

This can include overt aggression or action, such as breaking things or punching walls. Alternatively, people express their anger indirectly through sarcasm—this allows them to dispel their aggressive impulses in a sublimated way.

Depression and Anxiety

The most common secondary emotional reactions to anger are depression and anxiety

We are taught at a young age that anger is corrosive and threatens attachments and relationships. Therefore, we go to great lengths to protect others from our anger, by replacing it with less outwardly threatening emotions, like depression and anxiety. The consequence is that we must bear the burden of these internally distressing emotions.

Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD

Crying is a physical manifestation of releasing emotions, which can include both anger and sadness.

— Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD

Criticism

People also tend to become critical when they’re angry. Instead of constructively addressing the problem, they find fault in others in the pursuit of retaliation.

Pros and Cons of Crying When You're Mad

Romanoff lists some of the benefits and drawbacks of crying when you’re mad. 

Benefits of Crying When You’re Mad

Crying is a form of self-soothing; it forces you to regulate and control your breath, focus on your inhalation and exhalation patterns, and decrease your heart rate, until you return to a calm state.

Crying is not a sign of weakness; rather it is an indicator that the situation is important to you and you have strong feelings toward it. It is always helpful to use your emotions as a guide. Tears help you understand more about yourself and the impact the situation has on you. 

Sometimes people experience their tears as coming out of the blue. This can indicate that they have little awareness or insight into the intensity of their emotional reactions. Tears can act as a compass, directing you to areas that require deeper examination and processing.

Disadvantages of Crying When You’re Mad

Crying can be disadvantageous when you are in a situation in which you don’t want others to know how you’re truly feeling. This could be due to how you believe it might change their perception of you.

For instance, you may think that they will perceive you negatively, assume you are being manipulative, conclude that you cannot manage the situation, or lose respect for you.

These disadvantages pertain to crying in the context of others and should be separated from you being able to express your emotions within a private and safe space.

You should strive to embrace and welcome your emotions when you feel safe to do so, because they are valid and hold the key to important information about how you are reacting to situations around you.

Coping With Tears When You’re Mad

Romanoff shares some strategies that can help you cope with your tears and your anger in a healthy manner.

Take Deep Breaths

Anger causes psychological and physiological changes in your body, such as increased heart rate, blood pressure, and adrenaline. These changes can speed up your reactions and reduce your ability to make rational decisions. 

Taking deep breaths is a good way to calm yourself down. Pausing for a moment and focusing on your breath allows you to be more deliberate in your communication and your response to the situation.

Communicate Your Feelings

Part of the reason anger is sustained is because a boundary was violated and you felt unseen or mistreated. Anger is a big reaction that is hard to ignore. 

Therefore, it’s important to process and communicate how you are feeling. This doesn’t mean you should have an angry outburst, but rather vent to a friend or family member, or write out your frustrations in a journal.

Writing out your thoughts allows you to see the situation more clearly, understand what triggered your anger and then respond more effectively. Similarly, having a friend or family member whose opinion you trust to validate and empathize with your experience can help calm you down.

Maintain Your Composure in Public

There may be times when you get mad but don’t want to cry around the people you’re with. For instance, this might include not wanting to cry in front of a big group or in front of people who might not comprehend your situation.

In these situations, you should only temporarily suppress your tears if doing so protects you from adverse situational contexts that might lead to stigmatization or misunderstandings. 

If you need to, tell the person you are with that you would like to pause, change the subject, or not speak about this right now but would like to return at another time when you are more capable of addressing it. This gives the other person reassurance that you’re not being avoidant and also gives you space to regulate yourself.

You can also try to compartmentalize the thoughts that are triggering your tears. Commit to yourself that you will revisit these emotions later and then return to the task at hand. 

Visualization can be helpful in these moments. For example, imagine your thoughts being depicted as cartoon photos and visualize placing them safely into a filing cabinet, until a more appropriate moment to revisit them.

If you are unable to control your emotions, you always have the opportunity to leave. Sometimes it’s better to remove yourself from the situation, take time to compose yourself, and then explain your response when you have more self-control.

Release Your Emotions

When you feel safe—either with others you trust, or on your own—you should embrace your tears as a form of catharsis. Crying is an innate tool for emotional regulation, and shouldn’t be resisted in moments when you need to be regulated. It is a built-in mechanism to process and manage intense feelings. 

A Word From Verywell

Crying is a common reaction to anger, since anger is often triggered by situations that hurt you. Crying can provide emotional release and help you understand your feelings better. 

However, crying in public or with people you’re not comfortable with can be embarrassing and frustrating. Taking deep breaths, changing the topic, and putting your emotions aside for a minute and revisiting them at a more appropriate time can be helpful.

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4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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