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What Are Angry Outbursts?

By Bethany Keene
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Angry outbursts typically refer to explosive, violent, or loud reactions to events that are either without cause, or out of proportion to the actual event. People of all ages can suffer from angry outbursts, even though they are most often associated with children. Adults with anger issues, or sometimes those suffering from other mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety disorders, can experience these outbursts as well. This can cause significant problems in all aspects of an individual's life, particularly in work and interpersonal relationships. Often, an individual with anger problems will feel as if he or she wants to control the anger, but that it is not possible to do so.

There are some common characteristics that people with angry outbursts will experience each time it occurs. Many people will feel changes in the body that precede an outburst, such as an increased heart rate or shallow, rapid breaths; others will actually feel warmth or heat in the body and face. This is typically due to a rush of adrenaline in the body, often known as the "fight or flight" response. It tends to just make the angry outbursts worse, because physiologically, it is very difficult to control this adrenaline response.

Depending on how a person usually responds to anger, this rush of adrenaline can cause outbursts to look different in each person. Some people will respond by yelling or using inappropriate language at someone. Others will behave in a more violent way, sometimes throwing or breaking things or, in the worst scenarios, becoming violent toward another person. Abusive relationships are often characterized by angry outbursts of this nature, which is always unacceptable, regardless of the cause. Sometimes the person experiencing the outburst will legitimately feel as if it is beyond his or her control; at this point, it is time for the person to seek professional help.

Angry outbursts can be caused for a number of reasons. Sometimes people just did not ever learn how to properly express themselves. Substance abuse, particularly alcohol abuse, often contributes to these types of outbursts as well. Other mental illnesses such as anger and depression can also cause these events, sometimes because anger is the safest way for an individual to express the way he or she is feeling; in addition, some outbursts can be attributed to ADD or even low blood sugar. Regardless, people who are experiencing this situation in their lives need to take immediate steps to get help and resolve the problem.

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Discussion Comments
By anon942315 — On Mar 27, 2014

Why does anger have to be viewed as an abnormality? Isn't it normal and natural to experience anger, and natural to act out on it by yelling, breaking objects, and yes, even physically harming another person? I'm not saying these have to be accepted, just saying if a person who has an outburst has to be labeled as having a disorder. Then I'll argue that 99.999 percent of humans "suffer" from the same condition.

By anon927059 — On Jan 22, 2014

I have been dealing with angry outbursts for some time. For some reason it only seems to stem from heated arguments with my wife when things she says to me set me off (usually insensitive things that hurt my feelings or makes me angry). I yell and slam things but have never been physically abusive. I try and take my anger out on inanimate objects instead. However, I *really* don't want it to lead to anything worse. I'm in personal as well as marriage counseling and things seem to be getting better, but I still have periodic angry outbursts. I don't get mad like I do with my wife with anyone else. I don't have road rage, do not have issues at work, with friends or family, and have never been in a fist fight or argument in public. What else can I do to help me control my anger at home?

By anon332523 — On Apr 29, 2013

I have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder very recently. It is just now that I understand a lot of my 'strange' behavior better. What worries me is that anxiety comes sometimes with anger. But anger comes always with a 'teaser,' like one or two glasses of alcohol. So anger is controllable for me.

Reading post here, I am interested by anon323648 (post 18) because in the past, two good relationships with my girl friends broke up because of my ever increasing anger pattern. These were girls who really loved me and I got to the point realizing me that I was the problem. So for anon323648 maybe the best would be to break up for a period until he realizes this, also. There seem to be so many degrees in these anger/anxiety patterns.

I am now learning to live with that consciously, meaning I am in the process of 'reviewing my life' and seeing what it has caused: no good things. Although I am a very capable person, I would have gone a lot further in my professional personal life without anger/anxiety. This is partly also due to the people living closest to me that never understood the problem, of course without any offense, because who knows about anxiety/anger disorders.

So to all your guys and girls having a problem: just look back at your life and then realize that you are capable if you wouldn't behave like that for the future. For the record, it seems that anxiety and anger disorders come with the more intelligent, creative and direct people. So the challenge is: be smart and creative, but be gentle and patient with yourself and others. I hope my experience can help others!

By anon325459 — On Mar 16, 2013

I had an issue when I screamed my head off and lost my voice at school.

By anon325458 — On Mar 16, 2013

i have angry moments like i screamed so loud at my friends i all most lost my voice

By anon323648 — On Mar 06, 2013

I am dealing with this now with my husband. He was a quiet, polite and kind man when I met him. He suffered through opioid dependence and has been clean for over a about two years now, but I swear it has changed him as a person. I love him dearly, but his mouth and harsh words are driving me to the brink of divorce. I have tried everything. He blows up, says many hurtful things and tries to push me over the edge. I beg him to stop and he just keeps going. Within 30 minutes he is back apologizing, admitting he has a problem and can make it no longer than 24 hours (I am not kidding) until he has another anger outburst.

One piece of advice to those who have an issue with anger: you will eventually drive your spouse away. I am highly considering divorce because the behavior hasn't stopped and I see absolutely no effort and am tired of feeling like I carry the relationship. It is so bad now that I can't even get up in the morning without having to walk on eggshells. My advice to you is to listen and stop being selfish. What I have noticed is that my husband is concerned about himself and his comfort. It feels like he is worried about how he feels and even his apologies come off as if he is more concerned about feeling better for himself, than hurting me at all.

Most of all, I know he loves me. But I also get the feeling like he thinks that I will take it and let him get away with it. I am a person who appreciates peace and harmony with those around me. Therefore I will take a lot and he knows it.

What I can say is there comes a time where one has to understand that anger doesn't open any door, it slams it shut. Listen, and really consider whose feelings you are really concerned about: yours or the other person's. I think selfishness and anger go hand in hand sometimes. Of course, I have gotten angry, but have realized that when I see things from the other person's perspective, it really changes things.

By anon313722 — On Jan 14, 2013

I'm trying to control my anger, but sometimes, sometimes you just want to let it all out. Sometimes you just don't care about what anyone thinks.

I hate having these setbacks. They make me lose so much faith in myself and I feel guilty for anyone that has to suffer because of me. It's a vicious cycle because the more faith I lose, the more it happens.

By anon300797 — On Oct 31, 2012

I am ashamed to admit that I have this problem. I try so hard to control my outbursts, but it makes very little difference. I know that I have bipolar disorder type II (the kind where you're mostly just depressed, and your "mania" basically consists of coming out of your depression long enough to seem emotionally normal in social situations), and I think that has a lot to do with my inability to control my angry reactions, but I don't know that it's the direct cause.

I do a good job of controlling my outbursts in public, but I lose my mind over every little thing that happens at home. I have four kids, and I hate myself because I'm always blowing up at them about every little thing -- stuff that I don't even really care about -- but in that moment it's like it's the most important thing in the world and I can't let it go. I scream and yell and swear horribly, to the point that I've look edup "Tourette's Syndrome" to see if I might have that (I don't).

What's ironic is that I'm the one doing it, but the sane, rational me wants to punch the angry me right in the mouth for my behavior. I'm so embarrassed and ashamed and remorseful after I blow up at my kids, and I kick myself mentally and swear to myself that I'll never do that again, but ten minutes later I'm bellowing about something else.

I feel so sorry for my kids. They're actually very good children, and they deserve a better mother. I try to make up for it in other ways that I can control. I take them fun places every chance I get (the beach, the park, Schlitterbahn, the children's museum, etc.), my girls are in their second year of ballet lessons, I'm there for every school event (Fall Festival, Character Day Parade, school plays), they get special privileges for doing well in school, I take them to birthday parties and sleepovers, and so on. And they love every minute of it all, and I'm never happier than when I'm doing something special or fun with my kids. But let somebody knock over a drink. Suddenly the smiles are gone and I'm shouting and swearing like a lunatic. It's horrible. And I don't have any insurance, so I can't afford to see a counselor.

What do I do? How do I stop? My kids deserve so much better than this. How do I give it to them?

By amypollick — On Sep 24, 2012

@anon293115: In a word, leave. The physical abuse is coming; it's only a matter of time.

When he insults you and verbally abuses you, that's not love, and it's not your fault. You're not *making* him do it. He's doing it, and he knows what he is doing.

You are not a doormat. You deserve better than to have someone call you names and abuse you in any form. You can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline. They're online. Yes, it's domestic violence. It's verbal abuse and he's pushed you. This is domestic violence, and these folks can help you get out. Please contact them.

By anon293115 — On Sep 24, 2012

My boyfriend has been doing this lately. He hasn't actually been physical with me, but he pushed me aside once because I was standing in the doorway trying to talk to him. He needed to get past so he pushed me out of the way. Other than that, it is completely verbal.

He will say bleep you, ask me if I'm an idiot, tell me I talk down to or disrespect his friends, but most of all, it's the angry outbursts. He was literally screaming at me one morning when I took off of work to take him to the doctor because I didn't slow down soon enough for a speed limit change on a back country road in the middle of nowhere.

He has screamed because I refused to use a porta john and insisted on going to the 'normal' bathroom. He was drinking at a bike rally that night and had such a fit, he kicked the window in my car and broke it. He seems to have these outbursts a lot of the time when he drinks but it's not necessarily always the case. He will flip out over the dumbest reason sober or drunk, so I can't entirely blame it on alcohol. I just wish I knew what to do.

By anon256913 — On Mar 23, 2012

My boyfriend started showing his anger outbursts after our fifth year together. It started in increments, and got much worse by the 11th year. I ended it with him and told him to go home to his house and stay there. I thank God that I am strong in God's word. People like that will not change and will always blame other people and say it's their fault, and etc.

By gravois — On Nov 06, 2011

My brother is kind of a hot head and I always dread family gatherings because I know that he is going to make an angry outburst over something. It happens like clockwork. It doesn't matter the holiday, the time of day or the crowd gathered. He always finds something to set him off and he usually ends up screaming, yelling and throwing something.

But he is my brother and in spite of it all I love him. I wish he would get some help for his anger but until he does what am I to do? We can't not invite him to family meals. And we can't just ask him to not get so angry. Hopefully he will take a long look in the mirror and recognize how much harm he is doing to this whole family.

By tigers88 — On Nov 06, 2011

I will always remember an angry outburst that I saw in a restaurant once. I was eating in a pretty nice Italian place with my girlfriend at the time. We had just gotten a few glasses of wine when we hear glass shattering behind us.

We both turned to look and there was a man who had just overturned his table and was screaming at another man who was still sitting in his chair. The seated man looked stunned and the angry man looked like he was ready to rip his head off. I thought it was going to come to blows.

Luckily no one was hurt. A waiter came up, talked quietly to the angry man and escorted him out of the restaurant. The weird thing was that the other man, the passive man, had his table set back up and went on to eat a meal by himself. I guess after a crazy experience like that you have a real appetite.

By letshearit — On Nov 05, 2011

Does anyone know what to do if your friend has angry outbursts and you're feeling really worried about their mental health?

My friend has been throwing what amounts to temper tantrums in public for awhile now, and I know she gets angry easily, but it is really making it hard for her socially. A lot of us don't want to go out with her in case she does something crazy.

Just last week she ended up yelling at some poor waiter because he spilled her water on the table. It was an honest mistake but she just went off the handle.

By manykitties2 — On Nov 04, 2011

Counseling can really help people who have angry outbursts if the individual is willing to give it their all while working on their anger management issues. My brother used to always throw things, yell and punch walls when he was mad. The worst thing was though that he would get into fights at school if he felt slighted by another student.

Our parents convinced my brother to go to counseling after he scared his girlfriend and nearly got arrested for fighting. He was pretty worried about his own behavior too and has been doing pretty well with the professional help he has been getting.

By John57 — On Nov 04, 2011

@orangey03 - I think that everyone has had some kind of angry outburst and then feels bad about it later. It is easier for some people to keep it inside, and for others, they feel like they will explode if they don't let it out right away.

My family sees more of my angry outbursts than people I don't know. If I am in a situation in public where I become angry, I keep it in until I am at home.

Then I let it all out, and my family takes the brunt of it. Not only do people get angry about different things, but they also react differently as well.

I think those people who become destructive physically and emotionally to those around them need to work on this more than those who just blow off some steam with some ranting and raving.

By lighth0se33 — On Nov 03, 2011

I have a friend who throws things when he gets angry. He got mad at me once, because he was trying to prove a point that I disagreed with, and his sudden violent behavior took me off guard.

He stood up and slammed his plate into the ground, shattering it. Then, he punched the wall and left a hole in it. Once he realized what he was doing, he went into the other room to cool off.

At first, I felt a flash of fear, wondering if he would actually hit me. When I saw that he was taking his anger out on inanimate objects, my fear turned to concern for him. I went to see how badly he had hurt his hand, but he didn't want me to look at it.

He later apologized. We lost touch after awhile, but I am still friends with his sister. She told me that he started abusing his girlfriend shortly after that, and he has abused every woman he has been in a relationship with since.

This just illustrates how one type of violence can quickly progress to another worse form. If I am dating someone and they start to have angry outbursts, I get out of the relationship right away.

By golf07 — On Nov 03, 2011

While a lot of people associate angry outbursts with toddlers, I have seen some adults who have angry outbursts for no apparent reason.

When it comes to small children, you can understand their frustration with not being able to express themselves or not being understood. This isn't as easy to understand when you see this behavior in adults.

I have an aunt who is known for her angry outbursts. I am sure this is one reason it is hard for her to keep friends, and she even has distant relationships with most of her children.

When this happens, the best thing to do is just get out of the way and not take it personally, but it is hard for her children to do that.

I know she doesn't physically feel good a lot of the time and wonder if that is part of the problem. When you talk to her kids about it though, they say she has been that way for as long as they can remember.

By StarJo — On Nov 02, 2011

@kylee07drg – Your dad sounds scary. I probably would have done my best to behave around him, too!

Speaking of scary outbursts, road rage is one of the most frightening types. I get as angry as most people when someone cuts me off or does other stupid things while driving near me, but I can control my anger. Some people let it seep over into their driving, and they do dangerous things to get back at the person who made them angry.

I was driving behind a super slow car that keep weaving in and out of the lanes. I started to pass him, and I honked to let him know I was beside him. He took the honk as an insult, and he sped up and rode my bumper for about ten miles.

I was really nervous. I actually thought he might try to ram me from behind. We were driving down little country roads, and there was no one else around.

By orangey03 — On Nov 02, 2011

Has anyone here ever experienced angry outbursts? I have them from time to time, and I am embarrassed afterward. It's nearly impossible for me to restrain myself when I get upset.

Often, it happens in public places. If someone cuts in front of me in line at the supermarket, I stand there and seethe until my temper overflows. I start yelling at the person, and sometimes I am so mad that I don't even know where the words are coming from.

After I let my anger out, I take a look at the people around me. They are all staring at me with disgust, and I feel so much shame. I know I need to seek mental help for my angry outbursts.

By kylee07drg — On Nov 01, 2011

Angry outbursts are super scary. My dad used to suddenly burst forth with rage, and it always made us children cry. He couldn't control himself. He had just always had a hot temper.

He never hit us, and we were glad for that. Just seeing his face turn red was enough to make us behave, because we knew what would follow. He didn't even have to use curse words. The anger in his voice scared us straight.

He would get angry at the smallest things. If one of us left our shoes laying in the middle of the floor, he would have a fit. If someone didn't put away their dirty dishes, his anger would flare up. My mom tried to tell him to calm down, but that just made him angrier.

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