Why Do I Cry When I Get Mad?

By: Lindsay Hamilton

Updated August 12, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn

Have you ever gotten so mad that you start to cry? The anger builds and builds until it bubbles over. You want it to seem righteous and dignified but your eyes betray you. Crying is often viewed as weak. It's hard to feel in control while you are crying. So, why do we cry when we get angry? If we so desperately want not to cry, why is it that we can't seem to help it? Our involuntary responses to our emotions can tell us a lot about how the human mind works. Crying when you're mad may seem counter-intuitive, but it makes quite a bit of sense. Let's take a look at some of the possible reasons.

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Hurt Often Hides Behind Anger

When we are angry, it often stems from feeling hurt. Anger that leads to tears, especially, has probably been building for some time. You see this a lot in children who don't have the emotional intelligence yet to differentiate between anger and hurt. Crying is a result of pent up frustration that needs to be released. This can look like crying over a betrayal, or not being understood by a family member or friend. When you want to be heard so badly by the people you love, but they don't understand, that leads to anger and resentment. But tears will also develop because there is hurt behind that anger. Crying is your body's way of releasing both the sadness and the anger. But just because the release is in the form of tears doesn't mean that it's a sign of weakness. Tears show that you care, and that you feel. Having an emotional response to a wrongdoing or a bad situation is very normal and very human. If you've ever been in the middle of a conversation and found yourself saying, "I don't know why I'm crying," take a deeper look inside of yourself. There is probably a hurt that needs to be responded to.

You're In A Situation That Feels Unfair

Usually, when kids cry out of anger, it's coming from a feeling of a situation being unfair. When they're told no, or asked to do chores, you often hear a kid scream "It's not fair!" As adults, we do this too. When we feel wronged or betrayed, we get angry and upset. But there is also real hurt behind the anger. Our sense of right and wrong has been tested. What we expected of our friends, family, or coworkers didn't happen, and we are left to pick up the pieces. Tears seem like a natural reaction to this mixture of emotions. What we feel needs to find a way out. It's harder to bottle up how you feel when you feel it so strongly. That's why tears often accompany anger. You feel so much all at once that you can't help but let it all out.

Crying Isn't Specifically Related To Sadness

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Scientifically speaking, crying isn't just for feelings of sadness. Our brains don't know how to differentiate between our emotions that well. Dr. Robert R Provine at the University of Maryland notes that our tear ducts are just not that smart. We don't start producing tears as infants until we are three months old, though crying starts at birth. This leads scientists to think that tear production is a recent evolution for the human race. Because it's so new, our tear ducts don't know the difference between feelings of hurt, sadness, anger, or even happiness. Therefore, we cry whenever we feel something immensely - in that sense, it means that you're alive. That you can feel something huge and overwhelming. When you cry as a result of anger, your body is just doing what it thinks it needs to do to help you feel better. Tear production is a natural response to feeling overwhelmed and full of anger. It doesn't mean you are more sad than angry. It just means you feel deeply.

Crying Is Cathartic

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Dr. Suzanne Degges-White, the department chair of counseling and higher education at Northern Illinois University, suggests that crying is a way to release emotions. It's a form of catharsis, a coping mechanism to deal with our intense feelings, whether they be frustration, anger, or profound sadness. She even goes so far as to say that crying is a form of self-soothing. Crying forces us to control our breathing. We take deep breaths to return to a state of calm. This causes our heart rate to decrease, allowing us to calm down from an agitated state. Crying is a natural way for our bodies to regulate our emotions.

Crying Is Involuntary

Often tears of anger come when we don't want them to. If we're at work or in a fight with a loved one, or frustrated by a situation we can't seem to control; the crying comes because we're overwhelmed and don't know what else to do. It isn't a contrived reaction. In fact, if we could stop crying and get a grip on things, we would probably rather do that. But our bodies know us pretty well. They know what we need even if we don't want to admit that we do. We feel better after a good cry, don't we? All of the emotions that have built up in our hearts is spilled out through tears. And while the situation might not be resolved just by tears, you're left feeling a bit more level headed and ready to take on the challenge. Crying is also a signal to the outside world that you are hurting. Maybe you're not willing to ask for help all the time. But when you truly need it, your tears might be the cry for help you aren't willing to ask for.

A Healthy Release

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Crying is, unfortunately, stigmatized in our society. It's looked at as a sign of weakness or immaturity. It pushes people away or makes you feel uncomfortable. We often feel the need to apologize when we cry, don't we? As if our involuntary emotional moment is some inconvenience. But the truth is, if we're crying, we have a real reason to be doing so. And sometimes we need a safe space to let all that we're feeling out.

Therapy is one such safe space. Whether you talk to a friend, a family member, or a professional, finding a person that will listen and be there while you let your emotions out is super important for your emotional help. And there are ways to get that help without having to spend a lot of money or sit face to face with a stranger. Take ReGain, for instance.

ReGain.us is an online counseling platform that allows real mental health professionals to take clients online by utilizing secure messaging services and a client matching survey. To start work with a counselor, you'll fill out a personal survey about your specific needs, and the right counselor will be provided for you. You'll talk through a private chat room that is completely secure and only accessible to you and your counselor.

The best part? This isn't real-time therapy. You can send a message to your therapist at any time of day, and they will only respond at an agreed upon time. This means you don't have to take unnecessary time out of your day or worry about the reactions on the other end of the computer. You send what you need to say and move on. If you would be interested in speaking with your counselor full time, you can arrange for a video chat or phone call with them directly.

Have a partner that you think would benefit from the ReGain platform? You can use the chat room together as a couple, both gaining from the expertise from the counselor without having to make separate appointments or accommodations. You can add a partner in at any time, and if you ever need to speak privately with your counselor, a special arrangement can be made so that your partner can't see that specific conversation.

If you would like more information about ReGain or are ready to sign up, go to https://www.regain.us/start/ today.

Angry tears are a normal part of life. There's no need to be ashamed of them or to try and hide them when you are feeling emotional. Your body knows what it is doing, even if it can't differentiate between happy and sad when it comes to tears. That release of emotion and tension can lead to better discussions and healthier outlooks on your situation. So, the next time you feel like you are so angry you could cry, just let it out. You do what you have to do to help you feel better.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why do I cry when I’m mad?

When we think of crying, we generally correlate it with sadness. However, as stated in the article above, crying isn’t reserved for sadness; people can also cry angry tears, happy tears, and tears of joy or relief. We might cry when watching a sad movie or listening to a sad song, or we might cry because of something in our personal lives, such as a breakup. Emotions such as anger can be uncomfortable, but they are normal, and they are part of the human experience. Anger is not always a bad thing, and it can be expressed healthily. To answer the question simply, we cry when we’re angry because it’s an expression of emotion. Research shows that while it’s more likely that someone will cry tears of sadness rather than angry tears, angry tears are still something that people experience. The same study shows that, regardless of whether an individual is crying out of anger or sadness, women are more likely to cry than men are. This is likely due to stereotypes and societal beliefs surrounding men and emotional expression. 

What are angry tears?

Angry tears are tears that someone cries when they’re mad. If someone says that they’re crying “angry tears,” it simply means that they’re crying because they’re angry. If someone’s far past mad or angry and is feeling enraged, they might say that they’re crying tears of rage rather than angry tears. Rage is typically more extreme than anger. When someone uses the word rage, they also may be referring to actions rather than emotions. If you experience rage that affects you or those around you negatively, it would likely benefit you to find a therapist or an anger management group. There is nothing wrong with seeking mental health counseling or therapy, nor is there a wrong with seeking an anger management group. If you have ever thought, “when I got angry I began to cry. Why is that?” know that it’s not just you. Many people cry angry tears, so if you find yourself shedding tears when you’re mad, you’re not alone, and there’s nothing abnormal about it. 

What do I do if someone around me is crying angry tears?

It can be hard to know what to do when someone is crying; Especially when their tears are angry tears rather than tears of sadness. The best thing to do if someone’s crying angry tears is to ask them what they need and respect that. If the individual wants people around, you may ask them if they want a glass of water or if they want to talk about it. Often, it is beneficial to either ask or gauge if someone would rather have a person around or if they prefer to get some space and spend time alone before talking about their anger or angry tears. If someone does say that they want to be alone when they’re crying angry tears, respect that fully and immediately. The same is true for if someone is having an intense outward expression of rage in conjunction with their angry tears. Give that person time to cool down. Whether a person is crying angry tears or not, many people need time to cool down before talking about their anger. This could be because a person has anger management concerns and knows that they need to take some time away from a situation before talking about it, or it could just be because a person needs processing time. 

How do I know if I have anger issues?

If you have anger issues, you might notice that you feel out of control when you experience anger or rage. You may act in a way that is volatile or that in a way that scares those around you. Some people with anger issues yell, become physically aggressive, say hurtful things that they regret, or make other actions that they regret or feel guilty for when they are angry. Tests therapy, reflection on your behavior, and other means can all help you figure out if you struggle with anger. If a person in your life that you trust has shown concern for your anger, or if you have ever thought back to a time when you were mad and realized, “when I got angry I began to say things that I didn’t mean,” it may be helpful to find a therapist or other assistance for anger. If attempts to hold back aggression feel like impossible tests therapy can also be beneficial. At the end of the day, we can all benefit from learning about ourselves and finding healthy ways of emotional expression, so it’s not surprising that a lot of people seek assistance for these issues, nor is it something to be ashamed of. 

How do I know if I need therapy? 

As stated above, you may want to find a therapist if you are struggling with anger management. However, there are many other reasons someone may choose to find a therapist. For example, with eating disorders, bipolar disorder or other mood disorders personality disorders, and those going through a substantial period of stress, grief, familial issues, or difficulties in their relationships can also benefit from therapy or counseling. In addition to seeking therapy to cope with issues like eating disorders personality disorders and bipolar disorder, a person might seek help for addiction or substance use disorder. If you struggle with substance use disorder or addiction and are wondering where to find a treatment center, there are a variety of ways to go about it. SAMHSA has a treatment center locator on their website that helps people find a treatment center and other forms of care for substance use near their geographical location. 

How do I find a therapist?

There are multiple ways you can go about finding a therapist. To find a therapist who takes your insurance, you can search the web, call your insurance company, or check their website. You can also ask your doctor for a referral. Some professionals specialize in specific areas, such as eating disorders or child development. If you are looking to find a therapist who specializes in a particular concern, you can search for something like, “eating disorders therapist near me,” “therapy for anger issues near me,” or “pediatric counselor near me” if you want to find someone who’s knowledgeable in child development. You can also use a tool such as the online directory on websites like Psychology Today or WebMD to find someone that specializes in that concern you’re looking for help with. You can also find a therapist or counselor through an online website like ReGain. The counselors at ReGain help couples and individuals get the care that they need from the privacy of their own homes. ReGain will do the work for you and find the best fit for you by matching you to a licensed online counselor based on your preferences and answers to their initial questionnaire. 

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