Why Do I Cry When I’m Mad, And What Does It Mean?

By ReGain Editorial Team|Updated June 22, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Wendy Galyen, LCSW, BC-TMH

A very young student was misbehaving. The teacher became frustrated and shouted at the child to stay in her seat and listen. The child became quiet and embarrassed, then later claimed that her stomach hurt, and she asked to go to the nurse.

Was the child faking a stomachache to avoid the teacher? Not necessarily. Her stomach probably did hurt. We’ve all felt physical pain in response to intense emotion.

Your body is continuously sending complex messages to your brain, and vice versa. Remember that the nervous system extends through your whole body. Your brain’s job is to interpret the messages that it gets from the rest of the nervous system and assign names to them.

The shame that the child felt when the teacher yelled registered physically. Without a name for this internal sensation, the girl believed that she had gotten sick to her stomach.

As a child, when you learn to speak, you attach words to physical sensations, and you call them emotions. You realize that when you feel aggressive, hot, frustrated, and restless, that is called “anger.” When you feel disappointed, exhausted, and lost, that is called “sadness.”

As you get older, your emotions become more complicated, and so does your vocabulary. You become more emotionally intelligent and learn an array of words to describe internal sensations. As an adult or teenager, you can express emotions like content, thrilled, peaceful, excited, enamored, or joyful, and each one feels a little differently. Whereas, as a child, you may have just said, “happy.”

Why Do I Cry When I’m Mad?

Emotions are an intricate and complex series of messages, and we do our best to give them names, but sometimes one word is not enough, and sometimes these words overlap.

Many situations lead to anger. Perhaps you are being mistreated, or maybe you are frustrated at being ignored. Complicated situations lead to even more complicated emotions. Also if we label the way we feel as “angry,” that is probably an umbrella term for the whole bouquet of emotions that spring up in any given situation.

Sometimes you may get so mad that you start crying. If you’re in a set of circumstances that are unfair and exasperating, crying is a typical and healthy response.

Often, people cry when they feel that they have run out of options. Maybe someone refuses to listen, or perhaps you’ve been made to feel humiliated or powerless. In those sorts of circumstances, crying is normal.

If you have a partner or loved one who mocks you or makes you feel that there is something wrong with crying, then this could be a serious red flag. A healthy response to seeing someone cry is a concern, not dismissal.

You don’t need to stop crying when you get angry. However, crying isn’t the only way to express how you feel. It might be helpful to step back, take a breath, and use your words to describe what you’re feeling. It can be as simple as saying, “I’m not crying because I’m sad, I’m crying because I’m angry. I feel that I’m being treated unfairly.”

If you associate crying with sensitivity or weakness, then you may feel tempted to overcompensate for your tears by shouting. But yelling at a loved one is never a good idea, as it only serves to escalate the situation. Remain calm gives you control over the conversation.

If you are constantly made to feel weak and overly-sensitive, or if you experience unfair situations and negative emotions like frustration and rage very often, then you might be in a toxic environment.

Whether it’s a partner, a parent, a sibling, or a friend, your loved ones should make you feel accepted and understood. If you worry that your relationship is having a negative impact on your life, then you may want to consider online counseling.

Speaking to a therapist online, from the privacy of your own home, can help couples understand their emotions better, and express them in a healthy way. Regain.Us offers a quiz and a free consultation that you can do with or without your partner. A trained professional can look at your personal situation then give you an informed opinion as to whether or not you need further counseling.

Anger Can Be A Defense Mechanism

As if our emotions weren’t complicated enough, we add another element of confusion by masking them. We change the way we express our emotions so that they better fit with society’s expectations of how we should feel and how we should act.

As a child, you not only learn how to name emotions, but you learn how to express them as well. You may have received the message, either directly or indirectly, that crying and sadness are weak or feminine, while anger and frustration are strong or masculine.

For this reason, oftentimes, we react with anger when what we really feel is hurt. We may lash out and attack when what we really feel is an embarrassment.

This not only could explain why we cry when we’re angry, but it also offers an explanation as to why someone might reprimand you for crying.

Seeing someone you love cry might cause an intense emotional response. To reject this response, the observer may become angry and chastise you for crying. Of course, this leaves you feeling even more upset and misunderstood. But maybe this person only reacted the way that he or she did because they are using anger as a defense mechanism against their own emotions.

Crying Is Healthy

If you cry when you’re angry, don’t worry. Crying is not a problem.

Crying is both emotionally and physically healthy. If you stop yourself from crying, you could miss out on a series of medical benefits.

2014 study showed that crying is a self-soothing activity. When you cry, you activate the Parasympathetic Nervous System, which is designed to help you relax. It also releases oxytocin and endorphins. These chemicals lift your mood, and they even reduce physical pain. That is why, after crying, you tend to feel relieved.

When you cry, your body is helping you feel better.

Crying is also a physical detox. Emotional tears include various stress hormones and chemicals that your body wants to release. Crying can be a chance to release a stressful experience and feel refreshed afterward.

Crying Brings Us Together

This 2016 study explains that crying is an attachment behavior.

No one knows how you feel internally, and we can’t read each other’s minds. We evolved to cry so that our emotions are expressed outwards, and others can see how we feel.

When you cry, watch very closely how people react. Usually, an emotionally mature person will take the opportunity to comfort you, listen to you, and try to make you feel better. Hopefully, even the angriest person will soften once they see the evidence that you’re hurt on your face.

For these reasons, it is very important to not punish a child for crying. Of course, children cannot always respond directly to the way they feel. For example, they cannot hit someone any time they feel angry. But children cannot control emotions that they do not understand, and discouraging them from crying may stunt their emotional growth. Instead, try to better understand why they are crying and encouraging them to express their emotions verbally.

Don’t Be Afraid To Walk Away

Maybe you’re a fighter, and you want to dig your heels in and stay in a situation until it gets better. This is an admirable trait, and that competitiveness is useful in certain circles, but in fights and arguments, it can sometimes make things worse.

Take a breather from the conversation by leaving the room, and maybe even crying alone before you go back and address the situation with a clear head. Even if the other person is being unfair, shouting at them will usually make them sink deeper into their position. But by behaving calmly and rationally, you can be much more effective in swaying someone’s opinion and helping them see your side of the story.

You don’t want to become so frustrated that you say something you don’t mean, and unintentionally damage a relationship. When it comes to loved ones, winning an argument isn’t worth losing a person.

There is nothing wrong with crying, but maybe you don’t want someone to see. That is okay too, and you should feel free to take a short walk and come back to the conversation from a different angle.

Crying Excessively May Be Cause For Concern

Crying in response to sadness, extreme joy, or anger is normal. But if you cry excessively, then you may be suffering from depression.

Depressed people may cry,

  • Without reason
  • Without control
  • Very often
  • Even when it affects daily activities and tasks

If you are concerned that you may have depression, review this list of other common symptoms to see if any of them sound like you.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or recalling details.
  • Severe fatigue
  • Pessimism, hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness
  • Insomnia or excessive sleep
  • Lack of sex drive
  • Loss of interest in things you once loved
  • Overeating or loss of appetite
  • Persistent physical pains or cramps without apparent cause
  • Constant sad or anxious feelings
  • A constant feeling of “emptiness” or the lack of emotion

If you worry that you may be suffering from depression, there is help available. These feelings of hopelessness may simply be a result of mental illness, and not a reflection of your very real options for help and attention.

There are people to talk to, both online and in-person, who will listen to you without judgment and help you develop methods for overcoming these feelings.

Conclusion

Crying is a normal human response that doesn’t only reflect sadness. People cry in response to a series of complex emotions, including anger, frustration, fear, joy, and embarrassment.

Crying has several health benefits, including a release of toxins and a boost of mood-boosting and pain-relieving hormones.

The normal, emotionally mature response to crying is sympathy and concern, not anger and punishment. No one should make you feel weak or embarrassed about crying.

Excessive crying, or crying without any apparent reason, maybe a sign of depression. If you are showing various symptoms of depression, consider talking to a counselor or professional.

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