Why Do I Cry When I Get Mad?

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis
Updated December 16, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Almost everyone cries sometimes. It’s human nature. However, you may wonder, "Why do I cry when I'm mad?" 

Anger can be a complicated emotion, sometimes expressed through crying. You may become overwhelmed, explosive, or cry when you get upset. Everyone expresses anger differently, and crying can be a natural response for you. 

In many parts of the world, including the United States, society has a way of gendering emotional states, attributing different values to some emotions as opposed to others. We tend to think of anger as powerful and associate it with yelling and violence, while sadness may be seen as weakness and associate it with crying. It’s no wonder crying can be confusing. 

If you get so mad you start crying angry tears, you're not alone, and it doesn't mean you’re “weak.” Emotional tears are okay whether you’re angry, sad, happy, or feeling anything else.

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People Experience Anger Differently

It’s Okay To Get Tearful When Angry

Some people can get overwhelmed by angry feelings and may lash out at others. It might express itself as harsh words or yelling. In other cases, anger may be expressed through tears. Sometimes, it might be difficult to stop crying when you’re mad. 

Tears are often associated with sadness but may also represent feeling scared, relieved, happy, anxious, confused, curious, ashamed, or guilty.

Some people may have a challenging time expressing their anger, and instead of yelling, they become flustered or emotional when they’re feeling hurt. Their feelings can be so intense they let their anger out by crying angry tears. 

Research also shows that as adults, we often react differently to circumstances depending on how we were treated as kids. Professionals often encourage individuals or couples navigating a hard time to explore what they learned in childhood about expressing emotion.

Does It Make You Weak?

When you cry out of anger, you may feel like you’re “weak.” Feelings aren’t facts, though. Crying when you’re mad may be typical of how you express emotions. 

However, if you would like to manage or express your anger differently, there may be helpful tools and coping mechanisms you can use when you’re having intense feelings. Some resources include meditation, deep breaths, therapy, and journaling. 

What Lies Underneath Anger?

Anger is considered a secondary emotion, with primary emotions hiding beneath the outward response. That’s why many people cry when they experience anger. They’ve bypassed the anger and gone straight to the emotion underneath. While this may sound like “weakness” again, it can sometimes be a healthier and more mature coping mechanism for struggling with strong emotions.

There's nothing wrong with crying when you feel mad. It’s safe to express anger if you're not hurting yourself or anyone else. Angry tears are one way to let these feelings out safely and healthily. If you want to understand where this behavior may come from or tips for navigating it, a mental health professional can help walk you through it.

Tears can be healthy whether they’re out of anger or not, and a therapist can help you to ensure you’re managing your emotions in healthy ways. Some people may be more in touch with their emotions and have stronger feelings than others. If you’re one of those people, you might cry when you feel angry or overwhelmed, but this doesn't mean you’re weak.

What Are Some Helpful Tools To Manage Anger?

Crying is healthy. However, there are some instances where your angry tears might be inconvenient, and you may need the techniques to stop the tears. Here, we’ll discuss some approaches you can use that may help. 

Meditation

Anger can be a healthy emotion when you know how to communicate it in a safe space without hurting others. However, persistent and frequent rage may hurt your quality of life and potentially result in high blood pressure. According to peer-reviewed studies from the journal Consciousness and Cognition, a single meditation and deep breathing session can reduce an individual's feelings of anger.

When you're feeling angry, it triggers your sympathetic nervous system to release distress signals. Your breathing becomes shallow, your heart rate increases, and your blood pressure increases. Meditation may help to reduce these symptoms. Meditation can help calm the central nervous system, relaxing the body and mind. You may try relaxing your facial muscles to let go of the anger you’ve been feeling inside, which can help you keep tears at bay. Meditation may also help you cope with specific emotions.

Meditation slows your body's responses and can help you respond before reacting. By practicing 20 minutes of daily meditation and taking deep breaths, you can increase your control over your mind and body, training yourself to remain calm. Meditating at a specific time every day, such as when you wake up, before you go to bed, or during your lunch hour, can have benefits, but so can meditating any time you start to feel angry tears.

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Journaling When Mad

A structured thought journal where you practice expressive writing can help you understand and manage anger. It allows you to identify what triggered your anger, why, and how to respond to it. 

You can note situations where you feel frustrated or struggle with anger. This practice can help you make a concerted effort to change your behavior. 

Here's an example template:

  • Event: Write down the event where you felt angry.
  • Thought: What was your immediate reaction to the event? Describe your reactionary thoughts to the event.
  • Behavior: What did you do next? Did you yell back at your boss? Did you cry in the bathroom?
  • Feeling: How do you feel after your response to the event? Maybe you feel embarrassed or hurt, for example.
  • Actions: It can be helpful to write down what you do when you become angry. Understanding why you're taking the actions you take can help you learn and grow. 
  • Consequences: What happens due to these thoughts, feelings, and actions? 

You may internalize anger from events in your personal life and end up crying angry tears at lunch. What are the potential consequences of your actions? Does it make you feel less alone in your anger? Does it help to solve what triggered your anger in the first place? Another exercise you can use to try shifting your reactions is the dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) skill called REST.

Anger: Emotion Or Reaction?

Crying may be a reaction to our anger. People may become so angry with a friend, family, or a situation or person at work that tears start rolling down their faces while stating their case. They may feel flushed, and their face may turn red. Or they may cry when having difficult conversations and begin to feel angry. 

Crying When We Are Mad

One of the reasons people may struggle with crying when they feel angry could be that most people do not associate anger as an emotion but a reaction. Anger can be seen as a reaction or distress signal to an event. People may lash out when they experience anger, like slamming doors, shouting, throwing things, or, in extreme cases, physically assaulting someone.*

People may act in many ways during an episode of anger, including with angry tears. They may lose sight of anger as a legitimate and authentic emotion when it’s a part of the human experience. How we express it can either be beneficial or harmful.

*If you or someone you love is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Free, one-on-one support is available 24/7.

It's Okay To Cry

People who cry when angry probably also cry when they're sad or happy. Crying is a normal physiological reaction to strong emotions. Feeling like crying when you’re frustrated or angry can be healthy.

Anger is a human emotion, and crying can be a beneficial way of experiencing those feelings. If you worry about how others may treat you, you can try being honest and saying, "I sometimes cry when I'm mad.” You may feel shy or embarrassed about crying when experiencing anger, but it may be a physiological reaction you can’t necessarily control. And that’s okay.

Many people have difficulty accepting crying because they’re experiencing anger. If you feel like crying may negatively impact your life, you might seek help from a therapist to understand your feelings and why you frequently cry. Your tears may come from intense anger, but they could also indicate something more serious. 

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People Experience Anger Differently

A Professional Can Help Answer This Question

Anger and crying can be normal reactions to intense emotions. Still, if you feel angry or like you’re crying for "no apparent reason," you may need to talk to someone to help understand what could be happening beneath the surface. 

A counselor can help teach you ways to slow down and communicate what matters to you so you can get your point across, possibly without angry tears.

The Benefits Of Online Counseling

It can be challenging to find a therapist, especially if you live in a busy city or rural area. Once you find a therapist, paying for one can be expensive. For someone struggling with strong emotions, these barriers to treatment may be too stressful. Online therapy could be a better alternative. You can seek internet-based counseling from the comfort of your home. It can also be convenient, with appointments available around the clock. 

Online therapy has been the subject of much research in the mental health field. A recent study showed remote counseling can help reduce feelings of anger. It has also been shown to help with stress management. 

Online platforms like BetterHelp can help you find a therapist from among thousands of professional and licensed therapists and counselors. If you find a therapist and later determine they aren’t right for you, you can find another one who may be a good fit.

Takeaway

Everyone has a different relationship with anger and how they express it. If you find it hard to tell people you're mad without crying, an online therapist can help you explore those feelings and understand why it’s difficult to stop crying. Your counselor can support you in discussing your feelings, including anger, and can help you express anger on your terms.

The counselors at BetterHelp understand complex emotions, including anger. These angry tears may stem from anxiety or depression; therapy can help you address these potential mental health conditions. Reach out to discover the source of your intense emotions and how to manage them effectively.

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