You’re in the thick of an argument, you’ve got your heels dug firmly in the ground and you’re not backing down. But uh-oh — suddenly, amid all the fuss, you feel the damp heat of tears come streaming down your face. It’s confusing and upsetting, like your body isn’t your own, but you Just. Can’t. Stop. Them. These are angry tears and they’re actually a lot more common than you’d think.
As someone who can definitely relate to experiencing this phenomenon, I know they’re not ideal, particularly when you feel that crying detracts from your argument. However angry tears are a natural response to the overwhelming emotions that come up when we’re enraged. So, why do they happen? We investigate.
Why do we sometimes cry when we're mad?
The most common explanation for angry tears comes down to the strong emotions underpinning the anger — being hurt, embarrassed, betrayed, or feeling unjustly treated, to name a few. As the old adage goes, anger isn’t a feeling, it’s a response to a feeling. When we experience these rather unpleasant situations, where we feel like we can't express ourselves, be heard or get our point across, or are feeling unreasonably blamed for something, intense frustration can build — and that's when the tears start coming because we feel quite helpless.
Anger can be a lot for our bodies to process, particularly as there are no physical wounds, and the results can be pretty grim. According to Healthline, when we get mad, our bodies “produce a flood of hormones that stimulate strong reactions in our body — everything from a racing heart to sweaty palms to short-term memory loss.”
Some also theorise that it’s an evolutionary response, designed to act as a help signal to those around us that we’re vulnerable and under threat. And even in modern society, our body's need to stay alert for dangers remains intact.
How do you stop crying when you're angry?
While there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution, there are some small steps you can take when you feel the dam is about to break.
Breathwork is one of the best ways to alleviate some of the stress. Take deep, slow breaths in order for your body to catch up with what’s going on. Other expert techniques include removing yourself from the situation, getting some fresh air and chugging some water. Basically, you want to distract your body and your mind with things that also lower your cortisol (the stress hormone) and your blood pressure.
Is crying when you're angry normal?
Crying when you're mad isn't only normal but can actually be good for you. As noted in Healthline, researchers have found that "crying stimulates the release of oxytocin and prolactin, two chemicals that can bring your heart rate down and otherwise calm you after a stressful event." Only, if you find yourself in a situation where you're embarrassed by your crying, say, in the middle of a work meeting, these feelings can only compound the stress you feel.
Ultimately though, there's nothing wrong with crying when you’re mad; it can just come as a surprise and it be unsettling to not feel in control of your body. If you genuinely think that it's interfering with the rest of your life, professional help is always out there! But know that it’s a perfectly normal physical response — it's just your body’s way of looking out for you in its own unique way.