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5 common causes of emotional explosions

Updated: Sep 23, 2022

“Oh, you’re so laid back” is what people generally would say, and I am… usually. But occasionally, in my humanness, I just blow up. Sometimes it's about something small – someone not closing the toilet seat, or an unwashed dish in the sink— but I tend to go ballistic. Or I suddenly seem to go on a rant, churning out a list of gripes that I have seemingly been sitting on for a while. This angry mood may only last a few hours, or days, and eventually I settle down, say an apology, and then go right back to being…old Marcia.

Undoubtedly, you've met people like just like this, who periodically spiral out of control. Here are the most common causes of these emotional explosions:


Although my default really is to be laid-back, under enough stress, such as deadlines at work, health, or family worries mixed in with the expectation that society has placed upon me as a woman to just keep going, it’s no surprise that emotionally I can at times get pushed over the edge.


Sometimes it’s not stress related at all but underlying depression. It could be moments when I feel trapped, or for some it could even be genetic but whatever the reason is, it’s important for me to highlight that regardless of the source, for some, depression isn't that low energy, lay-in-bed kind, but an agitated version. While those same why-bother, it-doesn't-matter, pessimistic thoughts are driving your mood, what ultimately comes to the surface is irritability.

Relationships are out of balance. 

You may be falling into a martyr role, I am certainly guilty of this, it could be at home with your partner,your children or even maybe in your job, simply put it’s a place or situation where you do a lot of the heavy lifting, and are bothered by it, but you lap it up in the hope others will eventually step up or appreciate you more.

Most often, others don't. They think you are doing what you are doing because they take you at face value: because you don't complain, so it seems like you are doing what you are because you always want to. The explosions inevitably happen because the martyr's builds up resentment in their heads about things being unfair, just like a pressure cooker, builds up, and then it blows. Or it could be that you’re not the martyr at all but feel more like the victim. And feel somehow things are one-down, or that others are micromanaging or critical, but again you put up with it until once again you get fed up and lose it.

Difficulty with transitions. 

You may be a person who has a difficult time with transitions. So, if you tend to be a planner like myself, and like to know way in advance what you want to do, and God forbid the plans get derailed for some reason. It could simply be what I decided to do on Saturday, but the weather doesn’t permit, it may be how I expected a night out with friends to go, but the night did not live up to expectation or people cancel at the last minute, and I lose it.

I have come to understand this is about more about anxiety, and I do my best to control my anxiety by planning. When things suddenly change, I get rattled and my anxiety bubbles to the top, but what I express and what others see anger.

Bullying behaviour

Then you have those people who blow up as an intimidation tool. Ultimately getting what they want and getting others to do what they want them to do. It is about power and entitlement.

But even for some seeming bullies, the underlying driver isn't always power but hypervigilance, as always being on guard, ready to spring and fight is generally learned in childhood as a way of coping with trauma. Again, what others see is not the underlying anxiety but the control and anger.

What to do

If you are a person who blows up or if you are living with someone who does, there are three parts to dealing with the problem:

First aidIf you quickly blow up, the emotional first aid is never about resolving the problem that you're ruminating about but more so about settling your emotional state. You need to find ways to calm yourself down, leave the situation to sidestep your instincts and get this off your chest or solve the problem now. This is all about self-regulation and taking responsibility.

If you are on the receiving end of someone's blow-up, you probably want to do your absolute best not to feed the fire by getting angry yourself, but instead remain calm. But if that doesn't work, or if the other person is threatening to become violent, I would suggest do your best to get away.

Prevention. People who go from 0-to-60 quickly often don't realise when stress and resentment are building up. If you are like this, you may want to track your emotions you can do this by checking in with yourself periodically throughout the day and asking yourself how you are feeling, so you can do something to calm yourself down before your emotions get to too high, like going for a walk, writing down how you are feeling, taking a deep breath, going for a run, or meditate.

You may also want to build in some prevention by stepping back and owning that you possibly have a problem with anger. Angry people tend to blame the situation or others for making them angry. This is irresponsible. Always remember you are totally in charge of controlling your emotions. Get therapy if you need to, take medication, or work on developing the skills needed to lower your overall emotional state.


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