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Anxiety When Hearing Yelling (+3 tips)

Amanda Knowles

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This guide will explore why some people experience anxiety when they hear someone yelling and how to ground themselves in such situations.

Anxiety When Hearing Yelling

Anxiety when hearing yelling can be attributed to two reasons: 

Some people are sensitive to the sensory overload that comes with yelling. These individuals are known as highly sensitive persons. A highly sensitive person, or HSP, is a person with increased or deep central nervous system sensitivity to emotional, physical, or social stimulus. While sometimes highly sensitive persons are negatively regarded as "too sensitive," this personality trait has both its strengths and challenges.

Some of the traits which are common to highly sensitive persons are listed and described below:

  • Avoid violent TV shows or movies because they can be too intense and leave you distressed and upset.
  • Overwhelmed by the sensory stimulus, such as loud crowds, bright lights, or uncomfortable clothes.
  • Being deeply affected by aesthetics, like art, nature, or human creativity in the form of a good advertisement.
  • The immense need for downtime is not only a choice, but it is a requirement to have me-time in a dark, silent place.
  • The rich and vivid inner life, they have strong feelings and deep thoughts that complement their vivacious imagination.

Some people may have fear of loud noises and voices. The fear of being yelled at is called phonophobia, sonophobia, or ligyrophobia. A person averts from loud noises and sounds due to these conditions. Some of the emotional responses could be crying, freezing, or running away. Yelling is usually a contributing factor in more serious kinds of abuse, for instance, domestic violence and verbal abuse. These events are registered as trauma memory in your brain and body. When a specific sound is played, it can cause a replay of that traumatic memory, putting you into flight, flight, or freeze mode. Common examples may include someone yelling in anger, a baby crying, screaming, loud noise, etc.

According to brain research, it gets difficult to think clearly in the state of fear, induced by yelling. When a person hears someone yelling, their brain read that as a danger, and thus they experience extreme fear. After the brain reads it as danger-- a response of flight/fight/freeze mode is triggered in the person, depending on the level and amount of threat. The response can range from yelling back in defense to withdrawing from the situation or being numb or mute to the situation. None of it gives a satisfactory outcome.

Due to the above-mentioned psychological problems, both the yeller and the one being yelled at will suffer from ineffective communication, leading them nowhere. They mostly face reactivity management problems. Therefore, it is important to seek professional assistance. Your therapist can help you in resolving the psychological issues of being yelled at.

Role of Childhood in the Anxious Reaction Due to Yelling

These reactions and responses are observed and exhibited as a child and over time it becomes a learned behavior.

Verbal abuse and yelling behavior can be experienced in households with domestic violence and toxic relationships; children learn the concepts of emotions and reactivity from their homes. The exchange of interactions between the child and caregiver or mothers plays a great deal in understanding the emotional behaviors.

A child can identify yelling through the following cues:

  • The loud volume of her voice.
  • The deadly look in her eyes.
  • The high tone of her voice.
  • The critical and scornful expressions on her face.
  • The length and duration of the session (yelling).
  • The insults and remarks--you’re spoilt, unimportant, unworthy.
  • The unpredictable flipping of the switch turns their caregiver into somebody else.
  • The sense of abandonment that comes from these sessions.

Being yelled at frequently changes the brain, mind, and body in multiple ways, increasing the amygdala activity (emotional brain), increasing stress hormones in the system, causing high muscular tension and other physical symptoms.

Frequent yelling at the children changes the thinking and feeling process even after entering adulthood and leaving the childhood home. Thus, we can hear the voices of our critical parents in our heads even when they are not even physically there.

All human beings are born with a fully mature, hard-wired brain that can understand complex emotions like fear, sadness, and anger. The initial caregivers and parents can trigger, alter or nourish these responses with the type of environment they give to the child. For instance, fear is repeatedly triggered in a challenging environment, the one where there is the yelling, physical and emotional reaction that causes traumatic stress in a child. This stress is increased in the brain and body whenever the child feels attacked, including angry voices, glaring eyes, loud tones, dismissing expressions and gestures, etc. Thus, causing a sense of abandonment in the child.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a normal stress response and sometimes is beneficial in certain situations. It helps in alerting people of some dangers and helps them prepare and focus on the way out.

However, for some people, yelling is not a normal stress environment, it is perceived as a significant danger. Yelling can lead to the physical symptoms of anxiety. The anxiety due to yelling can be felt in the form of irritability, muscle tension, brain figging, lack of focus, and sleep problems. Some of the symptoms of anxiety are listed below:

  • Shaking or trembling
  • Sweating
  • Palpitations, rapid heart rate, or pounding heart
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Choking feelings
  • Chest pain or congestion feeling
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Heat or chills sensation.
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting
  • Paresthesias (feeling of numbness or tingling sensations)
  • Fear of losing control or feeling like they are going crazy
  • Feel like dying
  • Derealization (unreal) or depersonalization (detachment from one’s self)

What Not To Say Somebody When They are Experiencing Anxiety

There are certain things that you should absolutely never say to someone during an anxiety attack. It won’t help the person in calming the situation, nor will it diffuse their anxiety. Following are some of the things you should avoid saying to people experiencing an anxiety attack:

  • Don't say “calm down.”
  • “Don’t think of scary things.”
  • Don’t embarrass or shame them for their condition. Nothing along the lines of “here we go again” or “here comes the drama queen/king.”.
  • Don’t disregard their state. Refrain from “it is all in your head.” or “It will be fine, or it will pass.”
  • Don’t minimize by bringing up your own experiences. “It happened to me too.” “I got anxiety too, and I did this.”
  • “You are blowing it out of proportion.”
  • “You aren’t trying hard enough.”

Avoid all the condescending and minimizing things to someone who is having an anxiety attack can make the symptoms even worse. This can also make them feel isolated and embarrassed of their condition, and they may not reach out for help.

Encouraging statements is not necessary; sometimes, silent presence can be helpful, or trying out breathing exercises with the person can help them calm down.

How to Respond and React When Someone Yells at You?

There are multiple ways to respond when someone is yelling at you. Some of them are mentioned below:

  • Try to drift away from the situation. Think of the happy place and focus on that thought. 
  • Try to dissociate from the environment by drowning out the voices. This will help you not to be as affected by their actions by ignoring the possibly hurtful things.
  • Listen and let them vent. Although yelling is an immature and unhealthy way to put the point across, but at the core, the yeller is just being frustrated with his own situation. Try to dissipate the frustration by asking them to communicate and discuss the issue man to man, like an adult.
  • Recognize and validate your own feelings. Although the yeller is frustrated, that does not imply they have a right to pin their own emotions on others. So, it is essential to identify and validate your own feelings. Don’t discount on your well-being to entertain the other person. Try to ground yourself and navigate through your feelings.
  • Don’t take it personally. The yeller is mostly in his own emotional turmoil and tries to project their own frustration onto others. In such a case, it is essentially required not to take anything personally. However, it can be challenging, especially when you already have a history where yelling was the norm.
  • Breathing is vital to surviving the chaos. Practice meditation and deep breathing. Focusing on your breath to calm your mind and body will help you get out of the problematic situation. It will help you in reducing the physiological reaction coming from your brain after piercing the danger.
  • Consult a therapist and ask for help. If you think the situation is too overwhelming for you, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Seek a competent counselor to help you manage your emotions effectively. Alternatively, you can express it with your trusted friend or family.
  • If you are facing abuse at home or with your partner and it is impossible to communicate effectively, call a helpline like Victim Connect to get you out of the situation.

Other  worksheets you may be interested in

Below are links to a few more worksheets which are closely related to the worksheet above.

Worksheets on stress and anxiety: Version 2

Worksheets on stress and anxiety

Stress and Anxiety Activity Pack Worksheet

Conclusion

This guide explored why some people experience anxiety when they hear someone yelling and useful grounding techniques to manage the situation.

Yelling can be overwhelming and traumatic for sensitive people. They are susceptible to anxiety and panic attacks in such situations. Yelling can elicit a response of fear, putting them in the flight/fight/freeze mode. While others may experience extreme sensory overload in such situations. Therefore, it is important to ground the person experiencing anxiety.

If you have anxiety concerns when hearing yelling, let us know about your coping strategies in the comments below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS): Anxiety When Hearing Yelling

Why does yelling give me anxiety?

Frequent yelling can change the brain, mind, and body in multiple ways; increased activity of the amygdala (emotional brain) causes increased stress hormones in the bloodstream. The physical manifestation of anxiety can then be observed in the form of tenses muscles, palpitations, and hyperventilation.

Can being yelled at cause anxiety?

Yes, yelling can induce anxiety in some people. Studies have observed a connection between emotional abuse and psychological issues like depression and anxiety. These behaviors may lead to worsened behavior and may involve self-destructive activities.

What is the fear of being yelled at called?

The fear of being yelled at is called phonophobia, sonophobia, or ligyrophobia. A person averts from loud noises and sounds due to these conditions. Some of the emotional responses could be crying, freezing, or running away.

Can you have PTSD from yelling?

Yes. Yelling is usually a contributing factor in more serious abuse, for instance, domestic violence and verbal abuse. These events are registered as trauma memory in your brain and body. When a specific sound is played, it can cause a replay of that traumatic memory, putting you into flight, flight, or freeze mode. 

Can yelling at a child cause anxiety?

Yes, if yelling at children is accompanied by insults and putdowns, it is considered emotional abuse. Yelling at a child is known to have long-term psychological effects like anxiety, low self-esteem, and aggression.

References

https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/yelling-at-kids#effects-on-children

https://dsm.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596.dsm05

Mental help Resources

The worksheets on this site should not be used in place of professional advice from a mental health professional. 

You should always seek help from a mental health professional or medical professional. We are not providing any advice or recommendations here.

There are various resources where you can seek help.

You could use Online-Therapy if you feel you need counselling.

If you live in the UK then this list of resources from the NHS may help you find help.

If you live in the USA then you could contact Mental Health America who may be able to assist you further.

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Amanda Knowles

Amanda Knowled is an Applied Psychologist, with a deep interest in psychopathology and neuropsychology and how psychology impacts and permeates every aspect of our environment. She has worked in Clinical settings (as Special Ed. Counselor, CBT Therapist) and has contributed at local Universities as a Faculty member from time to time. She has a graduate degree in English Literature and feels very connected to how literature and psychology interact. She feels accountable and passionate about making a "QUALITY" contribution to the overall global reform and well-being. She actively seeks out opportunities where she can spread awareness and make a positive difference across the globe for the welfare of our global society.