In this article, we will discuss anxiety when hearing yelling and explain why yelling causes anxiety for some of us, how our body responds and how to deal with it.
Why does yelling cause anxiety and where it all began ?!
Yelling causes anxiety as it is a phobia that we are born with, the fear of loud sounds. This should have evolutionarily helped our ancestors. A loud sound should have indicated an impending danger. Even after 6 million years after our divergence from chimpanzee lineage, do we still feel anxious hearing loud sounds?! The answer is YES, and we know this from day to day interaction with people around us.
What happens in our brain when we yell?
Studies done by neuroscientists indicate that when we scream or yell the sound goes straight from the ear to the amygdala. Amygdala , the part of the brain that helps us to feel certain emotions like fear and which also helps us to perceive others emotions, processes it and kickstarts the body’s fight-or-flight response(Poepple,2015).
‘Need’ for yelling?
At times we ask ourselves why did I / the other person yell. We yell at times not only when we are angry, but overwhelmed with any other basic emotion could be our need to dominate and to get attention.
Researchers from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, studied brain activity during the processing of various emotional voices. They found that our brain is sensitive to the presence of angry voices.
This rapid detection of the source of a potential threat in a complex environment is essential, as it is “critical in crisis situations and a great advantage for our survival.”
Symptoms that we experience when we are anxious :
- Apprehension- You find difficult to concentrate,worries what might happen
- Motor tension- You fidget around restlessly,unable to relax
- Autonomic hyperactivity- Rapid heart beating,dizziness,dry mouth,sweating
Situations that we feel anxious when subjected to yelling
Plenty of situations in our everyday life can help us identify the cause and effect of yelling. Imagine you are out to the market to get vegetables with your toddler.
Suddenly you realise that your child isn’t next to you, he is trying to cross the road upon seeing an ice cream van opposite. Maternal instincts or for that matter human instincts accelerate in us, and we shout at our child, ‘don’t move’, ‘stop him’.
Even when the child is at a safe distance from the road, as at that point all we see is danger. Why did we yell?? Why didn’t we just run and calmly go next to the child and take them back?? Do we sometimes really have the tolerance to remain calm and composed in the face of any danger?
All though it’s often said that, in situations that involve danger, for example, a child at the edge of a balcony, do not yell at the child. Yelling in situations like these makes the child panic, instead speak calmly to the child and make them come near to you. What happens when we yell is our Fight and flight system gets activated. And the child gets anxious hearing our yelling, thereby activating their fight or flight action.
Fight and flight response
Fight and flight is a physiological reaction by our body when we encounter a danger or perceive a threat. This mechanism helps us to either ‘fight’ or ‘flee’ from that situation, through increased blood flow to muscles, increased heartbeat and sometimes ‘freeze’ in traumatic conditions.
The lower part of the brain, responsible for survival, gets activated instantly, and not the higher brain parts. This is one of the reasons we act rapidly in dangerous situation without giving much rationality,our entire body works towards survival.
And then the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in to restore the energy, and brings down the rapid heartbeat rate, sweating slows down and the rest of the bodily process such as digestion continues.
To understand more about why yelling causes anxiety often equally between people in the situation, consider any mundane experience and role of voice cue’s assistance.
Albert Mehrabain in his Silent Messages (1971), stated that words account for 7%, tone of voice 38% and body language 55% of communication, which is in short the 3V’s- Verbal, Vocal and Visual. One major insight that the book shows is that when there is a conflict between verbal and non verbal communication, receivers tend to reduce the dissonance by accepting the non verbal communication.
Tone of voice, which varies from whispering to yelling this may be the reason for having the highest percentage of contribution in understanding communication in any social setting.
When we are called into Boss’s office, we find a change in his tone, we notice the slight increase in his voice, our sympathetic nervous system gets switched on as we perceive an impending threat.
So how did the Boss’s yelling cause so much change in our physiology? The anticipatory anxiety and the red warning signal of going to his cabin has made our ‘Flight or Fight Reaction’ into action, as we expect some yelling and screaming, making us more anxious, thus disrupting the equilibrium.
Another common example is, remember times when there was disagreements with your partner , and you feel that he/she is not understanding what you are trying to communicate, and you find your voice going louder, and suddenly all you hear from your partner is – stop yelling !
Or let’s take the third example.On a tired day your child keeps badgering you to play with her , did you experience a surge of voice getting raised? What made you yell at your innocent child for just wanting to spend some time with you?
These are everyday happenings we go through. Though most of the time we do not intend to shout at our child, spur of the moment you just explode, and makes us guilty later for having done it. Often when we are experiencing extreme emotions, be it, surprise ,anger , sadness, our tone of voice increases.
Sundberg (1998),called the human voice as the ‘mirror to soul’. Often we can define a personality through the tone of his tone, if the person is submissive, dominant,calm,impatient and so on. Though much of the study has focussed on the effect of facial emotions in deducing the other person’s emotions (Ekman ,1973), our reliance on voice cues are much more common than emotions(Planalp,1998).
Why do we yell?
The reason for our sudden outburst of emotions, often in the form of yelling is because we feel frustrated, annoyed and thwarted and in that moment, all we want is to release that pent up energy.
It might rupture relationships, so we need to be aware of our incoming emotions, or if it was so sudden that it just blurts out, apologise for it. Or if you really want to yell and scream to feel free, go to some place , away from people, yell and scream it out, which provides catharsis.
What happens to someone on the other side ?
To someone on the receiving end of our yelling, what happens is also quite destructive. Being frequently yelled at changes the brain and the body in a multitude of ways including increasing the activity of the amygdala (the emotional brain), increasing stress hormones in the bloodstream, increasing muscular tension, and more. This could lead to emotional abuse, which is as harmful as any other abuse.
Steps to deal with coping and reducing anxiety
Anxiety and yelling at times can become a feedback loop. Anxiety cause yelling, and yelling makes one more anxious.
Being aware of one’s behaviour, listening to one’s tone of voice and choice of words, and watching one’s body language, all help keep us in check.
Taking a step back and evaluating yourself, having the knowledge of what is happening with you now, helps us to deal with the situation more effectively.
Have a healthy diet, sleep adequately, exercise regularly.
The least we could is- breathe in and breathe out slowly.
Always know- Yelling is never a solution!
FAQS: Anxiety when hearing yelling
Does yelling lead to trauma?
Yes. Yelling can account for trauma, as it becomes an emotional abuse especially for children, who frequently sees their parents abusing and screaming at each other.
How do I control myself when people don’t get my point ?
Situations like these can be frustrating. But always be mindful. Know your emotions. Once you are aware, your emotions then are in your control. Help them understand your view by showing patience.
Does exhibiting anger make me a bad person?
Emotions are part of what makes us different from other species. Controlling emotions is like riding a horse. Always make sure you have the halter in your control that you can guide the horse to the direction you want to go.
Can being yelled at cause anxiety?
Yelling can lead to depression
Many other studies also show a connection between emotional abuse and depression or anxiety. These kinds of symptoms can lead to worsening behavior and can even develop into self-destructive actions, like drug use or an increase in risky sexual activity
Why does screaming give me anxiety?
Being frequently yelled at changes the mind, brain and body in a multitude of ways including increasing the activity of the amygdala (the emotional brain), increasing stress hormones in the blood stream, increasing muscular tension and more
Why does the sound of wind give me anxiety?
Causes. Ancraophobia is never present at birth. The fear of wind most often arises as a result of a negative experience in the person’s past. This experience may or may not be recalled in the conscious mind of the person but this has been imprinted on the subconscious mind.
Does yelling help with anxiety?
Theoretically, screaming can prove to be effective in the reduction of anxiety. It can be potentially beneficial for you if you have kept quiet or are silenced by continuous intimidation or torture. It can further help in reducing aggression, feeling of grief or depression
In this article, we discussed anxiety when hearing yelling and explained why yelling causes anxiety for some of us, how the brain reacts to it and finally how to deal with it.
If you have any questions or comments please let us know.
Neuroscience News. 2020. Being Yelled At: Our Brain On Alert In A Flash. [online] Available at: <https://neurosciencenews.com/yelling-alert-brain-10311/>
David, S., 2020. Recovering From An Emotional Outburst At Work. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: <https://hbr.org/2015/05/recovering-from-an-emotional-outburst-at-work#:~:text=When%20your%20outburst%20is%20anger,by%20a%20sense%20of%20threat.>