7+ Psychological Effects of Being Yelled At(Repeatedly)

Yelling has been associated with mental health issues, where studies have shown a connection between verbal abuse and depression or anxiety. 

Almost everyone hates being yelled at but yelling is now very common in most households. 

If you are a parent, you may have lived under the premise “I just want what is best for my kid” but sometimes you wonder if your parental practices are the best (9, 10, 11, 12). 

Possible psychological effects of being yelled at include:

  1. Anxiety (1,4)
  2. Depression (1)
  3. Stress (1,3)
  4. Autonomic arousal (4)
  5. Interpersonal problems (1)
  6. Sleep issues (5)
  7. Phobias (1)
  8. Adjustment issues (1)

When kids do something considered “wrong” we tend to get frustrated at them because we would want them to understand why what they did was wrong. 

However, expressing that frustration by yelling can have implications for their personality development in the short and long term (13). 

Moreover, we need to consider how yelling can easily turn into verbal abuse and due to its “invisible” nature, compared to physical abuse, it is said to have the same traumatic effect (2, 6, 7).

In this article, we will discuss the psychological effects of being yelled at, especially related to children’s and adolescent’s education, and how to cope with them.

Why do people yell?

People yell, scream and shout for many reasons but mostly because that is the way they think their message will come across or they think it is the most effective way to be heard.

Moreover, they believe it is justifiable since it is part of their communication style and it seems to work for them. 

The problem with yelling and screaming at someone to get heard is that anger is the emotion that takes over, meaning, it is common to be hurtful, humiliating, belittling and disrespectful in the process of communicating the message.

Our society has managed to accept and permit yelling as part of (10):

  • Parenting strategies
  • Teaching and correcting student’s behaviors
  • Get attention from others
  • Assert oneself over another
  • Inciting or stirring up emotions in others
  • Encourage, inspire or stimulate others

Types of yelling

As we have discussed, yelling can be presented in many situations and, the form and motivating factors seem to differ from one to the other. Also, we can add that yelling frequently happens when we are excited, delighted, surprised or in pain (physical or emotional). 

However, if we resort to yelling very often in every aspect of our lives just so we can be heard then we are displaying a lack of self-control, emotional regulation, and an ineffective communication style. 

In many cases, yelling or screaming is considered to help us and others as a warning sign. This means when we perceive a dangerous situation or the probability that something bad might happen we resort to it.

For instance, if someone is crossing the street and we want them to stop because a car is about to hit them we yell. On the other hand, we could yell or scream when we need help. 

We would raise our tone of voice in search of others to help us. Another example would be if we just had an accident, we would probably resort to yelling and screaming so others can hear and help.

However, when we yell to punish or correct someone’s behaviour we may be doing it because we are overwhelmed, out of frustration and desperation over losing control of the situation.

When we are not using yelling to prevent someone from getting harmed or to get help, we can easily fall into the category of emotional and psychological abuse. Turning now to the characteristics of yelling (9), we should observe:

  • How loud (volume) someone can scream or yell.
  • The shrill tone of voice.
  • Body language.
  • The content of the yelling, meaning, being disrespectful, insulting, humiliating, etc.
  • The duration of yelling.
  • The feeling of abandonment.

Short- and Long-Term Effects of Yelling

Children are especially vulnerable, as their brains are still developing. Being frequently yelled at can have severe effects on their mind and body, such as:

A. Yelling may lead to psychological issues

Children who are raised in an environment where they are constantly being yelled at as a way of correcting their behavior, have a higher probability of developing psychological issues such as anxiety, behavioral problems, stress, and depression (10, 13). 

In addition, many researchers and clinicians agree that yelling is considered a form of abuse.

The issue with yelling is that is not as evident or noticeable as physical damage and since it appears to be “silent”, without being aware, we are contributing to our child’s mental health in a very negative way. 

B. Behavioral problems 

As a parent, you may have thought yelling could be the best option for your kids’ bad behavior and you may have even evidenced how they seem to stop when you yell at them. 

However, research (1, 9,11,13) suggests that it could actually create more harm than good in the long term. 

Yelling has been said to make your child’s behaviour get worse, which in term will need more yelling to try to correct it. Your child might develop a negative affect. 

Teenagers who are regularly yelled at are more likely to have conduct problems. Additionally, if there is constant yelling, the behavior becomes ingrained and in the end, they will reproduce the ineffective ways of communicating you have taught them later on in life (1, 9,11,13).

C. Effects on the brain

Yelling alongside harsh parenting strategies can change your children’s brain development. The reason behind it is simply that the human brain seems to process perceived negative emotional information and events more quickly than positive ones.

Moreover, researchers agree that sight and hearing are two of the major senses that allow human beings to detect threatening and potentially harmful situations (8).

This has a scientific explanation since it has been shown that our brain can quickly differentiate between an angry and a happy voice (8, 9, 11, 12). 

A study from 2010 showed how being exposed to parental verbal aggression during childhood, increased the risk of developing a mental health disorder such as mood or anxiety disorders (13).

They compared MRI scans between a group that had a history of verbal abuse and a group that didn’t, where they found the brain structure changed in the areas responsible for sound and language processing. 

In addition, the long-term effects of a verbally abusive parent can follow into adulthood, where there seems to be a higher risk of developing physical health issues due to long-term exposure to stress (13).

This means that when parents yell at their toddler, who has an underdeveloped brain (specifically the pre-frontal cortex), then their brain will start to release neurochemicals that will lead to either fighting the possible threat, running away from it or freezing, but none of those options is considered good. 

In the long term, it can lead to low self-esteem, poor self-image, anxiety, depression, and increased aggression, due to the constant activation of our flight or fight response (9, 10, 11). 

In this sense, 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 bloodstream, increasing muscular tension and more. 

Being frequently yelled at as children changes how we think and feel about ourselves even after we become adults and leave home (9, 10, 11, 13).

Promoting family health regarding yelling

As a parent, it can be easy to lose your temper, especially if you have been exposed to stressful situations such as financial problems, meeting deadlines at work or conflicts with your partner. 

Taking a step back and seeing the bigger picture will help us modify our behaviour. Drawing a line between those situations and how you discipline your kid is difficult if you tend to behave the same way in every context. 

Being aware of your behavior, your own tone of voice and the words you use when yelling at your child requires practice, but it is not impossible.

As human beings, we tend to replicate our parents, caregivers or relatives’ behavioral patterns, sometimes without even being aware of it. 

Moreover, our own childhood experiences (good or bad) will mould our behavioral patterns and how we interact with the surrounding people, especially our kids.

If you are one of the parents who resort to yelling as a strategy to stop your child from behaving in a certain way, then we recommend considering the following (2, 9 ,10, 11, 12):

  • Children have emotional needs that need proper tending. In consequence, if your child’s needs are met, then they may develop skills to face life’s challenges more easily.
  • Learn the basics of emotions and how you can help your child to recognize and manage them.
  • You can have a positive effect by being compassionate and kind, encouraging their curiosity about the world.
  • If you tend to lose your temper easily, seek some advice on how to handle your emotions and ways to cope with them. 

There are many benefits associated with not yelling, starting by being more in control of our emotions and displaying resilience during challenging situations. 

In addition, we will acquire better communication skills meaning, a healthier way of communicating. Also, remember how we are role models not only for kids but for the people we interact with every day. Instead, try practising the following (2, 9 ,10, 11, 12):

  • Active listening: when we are having a conversation with someone, it is easy for one or both parts to disengage or misinterpret the message. Try committing to the conversation and do not interrupt the speaker, you will get your turn. 
  • Be empathetic: this is one of the hardest things to do for many people. When we need to deliver a message and want the receiver to understand what we are feeling or thinking, we forget how important it is to acknowledge what the other person is feeling or thinking. 
  • The tone of voice: try to have a tone of voice that reflects you are calm. It is very easy to raise your tone of voice and the volume so you can be heard at any cost, but by doing this you are not guaranteeing the message will be received as you expect. 

Why is this article about the psychological effects of being yelled at, important?

This article about the psychological effects of being yelled is important to bring awareness about how yelling and shouting can affect others without leaving a physical mark on them. 

However, the psychological pain and discomfort that comes with it, are very real and harmful.

If we keep using this as our main way of communicating we could have problems in our relationships with others. If used as a parenting style, it can develop into depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, problems with self-image, among others. 

This can be dragged from childhood to adulthood, where they could have issues managing their emotions, behaviours and even long-term brain effects regarding brain functioning. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the psychological effects of being yelled at

How does yelling affect the brain?

Yes, during our childhood our brains are more susceptible.

Being yelled at frequently has the power to change our brain, and neuronal pathways and increase the activity of a structure called the amygdala, which is responsible for our emotional responses. 

What is the fear of being yelled at?

The fear of being yelled at is known as phonophobia, ligyrophobia or sonophobia.

This is the aversion to loud noises or sounds.

However, if our emotional reaction to being yelled at involves crying then we could have developed anxiety. 

What are the effects of shouting at a child?

There are several effects of shouting a child.

Yelling at a child is not the best way to stop the child from engaging in disruptive behavior.

The psychological effects of yelling at a child can have long-term effects such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, low self-image, and increased aggression. 

What happens to a child’s brain when you yell?

Your child’s brain reacts to yelling with heightened activity in the amygdala.

The result is that their brain will be prepared to respond to the perceived threat by running (fear and anxiety) or fighting (increasing aggression).

These types of behaviors are learned instinctively when there is a threat perceived or something/someone that could potentially harm them. 

What is Klazomania?

Klazomania can be used to refer to compulsive shouting.

It can also be associated with certain behaviors such as echolalia, palilalia, and coprolalia, which are common in tic disorders.

However, it is said to be frequent in people with encephalitis lethargica, alcohol abuse, and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Please feel free to comment in the comments section!


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