What causes tantrums in adults? (+5 Coping strategies)

By

Author bio

Page last updated: 12/11/2022

In this detailed article, we will be discussing what causes tantrums in adults. We will also be checking out the different types of tantrums adults can have and how to cope with these through easy strategies.

What causes tantrums in adults?

Tantrums in adults are caused by reasons such as,

Attention-seeking behavior

Many times, temper tantrums are thrown by adults as a type of attention seeking behavior. This can seem silly but is often a sign of emotional upheaval or some distress that the person is going through.

If a person has been feeling too neglected by their partner or their family or even their friends, they might throw a temper tantrum to get the attention on their side. This can also be followed by over-apologizing and episodes of crying.

Problems in emotional regulation

Many times, adults throw temper tantrums not just because they feel angry or frustrated, but because they do not know how to properly manage their emotions. This can come as a result of bad parenting during their childhood or if they have learned maladaptive coping behaviors.

Emotional regulation is often a skillset that everyone learns the hard way. But in some cases, this can be wrongly learnt or simply unlearnt when something traumatic happens in life. Therefore, it is not only traumatizing for those who are throwing the tantrum but even for those near them.

Substance abuse

Substance abuse of drugs, pills, medication can also lead to temper tantrums in adults. Even alcohol can make a person throw a temper tantrum. This is because substances like this can interfere with the coherence and self-control in the person.

The effects of the substance may also be accelerated if the person already has been diagnosed with an addiction or abusive problem. In many cases, the temper tantrums not only come by because of the substance itself, but because of the feelings of guilt the person experiences.

High levels of stress

If the person has been undergoing high levels of stress that they are not able to cope with, this can also lead them to throwing a temper tantrum. For example, the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and its following lockdowns led to temper tantrums in many adults.

Similarly, highly stressful situations, especially if there are multiple stress factors involved and the person has not been able to cope well with them all at once, can lead to temper tantrums in adults.

Pent up feelings of frustration

Even if the person has been harboring resentment or frustration about a certain matter for long periods of time, temper tantrums can be thrown by them. This is the reason why mental health professionals emphasize a lot on healthy venting or expression.

In this case, the temper tantrum can even be thrown by someone who is pretty unlikely to do such a thing. Temper tantrums can be a sort of coping behavior used by the person subconsciously and can appear in many overt or covert ways.

Mental health conditions

Certain mental health conditions can also lead the person to throw a temper tantrum. Some examples of the mental health conditions can lead to temper tantrums in adults include:

  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Depression
  • Anxiety Disorder
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Tourette syndrome

Types of tantrums in adults

Adults may not show the same type of temper tantrums as kids. The temper tantrums can be demonstrated through a number of ways as described in this section.

The typical anger outburst

This is the most common type of temper tantrum that can be seen in adults. In this type of temper tantrum, the person may shout loudly and throw things or even break things. At this time, they may even harm someone else and can be considered dangerous.

Silent treatment

Other types of temper tantrums are not overtly violent. The person may simply shutdown and become quiet all of a sudden. However, this does not mean they will not be addressing the other person in the room.

They might physically not let the other person go and may lock the door to block them from leaving. At times, the silent treatment can be the stage before the explosive anger outburst and may lead the person to become aggressive with further prodding.

Crying and whining

Other times, the temper tantrum can also be in the form of crying and whining. The person may throw a huge crying fit and may even insult the other person when they are doing so. The crying may also be loud enough to get the attention of surrounding people to their side.

How to cope with tantrums in adults?

If you are an adult who throws tantrums or simply know another adult who throws tantrums, you can use the strategies listed below to deal with the situation. These strategies can be used by you directly or can even be communicated to others to help you and them in the situation.

Change your perspective

Changing your perspective about the situation and the problem can also help you cope with the tantrum. In case of a tussle in a relationship, try to stop thinking of something as your partner’s problem and instead think of it as yours.

This can seem like it can make the situation worse, but actually it gives you more control over it since it is your issue to deal with. Taking control over it and more charge over it can divert your anger and rage in a more constructive manner.

Change the environment

You can also try simply changing your situation. You can leave the room and simply go out for a walk. Staying in the physical environment where you have gotten triggered can make you even more angry and frustrated.

Sometimes, just walking away can upset those around you, especially if they are new to your process. Therefore, it becomes important that you communicate your means of coping beforehand, while assuring them that you will be back.

Try deep breathing

Another great coping strategy that you can use is deep breathing. Deep breathing or abdominal breathing can reduce your stress levels immediately and make you feel more grounded. You can also try other breathing exercises like colorful breathing or box breathing.

If you find breathing exercises too monotonous, you can also take the support of your partner to breathe along with you or even use a guided script for this. Some people also use music as a means of cueing them through the process of relaxation.

Be aware of your trigger factors

Perhaps the most important thing is to simply become aware of your trigger factors. When you are aware of what triggers off your tantrums, you can avoid situations that can get you worked up or ask supportive friends and partners to steer clear of those topics.

Try a physical activity

Maybe this may be clichéd due to Hollywood, but physical activity can also help you let off your steam in a positive and helpful manner. Showing your physical rage on another object and engaging in activities like boxing, chopping and breaking can also help you vent.

You can also try participating in art or other forms of creativity. Painting and sketching when you are angry enough to throw a tantrum can help you vent in a positive manner and also help you come up with an end product to keep track of your progress.

Conclusion

In this detailed article, we have discussed what causes tantrums in adults. We have also checked out the different types of tantrums adults can have and how to cope with these through easy strategies.

If you like this article, please post your comments and questions in the space below.

Citations

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/intermittent-explosive-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20373921#
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intermittent_explosive_disorder
https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/what-is-intermittent-explosive-disorder
https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/tantrum
https://www.howtherapyworks.com/blog/tift-46-adult-temper-tantrums
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK544286/
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/adhd-and-anger-in-adults
https://www.wsj.com/articles/covid-19-adult-pandemic-tantrum-11631743724