Anger is often a tricky emotion to express in adulthood, but for many, it was even trickier to express in childhood. If you can relate to having unaddressed anger from childhood, you’re not alone.
Maybe you grew up in a household where it wasn’t safe to express your emotions, so your anger went unaddressed. Maybe you grew up with a mental illness and because struggling was your norm, you didn’t realize you were actually deeply upset about your circumstances. Or maybe you were being abused and your deep anger was constantly repressed so you could survive.
Whatever your unique situation was, we want you to know your feelings matter and you are not alone in your experiences. We wanted to know how people knew, in hindsight, that they actually had unaddressed anger from childhood, so we turned to our community. Below they shared the signs they could recognize now as adults that they had unaddressed anger in childhood.
Here’s what our community shared with us:
“When I was younger, like 11 or 12, I used to be really destructive… punch walls, break things, you name it. Now that I am 19, I have learned to control it. I still get very angry and have the urge to destroy things, but my mental state has gotten a lot stronger.” — Savannah R.
“I became very defensive. As if everyone was against me. I’m realizing now through therapy that I do it and most of the time, people just don’t realize what they are doing. It’s not personal and I’m not that special that people are plotting schemes against me.” — Chris B.
“Fighting a lot, especially with siblings.” — Connor B.
“I had migraines at 6 years old and developed chronic back pain at 10. Started self-harming before my age hit double digits and in the beginning, I believe it was more anger-driven than the result of depression. I developed an eating disorder in early middle school because I needed to turn my anger towards myself lest I completely lose what was left of my sanity. I’m processing all the anger now in my early 20s and finding so much beauty in life. I had to learn how to allow myself to enjoy things again without tainting them with my negative view of the world. I still don’t have that part down, but I will someday.” — Jillian S.
“I spent most of the day listening to music with my headphones on. Looking back on the lyrics of the songs I loved back then made me realize I really connected to the anger in the music. I honestly didn’t realize I was mad or angry at all when I was a teenager, I was so busy hiding my anxiety and depression, trying to be like everyone else.” — Miranda C.
“My brain would shut off all higher functions when I got angry. I still have problems forming sentences and thinking coherently when I’m angry. I wasn’t allowed to express frustration or anger at home when I was young, and instead swallowed most of it.” — Mary C.
“I would cry at the drop of a hat and without words to explain why. Then I would cry more, because I would be hurting and I don’t like feeling my anger.” — Tatauq M.
“I was so angry that I literally took it out on myself. The cutting, the eating disorders, the suicide attempt — all out of the pure hatred I had for myself. And it never helped when people just told me to ‘calm down.’ You don’t know the war that’s going on in my head every day… I was never taught as a child how to deal with anger — such intense anger. And it just manifested into something really ugly the older I got.” — Brianna P.
“Honestly, some of the panic attacks I get. I don’t know how to handle anger appropriately without self-harming so, when I won’t let myself do that again, I’m left with nothing but an outburst of every emotion I have. Many people have called them tantrums and such but I just honestly don’t know how to deal with anger. It’s confusing and scary.” — Elizabeth C.
“Whenever I got angry I would not be able to understand what I was feeling. My face would get hot, heart would race, feel faint and turn inside myself. Sometimes I would dissociate, [feel] frozen and [be] unable to communicate.” — Julia L.
“Random emotional outbursts, almost daily, in class hoping my teacher would know I was hurting and help me.” — Joanna S.
“I shut down and can’t concentrate on anything else when I’m angry. I can’t let it go. It consumes me.” — Lindsay G.
“Every time I’d start feeling like I was getting angry/upset my heart would beat really fast, my stomach would get all tied up in knots and there’d be a ‘whoosh’ of blood in my head. It still happens to this day.” — Leslie J.
Article by Juliette Virzi for The Mighty