The Mighty Logo

17 Ways Anxiety Presents as Anger Around the Holidays

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

There are a lot of reasons why we struggle around the holidays. Even those without anxiety or other mental illnesses struggle due to the stress and frantic nature of the holiday season. Anxiety, however, makes it a whole lot harder to deal.

If you’re dreading the imminent holiday season, you aren’t alone. Between toxic family members asking uncomfortable questions and the very expectation of festive cheer that permeates this time of year, it can be a hard time for many. I’m dreading it too; I just know there will come a point on Christmas Day when the anxiety gets too much for me, I’ll feel that heat rising and I will inevitably snap.

One of the many ways anxiety manifests is in anger. It’s unpleasant to think about, I know, but it’s an irrefutable fact of our condition; we must find a way to cope, and most importantly not judge ourselves for it. So, if your anxiety presents as anger, know you aren’t alone. That’s why we asked our mental health community for the ways and reasons their anxiety manifests as anger during the holidays. We hope their answers will help you feel a little less alone, or understand your own anxious loved ones a little better this holiday season.

Remember: through it all, you can plan your own holiday self-care to make this season as smooth as possible. You’ve got this!

Here’s what our community had to say:

1. “I would say the worst is the expectations of the holidays from family and friends. Will I meet those expectations? Am I going to fail? Will they like my gift? Will they not like my gift? Everything has to be just right. That anger from anxiety ends up on my wife and I hate it.” — Derek H.

2. “The added stress of the holidays and the financial stress makes me anxious, and I snap at people over little things.” — Liz T.

3. “When plans are made that I have to commit to, I get irritable. I get resentful when I can’t get Christmas shopping done when I want to. I grumble a lot, and then beat myself up when I do buy things without my husband being there. I get really resentful of holiday advertising, of others with better Christmas lights. I also grumble about having to work when Christmas events are happening. Basically, everything feels out of my control.” — Judi A.

4. “When things don’t go as planned, I get very upset which leads to me either crying, getting angry or just shutting down.” — Rebecca B.

5. “I get triggered by having to see family members who have contributed to my trauma, and I feel angry I’m put in those situations year after year, even by those who claim to support my healing journey and my boundaries.” — Lulu B.

6. “When I start cleaning and then an anxiety attack is triggered, it often manifests and a big urge to just throw everything out — like all the dirty dishes and everything. I just want to throw it. And unless I can make myself just sit on the floor and stop cleaning, it will result in at least one broken dish… which often makes the attack even worse.” — Sharon E.

7. “If there’s a crowd, I panic and can lash out, even when it’s family. I don’t go to parties and missed out with my grandad’s 90th birthday as it was in a small room and I knew I could not cope. I did fall ill so gave that as the reason, but I knew I’d panic.” — Danielle M.

8. “Decorating can get stressful at times. When my anxiety starts to get bad, I snap at my family, not because they were doing anything wrong but because the atmosphere just gets so hectic.” — Nikk P.

9. “If there are too many people around, I get irritated by every little thing. It usually gets taken out on my hubby. I’m working on using my anger in more productive ways now. At the end of one day of chaos with too many people, I’m completely done — physically, emotionally and mentally.” — Jasmine G.

10. “The added stress financially and the pressure to be social causes so much anxiety, I end up irritable and impatient with others. I often lash out when I feel the stress piling up on my shoulders.” — Bri R.

11. “Every sound, smell and touch just set me off. Sometimes I just shut off — like totally zone out and disassociate. If things are very chaotic and I can’t run and hide in my bedroom, I will just stare at my phone as a distraction.” — Jody T.

12. “We have a lot of kids in the family. It gets really loud with everyone talking, glasses and plates clinking, kids shouting and running around… I get sensory overload, I get very overwhelmed and I turn into a very grumpy, irritated old man. I feel like fleeing the place, and so I usually go to a quiet place like the bathroom or stand outside the house or in the balcony for a breather.” — Sherifa H.

13. “Every little thing frustrates me. I have to go hide, and then people get passive-aggressively mad at me and it gets worse. But everything like loud breathing, chewing, interrupting… everything ticks me off. I just get so mad inside, and I can’t do anything with it, so I usually text a crisis line.” — Kaitlyn R.

14. “I want to give the world to my family and friends. When money is low, I get anxious and irritated and try to figure it all out.” — Chelsea G.

15. “Huffing and puffing and slamming things and being overwhelmed that no one’s helping and everyone’s in the way, when clearly they have offered to help or all I had to do was ask. My dad didn’t even let me ask for his help this Thanksgiving; he just came in and helped. It was the first holiday I didn’t have a meltdown, where I wanted to just sit and cry, and it was one of the best Thanksgivings I’ve ever had.” — Cyndi L.

16. “The larger amount of people in stores no matter when you go. I get road rage with a cart and need to take a lot of breaks because the sheer number of people is too much for me.” — Caylene G.

17. “I am at the point where just seeing people happy about the holidays pisses me off. Just seeing or hearing Christmas music on the TV irritates me. I am the Grinch.” — Lori H

If you can relate, you’re not alone. Head here for some tips for coping with anxiety-induced anger, and let us know one way you deal with anger in the comments below.

Getty Images photo via Kerkez

Originally published: December 20, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home