Expert reveals 5 forms of adult tantrums in everyday life

Some of the common causes of frequent meltdowns are unmanaged emotions. Picture: Ron Lach/Pexels

Some of the common causes of frequent meltdowns are unmanaged emotions. Picture: Ron Lach/Pexels

Published Mar 7, 2024


Tantrums are synonymous with children but there are times when, as adults, we wish we could just roll over and cry it out.

This is not entirely a bad thing because as experts say, sometimes crying it out and going straight through it is one way of dealing with trauma and uncomfortable situations.

Adult tantrums, though often overlooked, can manifest in daily interactions and significantly impact personal and professional relationships.

Clinical psychologist and mental health advocate Dr Kyle Leo sheds light on the explosive moments that mirror childhood behaviour and explains their appearance in adult life.

@drkyleo We’ve all had our moments but if this is happening regularly it may be indicative of a larger issue. #fyp #mentalhealth #funny #redflags #psychologist #psychologistsoftiktok #mentalhealthmatters #therapy ♬ Just A Girl (From "Clueless") - Soundtrack Wonder Band

Yelling over people to be heard

Yelling over people to be heard is a common sign of an adult tantrum. This reflects an overwhelming need to control the conversation and ensure one’s voice dominates.

It is often driven by a deep-seated frustration or a fear of being ignored.

Sometimes, the inability to regulate emotions is the result of an underlying problem. Picture: Davide Manzini /Unsplash

It’s a desperate attempt to maintain control or avoid being overlooked. The behaviour often escalates conversations into confrontations.

Refusing to participate when things don’t go your way

Refusing to participate when things don’t go your way could signify an inability to cope with disappointment in a mature manner. This could lead to withdrawal and a breakdown in communication, proving counter-productive in social and professional spheres.

The passive-aggressive response to dissatisfaction or disappointment could lead an adult to withdraw, in essence opting out of resolution and dialogue.

Throwing things when you’re angry or frustrated

Another troubling manifestation is throwing things when you’re angry or frustrated, a clear indicator of uncontrolled anger and a lack of coping mechanisms.

Such behaviour poses not just a relational but also a potential physical risk to those nearby.

A physical demonstration of unmanaged anger could result in relational and physical harm.

Storming off in the middle of a conversation

Storming off in the middle of a conversation signifies a tipping point where an adult’s capacity to engage constructively collapses, often leaving unresolved issues and strained relationships in their wake.

Such abrupt departures betray an overwhelmed emotional state and often leave issues unsettled and relationships strained.

Leo says some adults might resort to shutting down or giving the silent treatment, a passive-aggressive approach to conflict that could erode trust and intensify tension over time.

The response sabotages communication and might give rise to a destructive cycle of tension and resentment.

Lying to prove your point

One of the more insidious behaviours is lying to prove your point. The breach of integrity undermines relationships, reflecting a deep-seated need to win an argument at the expense of honesty and respect.

An adult’s integrity falls into question when they fabricate truths to emerge victorious in an argument, sacrificing honesty for the sake of ego.

Understanding the phenomena is essential in navigating adult relationships and promoting emotional intelligence.

While tantrums are often seen through the lens of childhood, recognising their presence in adults ushers in a critical conversation on emotional regulation and mental health support for all ages.