Why Do People Lash Out?

Published on August 21, 2019

Lashing out can happen for multiple reasons.  Sometimes the person who lashes out feels a temporary release of stress and anger, but might later feel embarrassed or ashamed.  Lashing out can be a response to past trauma, a self-protective response or a way to control and devalue others. If you are on the receiving end of the lashing out, you might feel hurt and frightened. Hurtful words might be directed at you, which might lower your self-worth.  Here are some of the reasons people lash out and how you can handle it:


Sometimes people lash out so that they can reject before they get rejected.  This is a way for the person lashing out to feel safe in vulnerable situations where they feel that they might be rejected or abandoned.  It is a way for the person to feel more in control, which makes them feel safer.  If this is the case, when the person has calmed down, you can ask them why they lashed out.  They might tell you for self-protection. Remind this person that lashing out only pushes you away.  This is opposite of what they want, which is to keep their relationship with you. 

Past trauma

Some people who have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or who are recovering from a trauma or a loss might lash out because they go into fight or flight mode when they are feeling threatened.  In this case, the person usually feels ashamed after the lashing out. Have an honest conversation with them about how the lashing out made you feel and encourage them to communicate in an assertive, not aggressive way.  Ask them what they need to feel safe and what their triggers are.   

For a reaction

Sometimes people push buttons and lash out to see what your reaction will be.  If you react, they might feel like you still care. This is a dangerous game to play because your reaction might reinforce the lashing out.  It is also possible that the person wants you to react because they feel that you are too calm, and they need some validation. Other people might also want you to react so that they can observe what upsets you so that in the future they can use that against you.  Remind the lashing out person that you will not tolerate or comment on hurtful statements.

To devalue and control

Though most people lash out and regret it afterwards, some people lash out on purpose and feel no remorse.  This person wants to devalue you through hurtful comments so that they can control or manipulate you. If you have low self-worth, you are easier to turn into a co-dependent person.  If you believe this is the case, come up with an exit strategy to remove this person from your life. There is no point trying to communicate with this person because anything you say can be used against you in the future.  This is a person that might become abusive.


Some people are just overwhelmed.  They bottle up their stress and emotions. When it becomes too much, they explode on the person closest to them.  In this situation, try to speak as calmly as possible to the person without taking it personally.  Try to show empathy. Conflict will only escalate the situation.  

If you are lashing out

If you are the person lashing out, ask yourself why you do it.  If it is for self-protection, recognise that it is hurting the other person and that eventually, they will tire of the abuse.  If it is an impulsive act, try some self-soothing techniques to slow down the impulsive response. Tell the other person that you need to calm down, but you will discuss the matter with them shortly and then give them a time frame.  When you have calmed down, use communication that is not hurtful. Hurtful communication is anything that is degrading, devaluing or name-calling. If you are lashing out because of past trauma, you might need help from a professional. Recognise what your triggers are and communicate them to the other person so that they understand that you do not mean the hurtful words that you say.  If you are looking for a reaction, ask yourself why. Is there a healthier way to get your needs met? What is it that you are trying to accomplish with the lashing out and how can you accomplish that in a way that doesn’t push people away? What am I ruminating about that is making me tense?


It is important that you can assess your actions to understand your triggers and what is causing it. You can follow the tips above or seek an advice from a professional. To setup an appointment with Dr Monica Borschel, please contact +852 2521 4668 or email m.borschel@mindnlife.com

Photo by Stock Photography on Unsplash

Category(s):Abuse / Abuse Survivor Issues, Anger Management, Emotional Intelligence, Relationships & Marriage, Stress Management

Written by:

Dr Monica Borschel

Welcome! My passion is to help you find inner peace and emotional comfort within yourself and your relationships.

As social creatures, our relationships significantly shape our happiness, well-being, and sense of self-worth. Unfortunately, many of us have experienced relationship-related traumas, which can leave us with emotional scars that require recovery.

Attachment traumas, such as divorce, break-ups, infidelity, neglect, and abuse, can be challenging. As an expert in attachment, loss, and trauma, I have spent many years studying how attachment styles can shift with loss and trauma.

I have seen how healthy relationships can lead to secure attachment and how insecure attachment can create turmoil in our lives. I aim to guide you toward cultivating healthy relationships with yourself, your children, your co-parent, and your romantic partner.

I can help you develop new attachment strategies that will allow you to form deeper connections and bonds with those around you. And, if you have children, I can also assist you in establishing secure attachments with both parents, which can be especially helpful in cases of separation or divorce.

I am originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, where I completed my Bachelor of Science in Psychology at The University of Utah. From there, I moved to New York City, earning my Master’s in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University. I then pursued my Doctorate in Social Work and Social Administration at the University of Hong Kong. I lived and worked in Hong Kong as a practicing Clinical Psychologist from 2010-2020. I reside in California and am pursuing my Doctorate in Psychology (PsyD) at California Southern University. My training and qualifications include certifications in Brainspotting and High Conflict Coaching.

These tools, combined with my extensive knowledge and experience in the field, enable me to offer you the guidance and support you need to recover from past traumas and build healthy relationships.

My approach to therapy is empathetic, supportive, and tailored to your unique needs. Every person can grow, and thrive. I am committed to helping you achieve your goals. So, whether you are struggling with relationship issues, divorce, abuse, attachment traumas, or other challenges, I am here to help you find the peace and comfort you deserve.

Email me at info@doctormonicaborschel.com or call the MindnLife Clinic at 852 2521 4668