The Psychological Effects of Being Yelled At

Being yelled at has significant effects on both the body and the brain. The psychological effects of being yelled at include increased stress, anxiety, and depression. 

Living with verbal abuse from a parent, spouse, or loved one can change how you think about yourself. Verbal abuse usually involves using psychological force to cause emotional pain.

This article will provide an overview of the psychological effects of being yelled at and how to cope with them.

Couple in a fight where the woman is jealous

EmirMemedovski / Getty Images

What Are Some Detrimental Characteristics of Yelling?

Yelling is a common occurrence in most households, and it’s estimated that about 90% of American parents have reported using harsh verbal discipline at least once. This tends to use psychological force to cause emotional pain or discomfort. The purpose of yelling is usually to control another person’s behavior. 

Severe verbal discipline takes yelling to a new level and is more harmful. It may include swearing, cursing, name-calling, or insulting. This severe verbal discipline has been associated with conduct problems in children and adolescents. It may also lead to higher physical aggression, delinquency, and interpersonal problems.

The Psychological Effects of Being Yelled At

There are several psychological effects of being yelled at, and they can vary by individual experience. 


Children who grow up in a house with frequent yelling are more likely to develop anxiety in adolescence. This may be due to the higher levels of stress they experience. 

Symptoms of anxiety may include:

  • Frequent worries
  • Withdrawing from social life
  • Panic attacks
  • Recurrent nightmares 


Yelling frequently can lead to depression in teenagers. Studies show that when parents use severe verbal discipline on 13-year-olds, those teens are more likely to develop behavioral problems and symptoms of depression.

Symptoms of depression may include:

  • Low mood
  • Agitation
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating 


It’s not surprising to learn that being yelled at is a stressful experience. Harsh verbal punishment leads to chronic stress over time. Yelling is also stressful for the yellers themselves. Research shows that parental yelling can lead to behavioral problems in adolescents. At the same time, adolescents who display behavioral problems raise the risk of parents yelling to address the behavior. 

Autonomic Arousal 

People who are frequently yelled at tend to be in a state of autonomic arousal most of the time. Autonomic arousal includes the “fight or flight” response. For example, you may notice a faster heart rate or shallow breathing. A study found that children and teens who are anxious experience autonomic arousal. 

Behavioral Problems

Yelling can affect the behavioral and emotional development of adolescents. Teenagers who are regularly yelled at are more likely to have conduct problems. This can lead to more yelling from parents to control the behavior.

Interpersonal Problems

Being yelled at can lead to interpersonal problems for adolescents. Children and teens yelled at by their parents develop a biased view of their parent-child relationship. They tend not to trust their parents as much as other children do. Adolescents with a history of verbal abuse are more likely to be suspicious of and aggressive toward others. 

Low Self-Esteem 

When you are yelled at frequently, it can affect how you see yourself. Adolescents tend to adopt negative views of themselves when a parent uses insults in their yelling. For example, if a parent repeatedly told you that you were lazy, you would likely adopt this belief about yourself. 

Sleep Issues

It’s common for those who are frequently yelled at to have problems with their sleep. Adolescents who are verbally abused report trouble both falling and staying asleep. Individuals who experience anxiety and stress are also more likely to have sleep problems. 

Adjustment Issues

Being yelled at over time can lead to issues with adjustment and attachment. Individuals subjected to harsh verbal punishment at age 13 are more likely to develop conduct problems and depressive symptoms at age 14. Yelling causes decreased self-confidence, which can also cause individuals to become less social. 

Physical Health Problems 

In addition to the psychological harm, yelling also leads to physical health problems. A study found that severe verbal punishment, like insulting a child, is linked to an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and asthma in adulthood.

How Does Yelling Affect the Brain?

Being yelled at can change the brain over time. For example, one study found that individuals who experienced verbal abuse from their parents had increased amounts of gray matter in the brain's temporal lobe. This area is responsible for communication and language processing. Changes in the brain region are also seen in individuals with autism.

Why Do People Yell?

There are several reasons why someone might yell. Yelling is often used to try to control another person or situation. Yelling may be used as a discipline by parents, teachers, or coaches. 

An individual may use yelling to try to assert themselves or gain attention. Research shows that yelling is rarely a single event. Most people who yell tend to do it frequently. 

Avoiding Yelling at Others

After reviewing all the harm that yelling can cause, you may feel ashamed of any time you have yelled in the past. While we all lose our tempers from time to time, it is possible to yell less. 

To avoid yelling, it’s important to stay aware of your own emotions and notice when you’re feeling angry or out of control. When you notice these feelings come up, try one of the following techniques:

  • Try to listen more than you talk.
  • Practice empathy for the other person.
  • Speak slower and softer than you usually would.
  • Make your expectations clear.
  • Ask for help when you feel overwhelmed.

Coping With the Effects of Being Yelled At

Being yelled at is emotionally draining, and the effects can be long-lasting. So it’s important to get the help you need. First, consider meeting with a therapist or psychologist to cope with the verbal abuse and plan how to handle it. Other ways to take care of yourself include:

  • Take care of your body by eating healthy foods, finding ways to be active, and getting enough sleep.
  • Practice mindfulness and relaxation exercises.
  • Find supportive people to talk with when you need help.

If you feel unsafe at home or in one of your current relationships, seek help right away. Talk with a trusted healthcare provider, social worker, or teacher. If you can, remove yourself from the abusive relationship. 


Being yelled at has significant effects on both the body and the brain. The psychological effects of being yelled at include anxiety, depression, and interpersonal problems. Other psychological effects of being yelled at include stress, autonomic arousal, behavioral problems, low self-esteem, and sleep problems. To yell less, focus on staying aware of your emotions and getting help when you’re overwhelmed. 

A Word From Verywell

Yelling and being yelled at are emotional experiences. Everyone loses their patience sometimes, but it is important to avoid harsh verbal punishments like insults, name-calling, and cursing. If you are being yelled at frequently in your current relationships, get the care you need. Consider talking with your healthcare provider or mental healthcare provider. If you feel unsafe at home, seek help right away.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can being yelled at cause anxiety?

    Yes, being yelled at has been found to lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

  • What can you do after being yelled at?

    After being yelled at, it is important to make your safety the main priority. Remove yourself from the situation if you can. Talk with someone you can trust, and consider trying mindfulness or relaxation exercises to calm down.

  • Can you be traumatized by yelling?

    Yes, over time, verbal abuse can be traumatizing for children and adults alike. To protect yourself from the psychological harm of being yelled at, talk with a trusted healthcare provider, social worker, or teacher about how to address the situation.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Wang MT, Kenny S. Longitudinal links between fathers' and mothers' harsh verbal discipline and adolescents' conduct problems and depressive symptoms. Child Dev. 2014;85(3):908-923. doi:10.1111/cdev.12143

  2. National Alliance on Mental Health. The problem with yelling.

  3. Good Therapy. When yelling is a pattern.

  4. Rozenman M, Sturm A, McCracken JT, Piacentini J. Autonomic arousal in anxious and typically developing youth during a stressor involving error feedback. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2017;26(12):1423-1432. doi:10.1007/s00787-017-1001-3

  5. Teicher MH, Ohashi K, Khan A, et al. Does sleep disruption mediate the effects of childhood maltreatment on brain structure? Eur J Psychotraumatol. 2018;8(Suppl 7):1450594. doi:10.1080/20008198.2018.1450594

  6. Hyland ME, Alkhalaf AM, Whalley B. Beating and insulting children as a risk for adult cancer, cardiac disease and asthma. J Behav Med. 2013;36(6):632-640. doi:10.1007/s10865-012-9457-6

  7. Tomoda A, Sheu YS, Rabi K, et al. Exposure to parental verbal abuse is associated with increased gray matter volume in superior temporal gyrus. Neuroimage. 2011;54(Suppl 1):S280-S286. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.05.027

  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tips for coping with stress.

By Carrie Madormo, RN, MPH
Carrie Madormo, RN, MPH, is a health writer with over a decade of experience working as a registered nurse. She has practiced in a variety of settings including pediatrics, oncology, chronic pain, and public health.