Crying/hyperventilating when people are angry

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Hello! I'm a 22 yr-old student with a family history of anxiety problems. I've been having some emotional problems over the last year that I think are related to anxiety, but I'm not sure and I've been having trouble finding resources for how to cope with this online.

My boyfriend of 1.5 years lives with his family, and all of them are very passionate and have short tempers. I come from a very quiet, relaxed family, so seeing people angry isn't something that I'm used to. When my boyfriend or his family members are angry, it's to a pretty normal extent, like how you would see families arguing with each other on a sitcom or something. But whenever it happens, I start to panic like something really horrible is happening. I start to shake and lose control over my breathing, and I want to remove myself from the situation. I'll find myself straining to hear people's conversations from another room just to make sure everything is okay, or my heart will start racing whenever I hear a loud voice.

If my boyfriend specifically is angry, I'll get irrationally upset. In the course of our relationship he has never been angry at me or taken his anger out on me, and he understands that I have trouble handling other people's anger. But if I see him get angry at a video game or his parents, sometimes it sets me off to the point where I can't stop crying and I begin to hyperventilate. I know that there's no real problem or threat, and I have no reason to feel threatened by him, but I just get so upset and scared and I don't know how to control it.

I'm mostly just looking for some resources to figure out what this problem is, if it's even related to anxiety, etc. I would really like to speak with a therapist, but I don't have the financial means to do that for the next few months, so any tips or general guidance on how to cope with this for the time being are appreciated! I have no past history or trauma with people expressing anger, I really just want to find out where this comes from and how to handle it. Thank you!

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Hi Lauretta. You reaction to anger is because you are sensitised. Your nerves and emotions are wide open to any form of emotional disturbance. I remember on one occasion hearing two men having a verbal fight in a restaurant. I was very sensitised then and it took me days to recover. Anger is a very powerful emotion and opens up all sorts of problems both physical and emotional, none of which are mentally healthy.

There may not be any real threat but to your unconscious mind there is. Something in the past of which you are no longer aware  may be triggered by anger in others. How to handle it? Accepting how you feel for the moment can help, and when you can get counselling it may be that the cause can be found. For some obscure reason anger is a threat to you and spells danger. Your unconscious is at wok here and repressed emotions rise to the surface when you feel anger in others. I don't know enough about you to make suggestions other than acceptance of how you feel, which may not help a lot at the moment. The cause needs to be found. It may be childhood event or something closer to your present life. But it is almost always a repressed childhood trauma.

You say you come from a quiet relaxed family, but that does not rule out a traumatic event you have repressed. I could maybe help more if you message me. There may be events it's difficult to discuss on an open forum.   Best wishes.

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