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What Triggers Adult Temper Tantrums?

NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- With the holiday season in full swing--so are angry meltdowns. You may have already witnessed one or two at a department store or the airport.

And while it's true that the holidays can be stressful for many, what is it that really makes people snap this and other times of the year? CBS 2's Kristine Johnson explores "adult temper tantrums."

It happens all the time -- children throwing temper tantrums.

It can be difficult situation for parents to deal with, especially in public, but what if it's not your child pitching a fit -- but your spouse or friend having an adult temper tantrum?

"I'm a yeller for sure," 22-year-old Alexander La Salle said.

La Salle said he knows what it's like.

"I get hot. I start shaking. I get jittery," La Salle said.

But what really sets him off?

"Simple things such as going to a supermarket and in the 10 items or less line you see someone with 50 items," La Salle said.

It's enough to get anyone hot under the collar, but not everyone actually lashes out.

So what makes a person react like this?

"People who have repeated temper tantrums and blow up on other people do that because they can, because they feel entitled and they feel that other people should tolerate that type of behavior," said Dr. Igor Galynker of the Beth Israel Medical Center Department of Psychiatry.

Galynker said for anyone nearby it can be very upsetting.

"My stomach starts feeling uncomfortable and I want to just hide," said Elena Megaro of the Lower East Side.

"It can make you a little bit anxious because you don't know how this person is going to react," Rolston Cyril Watts added.

Galynker said adult temper tantrums are no different than those of children. They're all about control.

"Maybe they have a permissive spouse that would allow them to behave like or had parents who never set limits," Dr. Galynker said.

Galynker said this kind of bad behavior is often exhibited by celebrities and athletes who think the rules don't apply to them. There was pitcher Randy Johnson pushing a photographer or supermodel Naomi Campbell, who after several public outbursts, was ordered to undergo anger management classes and perform community service. And remember the recording of a frustrated Alec Baldwin berating his daughter over the phone?

"When somebody throws a temper tantrum people who are with them should actually back off," Dr. Galynker said.

But when things calm down, Galynker said, you must reiterate this type of behavior won't be tolerated.

"They'll do it again and again and continue to do it until there are consequences," Galynker said.

La Salle said his stressful job often fuels his short fuse, but he's learning more and more to just let things go.

"If you're upset, you're upset, what can you do about it? Just move on," La Salle said.

Doctors said when people get angry their pulse rate soars. If it climbs above 100 it can actually interfere with rational thinking. One tip to calm down quickly is to count to 10. In some cases counseling may be warranted.

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