It’s natural for people’s emotions to fluctuate — after all, life is full of ups and downs — but there’s a distinction to be made between experiencing a wide range of emotions and reacting to every situation in an extreme manner. Experts say there are some early symptoms of someone being emotionally unstable; paying attention to how their behavior changes and how they regulate their emotions is crucial to know their mental health. Not everyone who feels a wide range of emotions is emotionally unstable, but there are several telltale signs that someone isn’t in control of their emotions and may require assistance.
According to psychologist Dr. Ashley B. Hampton, Ph.D., “emotionally unstable” denotes “some unpredictability in emotions and reactions to circumstances.” “For instance, suppose an incident occurs, and one expects a specific reply but instead obtains an entirely other response.” Emotionally unstable people can have personality disorders like Borderline Personality Disorder, but they can also have mental illnesses like depression or anxiety, as well as concerns like loss or trauma.
Your mood swings can be severe if you have an emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD), as your emotions change. It can be exhausting to bounce from ecstatic happiness to crushing feelings of grief all in the same day. Dr. Sylvia Tang, one of our professional psychiatrists, spoke with us about personality disorder and the indicators to look for if you or a loved one may be suffering from it.
What Does Emotionally Unstable Mean
People used to believe that someone with borderline personality disorder (BPD) was “on the cusp” between psychosis and neurosis (anxiety/depression). We now know a lot more about BPD, and it is the subject of more research than any other personality disorder.
However, there is a great deal of stigma associated with personality disorders. People with a borderline personality disorder may be labeled in derogatory ways. Whether they have a personality disorder or another mental disease, no one is ever merely their diagnosis. There is hope and assistance available.
What exactly is it?
What is the definition of a personality disorder?
A personality disorder is a set of feelings, beliefs, and behaviors that has lasted for a long time. Personality disorders have an impact on how you perceive yourself, how you react to the environment around you, how you deal with emotions, and how you negotiate relationships. A personality disorder does not indicate that something is wrong with your personality; rather, it indicates that you have a long-term pattern of feelings, ideas, and emotions that produces problems.
What is the definition of borderline personality disorder?
A borderline personality disorder is a mental ailment that affects how you interact with others and with yourself. If you have a borderline personality disorder, you may believe there is something fundamentally wrong with you—you may feel “flawed” or “worthless,” or you may not even have a strong idea of who you are. Your moods may be severe and fluctuate frequently, and you may struggle to control impulses or cravings. You may find it difficult to trust others and be terrified of being abandoned or alone.
BPD is characterized by five types of symptoms: erratic behavior, erratic emotions, erratic relationships, erratic sense of self, and erratic awareness.
Unstable behavior occurs when you act on impulses or desires frequently, even when they harm you or others. The following are some examples of impulse control issues:
- Suicide attempt or contemplation
- Intentionally injuring yourself, such as by cutting or burning your flesh (self-harm)
- High-risk behaviors such as excessive spending, binge eating, or problematic substance use
Your moods can be severe and shift extremely rapidly if you have unstable emotions. Here are some instances of unstable emotions:
- Severe depression, anxiety, or irritation that lasts only a few hours or days and is usually triggered by a stressful incident.
- Excessive rage or inability to restrain the rage
- Irrational boredom
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You have a hard time keeping relationships with other individuals if your relationships are unstable. Here are some examples of relationship issues:
- Making every effort to avoid being abandoned or alone.
- Feeling as if you don’t know who you are or how you feel about yourself, or having a highly unstable sense of who you are and how you feel about yourself
- Intense relationships in which you frequently switch between seeing the other person as ‘all nice’ or ‘all evil’ on the spur of the moment.
You don’t have a good sense of who you are as a person if you have an unstable sense of identity. The following are some examples of a shaky sense of self:
- Feeling as if you don’t know who you are
- Having an unstable sense of self-identity and how you feel about yourself
- Consistently feeling “empty”
When you have awareness problems, you have sensations or feelings that aren’t found in reality from time to time, usually in response to a stressful situation. The following are some examples of awareness issues:
- Schizophrenia (delusions or hallucinations)
- A sense of being cut off from your thoughts or body (dissociative symptoms)
Because there are so many distinct combinations of symptoms, BPD can manifest itself in a variety of ways.
What Causes Someone to Be Emotionally Unstable?
It’s crucial not to rule out a mental health condition when asking oneself, “Why am I so emotionally unstable?” The following are some of the mental health issues that might cause intense emotions:
Borderline Personality Disorder
The inability to control emotions is at the heart of BPD. As a result, their moods can swing from one extreme to the other in a matter of seconds. An impulsive activity that is harmful, such as self-harming or substance misuse, may be triggered by an incident.
Low self-esteem is a prevalent symptom of BPD, as is an acute dread of being abandoned by loved ones. They believe they are undeserving of love and will be abandoned as a result. As a result, severe measures to escape the feared abandonment may be taken. As a result, the other person feels compelled to separate themselves from you, and desertion becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Bipolar disorder is a difficult mental illness to understand. It is also divided into four categories, each with its own set of symptoms. The most prominent trait is extreme mood swings. This means that the person’s mood will vary from manic to depressive, often without warning. Mood fluctuations are also accompanied by changes in sleep patterns, food habits, and actions.
Mania and depression can cause extreme mood fluctuations that can be quite disruptive in daily living. However, there may be long periods of quiet in between mood swings. People with bipolar disorder frequently use alcohol or drugs to self-medicate their symptoms.
When someone suffers from any type of anxiety, they are constantly afraid. This anxiety about their safety can lead to significant mood swings. It can create impatience, so when a person is worried, rage can emerge. There are six different forms of anxiety disorders, each with its own set of characteristics.
When someone has had a traumatic event, they may have hyper-arousal. This implies they’re on pins and needles, and they’re prone to overreacting to everything that reminds them of the trauma.
A person suffering from depression may be in a deep state of sadness for an extended period of time. Sleep issues often accompany depression, leading to irritation and even aggressive outbursts.
Keep in mind that excessive emotions or moods could be a sign of a medical problem. These could be a result of a hormonal imbalance or a side effect of a treatment being used to treat something. Steroids, for example, can produce mood fluctuations such as mania and despair.
Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder
The most common type of personality disorder is emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD). A borderline personality disorder is another name for it. Also, it usually causes you to have powerful, changing emotions that might last anywhere from a few hours to many days at a time. These sentiments can range from great joy, elation, and self-confidence to crushing grief and feelings of worthlessness.
The frequent and dramatic swings in mood, as well as the negative sensations that EUPD causes in yourself and others, can make maintaining solid personal relationships challenging. EUPD can also make you suicidal or make you engage in self-harming behaviors. If you’re in this circumstance, it’s critical that you seek professional help as soon as possible and speak up to a loved one.
Signs and symptoms of EUPD
If you have any or all of the following common EUPD symptoms, you will most likely benefit from treatment:
- Swings in mood
- An irrational dread of being abandoned
- Anxiety and irritation at an all-time high
- Suspicion of others and paranoia are two symptoms of paranoia.
- Feeling useless, hopeless, and empty
- Suicidal ideation
- Having a history of unstable or superficial relationships
- Changing your mind about other people quickly
- Dissociation is a term used to describe a state (feeling as though you have lost touch with reality)
Psychotherapy is an effective treatment option for emotionally unstable personality disorder, while no one style of therapy appears to be superior to another. However, short psychological interventions (less than three months) should not be used for emotionally unstable personality disorder or for the disorder’s particular symptoms outside of service; that has the features listed below. People with emotionally unstable personality disorders (particularly those with many comorbidities and significant disabilities) should receive psychological treatment that includes:
- An explicit and comprehensive theoretical approach that is shared with the service user by both the treatment team and the therapist.
- Care that is structured in compliance with this policy.
- The availability of therapist supervision.
- Sessions every two weeks (but the frequency of psychotherapy sessions should be according to the individual’s needs).
Treatment for drug addiction
- A Cochrane study found that mood stabilizers and second-generation antipsychotics may be beneficial for treating a number of core symptoms and related psychopathology, however, they have no effect on the overall severity of emotionally unstable personality disorder. As a result, drugs should be targeted at specific symptoms.
- Clozapine has some evidence in the literature, notably in teenagers with nascent emotionally unstable personality disorder who have exhausted all other treatment choices.
- Drug treatment should be considered as part of the comprehensive treatment of comorbid disorders.
- Short-term sedative medication use as part of an overall treatment plan for people with emotionally unstable personality disorder in a crisis should be approached with caution. Agree on a therapy length with them; however, it should not exceed one week.
- This indication’s prescribing is generally off-label and idiosyncratic. As a result, persons who are currently being prescribed medicines but do not have a diagnosed comorbid mental or physical ailment should have their therapy reviewed. Reduce and eliminate unneeded pharmacological treatment.
Signs of Emotionally Unstable Woman
According to specialists, there are symptoms to watch for if you suspect someone is having unstable emotions.
1. They React in a Surprising Way
It could be a symptom of emotional instability if someone reacts in a way that is opposite of how others react in similar situations, or in a way that feels exaggerated. “The largest early warning indication is getting an unexpected reaction,” Hampton explains. According to Hampton, an example of this could be as subtle as someone laughing at an inopportune time. Of course, this does not always imply that someone is having trouble coping; however, it may provide an opportunity to speak with them and determine whether they require assistance.
2. Their Mood Alters Frequently
Changing emotions are normal for everybody, but when they happen frequently and without warning, it could indicate that someone is dealing with emotional instability. Dr. Sherry Cormier, Ph.D., a psychologist, tells Bustle, “Think of this as a roller coaster of emotions.” “The person may get irritated or unhappy almost without warning, and sometimes for no apparent cause.” If this is the case, and you see it’s happening again, encourage the person to talk to a loved one or seek professional help.
3. They Have Difficulties Calming Down
Self-soothing may be difficult for someone who is experiencing chaotic emotions. “This means they don’t know how to de-stress,” Dr. Cormier explains. “Instead, they become highly emotional and hyper-aroused, often in response to insignificant events.”
This may occur if your acquaintance maintains a grudge for a longer period of time than expected, or if they remain upset after resolving a conflict. While this may be coincidental, if you experience this in someone you care about on a regular basis, therapy or other professional assistance can help them find a balance.
4. They are prone to impulsive behavior.
When someone is emotionally unstable, they can appear impulsive or erratic. “This person has inferior coping and problem-solving abilities,” Cormier adds. “They frequently make rash decisions or behave strangely.” Breaking up with a long-term partner unexpectedly or changing apartments without warning are examples of impulsive behavior. These actions aren’t always harmful, but if they negatively impact someone’s quality of life, it’s worth bringing up with them.
5. They Have Inconsistent Behavior
In addition to inconsistencies in reactions, you may also notice inconsistencies in emotions or thoughts. Someone’s reaction to certain events could be unpredictable. “These irregularities might be small or enormous, and they’re frequently overlooked at first,” Hampton adds. This could mean that individuals react neutrally to disappointment one day and have a completely different reaction the next day to an event of the same magnitude. Once again, professional aid may be required to help this person balance their emotions.
6. Their relationships are strained.
It could be an indication of emotional instability if someone close to you is constantly burning bridges with former friends or family members, or generally has difficulties maintaining their relationships. “Those who have shown themselves to be emotionally unstable frequently have relationships with interpersonal relationships, including personal and professional relationships,” Hampton adds. You may observe that they have short friendships or have disputes with people in several aspects of their lives. This isn’t always the case, but when a person goes from one feeling to the next, it can have an effect on the people closest to them.
7. They Have a Hard Time Controlling Their Emotions
Those who struggle with emotional stability may find it difficult to keep their emotions contained and may act out on others. “This means they have a hard time managing their emotions and mood states, and they tend to ‘dispose’ them on those around them,” adds Cormier. This is typically abrupt and unpredictable.
Why Am I so Emotionally Unstable
You don’t have to be in treatment or going through a crisis to experience moments of emotional instability. We’ve all experienced moments when we’ve felt at our wit’s end or like we’ve reached the end of our rope.
Perhaps you’ve experienced something similar from time to time. If you’ve been battling with feelings of emotional instability, there are things you can do to avoid it, such as avoiding certain unhealthy habits.
As a result, you’re considering not only how you see the world in general, but also how you deal with stress and anxiety, and you’re able to achieve emotional stability. Here are five unhealthy behaviors you should avoid in order to feel more emotionally grounded.
1. Hyper-Focusing on Having Complete Control Over Everything
Control—or, more precisely, a lack of control—is one factor that contributes to feeling emotionally unstable. Everyone desires some level of control over their lives. That yearning is especially stronger for those who suffer from emotional instability.
You feel empowered when you are in command. However, it is impossible to have complete control over everything or everyone in your life. In fact, obsessing over that amount of control and aiming for it can be unhealthy and have a bad impact on relationships. There are times when there is nothing you can do about someone else’s decisions.
2. Afraid of the Unknown
Fear of the unknown is a personality trait linked to control concerns. Life is full of ambiguity and can be perplexing. There are numerous examples throughout history of people attempting to assign importance and meaning to unclear happenings.
A tragedy, for example, occurs in a community. Some people may believe that tragedy was caused by a higher power. For these folks, this has significance. In life, though, nothing is definite. Things happen for reasons that we don’t always understand.
3. Irrational Beliefs
When you place a value on every notion that enters your mind, you are engaging in irrational thinking. Even though those thoughts are the furthest from reality, you believe them to be true. Believing that everyone is “out to get you,” for example, can be devastating.
Of course, if you read into everyone’s conduct toward you, you’ll become emotionally unstable. You give yourself permission not to have such ideas by working on acceptance. Irrational thought is also a source of mental serenity and stability.
4. Shaming Yourself for Your Emotions
Let’s say you have unreasonable thinking or discover you’re overly concerned with control. So, what’s next? Do you try to move forward after acknowledging that you had those thoughts? Do you punish yourself for having those ideas and feelings, or do you ignore them? Maybe over and over again.
If it’s the latter, you’re likely to be emotionally unstable as a result. Everyone has ideas or sentiments that they don’t particularly care for. That isn’t to say you should beat yourself up for having them! Instead, give yourself permission to feel these emotions. Recognize that you are fine, even if you feel unhappy, upset, or resentful. It’ll be over soon.
5. Making Decisions Based on Feelings
Finally, making decisions based on your feelings and emotions is a major contributor to feeling emotionally unstable. Because emotions can be all over the place at times, this generates instability. You may feel content and refresh at the start of the day. However, after you go to work, you could start to feel pressured and apprehensive.
Am I Emotionally Unstable Quiz
The following questions are intended to assess your anxiety as well as your emotional endurance. It’s a terrific method to gain a sense of your general resilience, flexibility, and capacity to deal with life’s problems. This exam is designed for educational purposes and should not be used as a substitute for professional guidance.
1. I have a tendency to obsess over minor details.
2. Most of the time, I feel weak and fatigued.
3. I am a restless person.
4. I become upset and angry at times.
5. There are times when I am so restless that I am unable to sit motionless.
6. I am frequently accused of being irritable.
7. I have a tendency to overreact and then come to regret it afterwards.
8. I am irritable but quickly recover.
9. It’s difficult to irritate me.
10. I am frequently concerned about things that do not go as planned in my life.
11. I usually wake up feeling refreshed and rested.
12. It’s not simple to knock me off my stride.
13. I don’t believe I’m any more worried than others.
14. Occasional insomnia is caused by compulsive anxiety.
15. I’m afraid to talk about some topics since I’m so worried about them.
16. I have a bad habit of taking everything personally.
17. I get nervous when I have to wait.
18. At least once a week, I feel agitated and anxious.
19. I believe I am more sensitive than the majority of the individuals I know.
20. I can’t stand scary or stressful sequences in movies.
Many of us experience emotionally unstable from time to time, although it is typically only transitory. However, emotional stability might be difficult to come by for certain people. Knowing and avoiding the aforementioned harmful habits can help you feel more balanced. If you’re still having trouble with emotionally unstable, don’t hesitate to contact me to learn more about how anxiety treatment can help.
Frequently Asked Questions
What causes emotional instability?
However, life experiences such as disease, trauma, bereavement, and abuse can disrupt normal growth. When this happens on a regular basis, it’s called an emotionally unstable personality disorder, and it manifests itself in the form of the above-mentioned episodes.
Can anxiety cause emotional instability?
Mood swings are a frequent symptom of high stress, especially the anxiety that comes with it. During Jim Folk’s 12-year battle with anxiety disorder, he suffered from extreme mood swings.