Are You Suffering From Emotional Instability?

by | Jan 11, 2023

Emotional Instability

Emotional instability, also known as emotional dysregulation, refers to difficulty in managing and controlling one’s emotions. This can present in various ways, such as mood swings, difficulty coping with stress, and intense or inappropriate emotional reactions. Emotional instability can have a significant impact on daily life and relationships, but it is also a treatable condition. In this article, we will explore the various causes of emotional instability, provide real-life examples of what it may feel like to struggle with emotional instability, and discuss the impacts on others as well as effective treatment options and ways that loved ones can support someone who is emotionally unstable.

Symptoms of Emotional Instability

Symptoms of emotional instability may include:

  • Frequent mood swings
  • Easily agitated or angered
  • Difficulty managing stress
  • Intense or inappropriate emotional reactions
  • Feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope
  • Difficulty maintaining relationships
  • Impulsive behavior

If you are experiencing these symptoms regularly and they are interfering with your daily life, it may be a sign that you are struggling with emotional instability.

Causes of Emotional Instability

There are many potential causes of emotional instability, and it is often a combination of factors. Some common causes include:

Certain mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and depression, can cause emotional instability. These conditions can affect the way a person thinks, feels, and behaves, leading to difficulty regulating emotions.

Traumatic experiences, such as abuse or neglect, can have a lasting impact on a person’s emotions. It is not uncommon for people who have experienced trauma to struggle with emotional instability. Additionally, substance abuse often caused by trauma can lead to emotional instability by altering brain chemistry and disrupting the balance of chemicals in the body. Substance abuse can also contribute to the development of mental health conditions that can cause emotional instability.

Some medications, such as certain antidepressants and stimulants, can cause emotional instability as a side effect. Certain physical health conditions, such as hormonal imbalances or sleep disorders, can also contribute to emotional instability.

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It is important to note that emotional instability can have multiple causes, and it may take some time to determine the root of the issue.

Real Life Examples of Emotional Instability

Emotional instability can manifest in a variety of ways in real life. Here are a few examples:

  • A person may have a sudden and intense emotional reaction to a minor stressor, such as getting stuck in traffic. This reaction may be out of proportion to the situation.
  • A person may experience extreme mood swings, going from feeling very happy and energetic to feeling very depressed and hopeless within a short period of time.
  • A person may struggle with impulsive behavior, such as making impulsive purchases or engaging in risky behavior.

What Does It Feel Like to Be Emotionally Unstable?

Being emotionally unstable can be a very challenging and overwhelming experience. It may feel like you are constantly on an emotional rollercoaster, with your moods swinging from one extreme to another. It may be difficult to manage your emotions and you may feel like you have little control over your thoughts and behaviors. You may also feel isolated and like no one understands what you are going through.

The Effects of a Person Emotionally Unstable on Others

Emotional instability can have a significant impact on the people around you, especially those who are close to you. It may be difficult for them to understand and cope with your emotional ups and downs, and they may feel like they are walking on eggshells around you. Your emotional instability may also put a strain on your relationships, and it may be hard for others to know how to support you.

How Can a Partner, Family Member, or Friend Help Someone Who Is Emotionally Unstable?

If you have a loved one who is struggling with emotional instability, there are ways that you can support them. Here are a few things you can try:

  • Listen and validate their feelings: It can be helpful for someone who is emotionally unstable to have someone to talk to who will listen and validate their feelings.
  • Be patient and understanding: Emotional instability can be difficult to cope with, and it may take time for your loved one to learn how to manage their emotions. Be patient and understanding, and try not to get frustrated if they have a hard time regulating their emotions.
  • Encourage them to seek help: If you are concerned about your loved one’s emotional stability, it may be helpful to encourage them to seek help from a mental health professional.
  • Take care of yourself: Caring for someone who is emotionally unstable can be emotionally draining, so it’s important to take care of yourself as well. Make sure to prioritize your own self-care and seek support if you need it.

Possible Disorders That May Cause Emotional Instability

There are several mental health conditions that may cause emotional instability. Some of the most common ones include:

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition characterized by extreme mood swings, ranging from periods of extreme happiness and energy (mania) to periods of extreme sadness and hopelessness (depression).

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

BPD is a mental health condition marked by difficulty regulating emotions, impulsive behavior, and unstable relationships.


Depression is a mental health condition characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest in activities.


PTSD is a mental health condition that can develop after experiencing a traumatic event. It is characterized by flashbacks, avoidance of triggering situations, and difficulty regulating emotions.

Treatments for Emotional Instability

There are many treatment options available for emotional instability, and the right treatment will depend on the individual and the cause of their emotional instability. Some common treatment options include:

  • Therapy: Therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), can be helpful in teaching coping skills and developing strategies for managing emotions.
  • Medication: If the emotional instability is caused by a mental health condition, medication may be prescribed to help manage the condition. Common medications used to treat emotional instability include antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics.
  • Self-care practices: Engaging in self-care practices, such as exercising, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep, can help to improve emotional well-being.
  • Support groups: Joining a support group can be a helpful way to connect with others who are also struggling with emotional instability, and can provide a sense of community and support.

It is important to note that these are just a few examples, and there are many other mental health conditions that may cause emotional instability. A mental health professional can help to identify the cause of the emotional instability and determine the best course of treatment.


Emotional instability can be a challenging and overwhelming experience, but it is also treatable. By seeking help and engaging in treatment, you can learn to manage your emotions and improve your emotional well-being. It is important to remember that you are not alone, and there is help available to support you on your journey towards emotional stability. If you or a loved one are struggling with emotional instability, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.

1. Caprara, G. V., & Pastorelli, C. (1993). Early emotional instability, prosocial behaviour, and aggression: Some methodological aspects. European Journal of personality7(1), 19-36.

2. Koenigsberg, H. W., Harvey, P. D., Mitropoulou, V., Schmeidler, J., New, A. S., Goodman, M., … & Siever, L. J. (2002). Characterizing affective instability in borderline personality disorderAmerican Journal of Psychiatry159(5), 784-788.

3. Ehring, T., & Quack, D. (2010). Emotion regulation difficulties in trauma survivors: The role of trauma type and PTSD symptom severity. Behavior therapy41(4), 587-598.

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