Emotions are the foundation of our mental activity. Without them, we would not be able to orient our behavior towards any specific objective, nor would we know in an approximate way what we want and do not want in our lives.

However, having a resource such as a wide range of emotions has a not so positive side: the possibility of experiencing emotional instability . Let’s see what it consists of and the ways in which it can appear.

What is emotional instability?

Emotional instability is a personality trait that belongs to the spectrum of neuroticism, and is expressed through the expression of relatively abrupt changes in a person’s emotional state .

In some cases, emotional instability can be practically harmless, if the context is favourable; but in other extreme cases, it can become a psychological phenomenon linked to the discomfort of both the person who experiences it first-hand and those close to him/her.

Characteristics of Emotionally Unstable People

Among the typical characteristics of people with emotional instability, the following stand out

1. Bias towards discomfort

Emotionally unstable people may seem to live life with intensity in certain aspects, but the fact that they are so sensitive to the changes that occur with each situation often makes them focus their attention on those experiences that make them feel bad, whether out of anger, sadness or fear .

This is due to a bias towards trying to get away from the discomfort, as a priority objective, more important than enjoying those moments of happiness.

2. Rapid mood changes

Emotional instability makes it easy for the stimuli of the present to impose themselves on the emotional states derived from experiences that have happened recently, even though the new situations that trigger those emotions are apparently less important than what has happened before and has left us with that good or bad taste in our mouths.

For example, someone with emotional instability who passed her driving test a few hours ago may feel very sad when she sees a TV commercial with a sad message.

3. Low frustration tolerance

Emotionally unstable people often do not assimilate well the moments when their expectations are frustrated , as they see these situations as added problems simply because they are unexpected.

4. Complex personal relationships

In general, people with pronounced emotional instability have difficulty in having a wide social and support network , as their social skills suffer from the low control over emotions.

The extreme case: emotional lability

When emotional instability becomes so pronounced that can be considered a symptom of a mental disorder , it is known as emotional lability. This is a common phenomenon in psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, cyclothymia or bipolar disorder.

In these cases, the situation is serious and can even go hand in hand with other symptoms that strongly affect emotional states, such as hallucinations.

Can you learn to control your emotions?

In non-pathological cases of emotional instability, it is usually possible to train the ability to regulate emotions in a useful and adaptive way . However, to do so, psychological intervention with the help of professionals in this discipline is usually necessary.

The field of Emotional Intelligence , in particular, is an area of intervention that points towards promising discoveries. It is known that this mental aptitude is related to general intelligence (measured by IQ) without being exactly the same, and that it has to do with the ease with which we become happy.

In order to enjoy a better emotional balance, then, it is necessary to go through a series of practical situations that help us to trace life habits that promote a joint and coherent vision of our experiences, as well as a modification of our fundamental beliefs through what is known as cognitive restructuring. In this way, tremendous interpretations of reality, which make us prone to sudden changes of mood, will lose strength in favour of a more realistic perception of things.