Emotional instability

Emotional instability: Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

Emotional instability Medigoo

Emotional instability refers to rapid, often exaggerated changes in mood, where strong emotions or feelings (uncontrollable laughing or crying, or heightened irritability or temper) occur. These very strong emotions are sometimes expressed in a way that is not related to the person’s emotional state.

When a person is emotionally labile emotions can be out of proportion to the situation or environment the person encounters. For example, a person may cry, even when they are not unhappy – they may cry just in response to strong emotions or feelings, or it may happen β€œout of the blue” without warning.

Emotional instability can be caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. This could be a decrease in serotonin (as see in depression). Or fluctuating levels of dopamine and serotonin (as seen in conditions such as bipolar disorder). Environmental causes can also create emotional instability. There are other causes such as grief and loss, abuse, abandonment, and detachment.

This disorder is about 5 times more common among first-degree biological relatives of those with the disorder than in the general population. There is also an increased familial risk for substance-related disorders, antisocial personality disorder, and mood disorders.

The prevalence of emotional instability is about 2% of the general population. It is seen in 10% of psychiatric outpatients, and 20% of psychiatric inpatients. This disorder is more frequent in females (about 75%) than males. This disorder and impulsivity are very common in adolescents, but most adolescents grow out of this behavior. Unfortunately, for some, this emotional instability and impulsivity persists and intensifies into adulthood; thus they become diagnosed with this disorder.

The course of this disorder is quite variable. The most common pattern is one of chronic instability in early adulthood. This disorder is usually worse in the young-adult years and it gradually decreases with age. During their 30s and 40s, the majority of individuals with this disorder attain greater stability in their relationships. And vocational functioning. After about 10 years, about half of individuals with this disorder no longer meet the full criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder.


Whilst the condition is not very common, emotional instability is classed as a serious mental health problem. This is due to the high incidence of self harming and suicidal tendencies. Most people suffering from emotional instability disorder suffer from very low self-esteem. This has a knock on effect on all areas of life. Many sufferers are prone to bouts of extreme depression and a chronic sense of emptiness. If left untreated, the patient can begin to withdraw from the world and give in to their internal pain, distress and emotional numbness.

Patients suffering from emotional instability are subject to mercurial mood swings, often for no apparent reason. Such changeable mood patterns can play havoc with close personal relationships, which makes living with a person suffering from emotional instability disorder very challenging.

A fear of abandonment is another common symptom of emotional instability disorder. This particular symptom is often related to the underlying cause of the disorder: a traumatic childhood characterized by parental neglect, abuse, and rejection. Abandonment issues in adulthood lead to very intense and emotional relationships where the sufferer is often insecure and likely to cling on to dysfunctional relationships with people who treat them badly.

Many patients suffering from emotional instability exhibit destructive behavioural traits. These can take on many different forms and include the likes of alcohol and drug abuse, gambling and compulsive shopping addictions, to the development of eating disorders and inappropriate or high-risk sexual behaviour.

Alcohol and drug abuse often occur as a direct result of the other symptoms of Emotional instability. Frequent bouts of depression and a sense of emptiness can cause the patient to seek solace in alcohol and drugs as a way of numbing the intense pain. Unfortunately, this is never the answer and self-medicating only serves to exacerbate interpersonal relationship problems and underlying emotional issues.

Emotional instability patients are often very impulsive and likely to make rash decisions without thinking their actions through. This type of behavior pattern can include embarking on or ending relationships very quickly, or even rushing from one job to another.

In chronic cases of emotional instability disorder, patients can become delusional and suffer from paranoia, psychotic episodes and hallucinations. These can include paranoid delusions about the people around them, hearing voices in their head, and an extreme sense of disconnection from the world.

This article has been taken from Medigoo.com. Visit https://www.medigoo.com/articles/emotional-instability/ for the rest of the article.

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12 Replies to “Emotional instability”

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