If you read my previous post 'recognising emotions' then you may have started to build your awareness of how you feel, but how do you know when an emotion is becoming a problem?
In some ways it is odd to think of emotions as being a problem, after all, it is a normal human experience to feel them. However emotions tend to lead us into taking action and this isn't always helpful if we are experiencing unhealthy negative emotions. Feeling nervous can make us take a little extra care but feeling anxious can result in us avoiding and withdrawing from our lives. Unhealthy emotions can cause us to suffer, so let's look at when this might be the case.
The way you feel interferes with living your life
For example, feeling so anxious that you are scared to leave the house or meet people. Or feeling so sad and demotivated that you can’t be bothered to do anything at all.
We all have goals (plans) and values (things that are important to us personally) and emotions are worth exploring when they block our progress towards these.
Your emotions are stronger than most other peoples in the same situation
For example, a certain amount of shyness is normal but some people feel such debilitating anxiety when they meet new people that it is called ‘social anxiety disorder’.
Getting rejected for a job is disappointing and can be a little confidence knock but some people take this to mean that they are a total failure and will never amount to anything. They might withdraw from friends and activities, stop going out and stay in bed a lot more, this is often a sign of 'depression'.
You fear your own physical feelings
Many people become scared of feelings in their own bodies, and in particular what it means to have those body feelings, a key element.
After feeling dizzy it's normal to not really like the sensation but some people develop such a fear of those sensations returning and what they might mean, they can experience panic attacks at the slightest change in how they feel physically, turning into a condition called 'panic disorder' (PD). This is very treatable and something I specialise in working with.
Your strong feelings go on for too long
For example, when the (normal) ‘baby blues’ after giving birth turn into postnatal depression. Or when strong feelings of anger persist for many months after a disagreement with someone.
You are suffering physically
This differs from fearing your sensations as discussed above. For example, feeling sick or nauseous, jittery, short of breath, fast heart rate or tense are all pretty harmless but unpleasant physical sensations that suggest unhealthy emotions (and thoughts) are at play.
How to take helpful action
These are just a few examples of when emotions are perhaps unhealthy and unhelpful. If this article resonates with you and you would like to arrange a free consultation call to discuss how CBT can help you please contact me.