What is Emotional Turbulence?

We all experience overwhelming emotions at times. These can be due to stress, burnout, the pressures of everyday life, or upsetting life events. These sudden and extreme shifts in mood are often unpleasant, and leave us feeling upset or drained. Usually, these unpredictable swings in mood are in response to a situation, and you’ll regain a feeling of calm and stability after a while. 

If, however, you’re experiencing persistent sudden mood swings or upsets that are impacting your life negatively or causing you or those around you significant distress, you may be experiencing emotional turbulence. While not a disorder, emotional turbulence can be a sign that you are struggling to cope with one or more events or circumstances, and it should not be ignored.

* Please remember that only a licensed mental health professional can diagnose you, and refrain from taking medication and undertaking treatment without professional recommendation.

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What Are the Symptoms of Emotional Turbulence?

Emotional turbulence can manifest in different ways, which can include:

  • Feeling stable or “ok” one minute, and feeling overwhelmed or not in control the next
  • Experiencing disproportionate feelings of stress, anger, irritation, or frustration towards certain people or situations
  • Feeling emotionally vulnerable and sensitive in general
  • Feeling“not in control” of your time, your actions, or your life in general
  • Feeling nervous about your emotions and how they might be impacting your relationships, family, or career

What are the Causes of Emotional Turbulence?

Emotional turbulence can develop asa result of ongoing stressful, or negative circumstances coupled with a person’s ability to cope and deal with those circumstances. 

Lifestyle - A person’s lifestyle can be a major contributing factor to developing emotional turbulence. A high-stress job, a high-pressure work environment, and an extremely busy calendar can push someone into being more emotionally turbulent and unstable. 

Responsibilities - Having numerous responsibilities(whether they’re work, social, or familial), or people depending on you in someway can put a lot of pressure on a person and can lead to them feeling stressed and overwhelmed.  

Personality - Everyone has different capacities and limits when it comes to handling ongoing stressful or high-pressure situations, and some people reach their limits faster than others. This doesn’t mean, though, that some people are“tougher” than others, or that people experiencing emotional turbulence are weak in any way. It simply means, when it comes to negative situations, we all react differently. If you’re experiencing emotional turbulence, you should never feel embarrassed or self-critical about your feelings.


How is Emotional Turbulence Treated?

Lifestyle changes - Sometimes managing emotional turbulence can be as simple as looking at your current lifestyle and assessing what factors are contributing to your turbulence, and making changes where necessary. 

Coping mechanisms - In certain instances, it may not be possible to remove or amend contributing factors (such as caring for a sick family member, or a high-demand professional role). Having a variety of coping mechanisms in place, like meditating or going for a walk, can help to ease feelings of emotional turbulence.

Therapy - For individuals experiencing extreme, crippling emotional turbulence, therapy, especially Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy, can help to learn new behaviours and reasoning abilities to help them manage stressful life events. 

Medication - If a mental health professional deems it necessary, a person may be recommended a type of medication to help them manage their intense emotional turbulence.

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