In Learning Disabilities, Syndromes & Disorders

Inside the Lonely World of Emotional Disorders

Emotional disorders include a wide variety of psychological and psychiatric conditions that largely affect a person’s emotions. Such disorders may cause a sufferer to have unstable alternations between depression and excitement or several other emotions. An emotional disorder can cause behavioral differences, temporary personality changes, and thought process interruption, as well. Additionally, an emotional disorder can cause a sufferer to conduct himself or herself in a fashion that seems strange or extreme to the outside world. Children who have emotional and behavioral disorders may have a difficult time socializing with other children in class. They may also act out in class violently. The terms emotional disorders and emotional and behavioral disorders describe a great deal of illnesses with varying levels of disturbances. The following are several emotional disorders and a brief description of each one:


A doctor may classify depression as clinical depression or major depressive disorder. Depression is a debilitating illness that causes a sufferer to become saddened to an extreme degree. A person who suffers from depression may have deep feelings of worthlessness, shame and guilt. He or she may also lose pleasure or joy in activities that once seemed delightful. The condition can be so severe that the person cannot get out of bed or perform work. In some cases, depressed persons cannot conduct hygienic tasks or household chores. The worst cases of depression involve suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.

Depression can occur because of a disorder in the brain, or it can occur temporarily after a life crisis. Medical specialists often prescribe antidepressants to people who suffer with depression. The antidepressants can alter chemicals in the brain such as serotonin and dopamine.

Therapists and counselors can help people to handle depression by teaching them coping strategies. Certain types of therapy can teach a depressed person to combat negative thinking and replace it with positive thinking. Doctors diagnose depression by asking their patients a series of questions about how they feel. They examine them physically, as well. If a person meets the criteria for depression as specified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, then the doctor can conclude that the patient has depression.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a serious emotional disorder that involves dark depressive lows and excitable manic highs. A person with bipolar disorder shares some of the same symptoms of a person with depression. However, the individual will alternate between major depression and mania. Mania consists of supercharged thinking, rapid speech, sleepless nights and unusual behaviors. Mania can consist of extreme rage, grandiosity and agitation, as well. Some people with bipolar disorder experience unbearable anxiety during their manic phases.

The highs and lows of bipolar disorder can cause sufferers to conduct themselves in troublesome ways. They can cause sufferers to lose their jobs and their loved ones. In some cases, people with bipolar disorder experience trouble with the law. They may turn to drugs and alcohol during their phases, as well. Additionally, persons with bipolar disorder are prone to attempting suicide during their depressive phases. Such phases may require temporary hospitalization and stabilization.

Specialists diagnose bipolar disorder by asking a series of questions or issuing a psychiatric evaluation. A person who has bipolar disorder must experience at least one instance of mania for the doctor to give a bipolar diagnosis instead of a depression diagnosis. A specialist may use a number of strategies for treating bipolar disorder. Medications such as mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, mild tranquilizers, antidepressants and anti-seizure medications can help a person to manage bipolar disorder.

Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder, or BPD, is similar to bipolar disorder in that sufferers have shifts in their emotions. However, the origin of borderline personality disorder is quite different from that of bipolar disorder. Many specialists believe that bipolar disorder comes from a chemical imbalance in the brain, whereas borderline personality disorder most likely comes from childhood abuse.

Persons with borderline personality disorder exhibit extremely unstable behaviors such as cutting themselves and attempting suicide. Their moods may change several times with a short time span, whereas a bipolar person will shift every few months or every few weeks.

People who suffer with borderline personality disorder have a skewed outlook of the world and themselves which causes them to have severe emotional changes. Many people with BPD feel lowly of themselves, and they seek the approval of other people to make themselves happy. When a relationship fails, the borderline person will have a difficult time with detachment. The person will do almost anything to avoid abandonment and rejection. He or she will react in an extreme fashion to rejection, and the person may act out angrily.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are disorders in which a person suffers with irrational fear. The fear within the person causes him or her to a lead dysfunctional existence. For example, a person who suffers with social anxiety may never leave his or her home. A person who has a phobia may go into a panic if he or she is forced into an uncomfortable situation.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is an emotional disorder that involves irrational fears and repetitive compulsions. It may also involve difficulty with detachment from routines, rituals or people. A classic example of obsessive-compulsive disorder is a person who needs to wash his or her hands 100 times in one day because of an irrational fear of germs. OCD has a broad spectrum of symptoms, however. Some cases of OCD do not involve repetitive hand washing at all.

Anxiety disorders include OCD, social anxiety disorder, panic disorders and phobias. Specialists usually treat these diseases with a combination of medications and therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help anxiety disorders a great deal, because they can teach a sufferer to retrain his or her pattern of thinking. Some specialists even use exposure therapy, which desensitizes the sufferer from something that he or she fears over time.


Autism is considered a part of the emotional and behavioral disorders classification. Persons with autism and Asperger syndrome have difficulty with sociability. Many such people do not speak to other people, or their interaction with other people is extremely limited. These individuals are often highly intelligent, but they restrict their activities, and their emotional reactions are often nonexistent or extreme. For example, an autistic person may act out if he or she does not perform an activity that has become part of his or her daily routine. Otherwise, the person may say nothing.

Doctors can test children for autism at the age of two or three, which is when they usually start to show symptoms. They use a combination of drugs and therapies to assist patients with autism. Some cases of autism have improved with early intervention, while others have gone unchanged.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a condition that affects a person’s emotions months or years after a traumatic experience occurs. The traumatic experience could be past participation in a war, domestic violence, child abuse, rape, a home fire or some other devastating situation. Such people usually have a myriad of flashbacks from their past poor experiences, and they have nightmares when they try to sleep. The continuous flashbacks upset their emotions to point where they may trouble functioning in daily life. A PTSD sufferer may not be able to function at work. He or she may stay homebound because of the fear of a recurring event. The individual may have difficulty concentrating, as well. In severe cases, a person with PTSD may react violently to other people, or the person may try to commit suicide.

Eating and Emotional Disorders

Eating disorders can fall into the class of emotional and behavioral disorders because they usually stem from a poor sense of the self. The two main types of eating disorders are bulimia and anorexia. An anorexic person will refuse food for the purpose of extreme weight loss. This person usually becomes malnourished and extremely unhealthy. A bulimic person will eat food, but then he or she will intentionally vomit and regurgitate the food to avoid digesting it. Both disorders involve emotional instability. Both eating disorders come from the affected party’s negative perception of himself or herself. Eating disorders may involve depression, mood swings, suicide attempts and health hazards.

Another example of an eating disorder is binge eating. Binge eaters engorge themselves with food as a coping mechanism for depression and anxiety. They often gain massive weight, and then they become depressed because of their outward appearances. Therapy, intervention and tough love can help persons who suffer with eating disorders.

Getting Help for Emotional Disorders

The aforementioned emotional disorders are not the only emotional disorders that exist. Many more illnesses can fall into the category of emotional and behavioral disorders. A person who suspects that a loved one may have an emotional disorder must try to help to the person to seek assistance. Suicide hotlines, anti-bullying websites, psychiatric literature, and mental health facilities can help people with emotional disorders to cope with their tormented emotions. Many emotional disorders have a cure possibility. Recovery may take several years of therapy, but it achievable. A person can heal with a compassionate support system, educated doctors, and the will to change.

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