Emotional Symptoms


Healthgrades Editorial Staff

What are the signs of emotional problems?

Emotional symptoms include anger, anxiety, disgust, excitement, fear, happiness, joy and sadness, to name a few. Emotional symptoms can be positive or negative and can come from within you or be a reaction to your environment. Emotional changes can be normal, temporary responses to events; however, disproportionate, extreme, persistent or unstable emotional reactions may indicate an underlying disorder.

Emotional symptoms can cause legal or financial problems, relationship difficulties, and problems at home, school or work. They can be associated with aggression, agitation, feelings of emptiness, guilt, helplessness and hopelessness, and loss of pleasure. Alternatively, feelings of enthusiasm, grandiosity and hopefulness may be present. Emotional symptoms can lead to inappropriate behaviors, increased accidents, poor judgment, self-harm, violence, and suicide.

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Abnormal emotional symptoms are associated with several psychiatric illnesses, including anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, dysthymic disorder, major depression, postpartum depression, seasonal affective disorder, and substance abuse. Emotional symptoms can also be seen with personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, and antisocial personality disorder. Furthermore, behavioral disorders and conditions, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), can also have emotional symptoms.

Most people with emotional symptoms do not seek assistance from a mental health professional, but they continue to visit their primary care provider. Frequently, through denial or misapprehension, there is reluctance to seek help.

Some emotional symptoms can also be related to medication side effects or chronic medical conditions. Medications and substances can directly affect the nervous system and thus can cause emotional symptoms. Medical conditions, such as dementia, can contribute to emotional symptoms by damaging brain tissue. The link between emotional symptoms and chronic medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, and chronic pain disorders, is less clear and probably related to a number of factors.

Occasionally, emotional symptoms can have serious, even life-threatening, complications. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious injury; inability to care for yourself; or threatening, irrational or suicidal behavior.

If your emotional symptoms are persistent, create problems, or cause you concern, seek prompt medical care.

Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Oct 1, 2016

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Medical References

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