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Sooner or later nearly everyone has something happen that causes them to go off into the deep end of uncontrolled emotions. It's the ability to come back when you do that makes the difference in emotional health.

First of all, it's important to have what psychologists called metacognitive skills, the ability to take a look at yourself and your situation and how you are handling it. If losing emotional control

  • Gets you sympathy,
  • Gets you sick leave from your job, or
  • Gives you an excuse not to live up to a commitment you have made to others or to yourself,

it's not really "losing" emotional control. It's more "using" emotional control selectively. If this is you, and usually people who "lose it" aren't really trying to manipulate others, then you need to decide whether the upside of any benefits you get from manipulating others is greater than the downside of lost opportunities and respect.

But the reality is, most people who just can't keep it all together emotionally have more problems than they can deal with. Here are some reasons for that:

  • Some people really are in awful situations. They suffer a very real condition called situational anxiety. Whether it's financial dependence on someone who's abusive or overwhelming health problems or natural disaster or war, sometimes the situation is just too much. When it is, the only solution is to change the setting.
  • Some people will have emotional issues no matter where they are. Usually these are people who carry around trauma from childhood or a period of severe vulnerability. They are determined never, ever to let themselves be vulnerable to that kind of hurt again, so they either cling to friends and lovers and family members interminably, or they cut themselves off from relationships by anger and abuse they perpetrate rather than suffer.
  • Sometimes there is a physical illness that causes loss of emotional control. Blood sugar swings, blood pressure swings, severe hormonal imbalances, brain tumors, and brain injury can cause severe mood swings and bad judgment. Then the results of "losing it" with the wrong people or in the wrong settings and making bad decisions cause problems of their own.

Medications and talk therapy can be helpful, but they usually don't do the whole job. There are certain psychological conditions that last for years and years no matter what you do. You can resolve to do your best. Usually people are better able to make the choices not to fly off the handle, to exercise impulse control, no matter how they feel, than they are to relate to people without anxiety. It takes most people longer to learn how to enjoy relationships without being "cling-y" than it does to subdue destructive anger, rash decisions, and impulsive behavior.

Of course, in small doses the same personality characteristics that can make your life difficult can also make you appealing to others. People who have suffered often have a keen sense of humor. If it's not humor that puts down or hurts or threatens others, it is likely to be appreciated. Impulsive people can be exciting. They can bring joy and spontaneity into their relationships. They can be creative on the job. It's possible to use your challenges to develop character and personality traits that make your life and the lives of people around you better.

It's just necessary to be functional. If you simply can't hold a job or finish a class or remain in a relationship, psychological counseling is probably a must. The most a counselor can do is to provide insights you have to put into action, but sometimes that's a start. Don't try to fix your problems with pills or injections or weed or alcohol. Medication can also be helpful, but it needs to be strictly regulated under doctor supervision. You may always be "different," but it's possible eventually to lead a happy life.

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