7 General Reasons Behind Emotional Disturbance

Emotional Disturbance

In general, the term emotional disturbance refers to disturbances in an individual’s mental equilibrium, leading to either feeling extremely emotional or being emotionally numb. It is the condition exhibiting one or more of the given characteristics below:

  • Inappropriate type of feelings and behaviors under normal situation
  • Inability to build and maintain satisfactory interpersonal relations
  • A tendency of developing physical symptoms of fear related to personal or school problems
  • Inability to learn due to reasons unrelated to intellectual sensory or health factors.
  • An overall pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.

Emotional Disturbance

In children, these characteristics over a long period of time adversely affect a child’s educational performance that is not explained by intellectual, sensory constituents that might make them socially maladjusted. If such a situation arises, the child may require special education. Adults who overlook such characteristics after a period of time can also become socially maladjusted, and their behavior might become socially unacceptable.

Some factors cause emotional disturbances in children and adults. One should be aware of these factors so that identifying them can be easy, and then the reasons for disturbances can be addressed healthily.

Reasons Behind Emotional Disturbance

The general reasons behind emotional disturbance are:

1. Diet

As the saying goes, good food creates a good mood. We know that what we eat affects our emotional or mental state. Emotional disturbances might be caused if one does not have a well-balanced diet.

Certain food groups like fast and junk food, foods containing fatty acids might be difficult to digest, and it may lead you to feel uncomfortable, thus affecting your emotional state. You should make sure that your diet is nutrient-rich since a deficiency of vitamins and nutrients can affect your mood and health. Try avoiding processed food and skipping meals.

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2. Hormones

Hormones are chemical messengers in the human body. The effects of hormones on one’s body are both physical as well as psychological. Thus any hormonal imbalance or shift can cause emotional disturbance in any individual.

An imbalance in hormones produced by the thyroid glands can affect one’s emotions and increase the risk of developing anxiety and depression.  Due to premenstrual syndrome (PMS), the estrogens and progesterone fluctuate a week before and after their menstruation period causing mood swings and emotional disturbances. Estrogens particularly affect the intensity of emotions. Premenstrual dysmorphic disorder (PMDD) is similar to PMS but is a little intense and causes excessive crying, irritability, anger, and sadness.

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When individuals are on birth control or contraceptive pills, it can causes hormonal shifts too, leading to emotional changes, and the same happens with women during menopause. Imbalances in the levels of insulin or hormones produced by adrenal glands can also lead to fluctuation in emotions.

3. Mental Health Issues

Many mental health issues can cause emotional disturbance in an individual. Depression is a mood disorder that may cause individuals to experience more negative and sad emotions. Depressed people feel hopeless, anxious, and empty. The degree to which individuals experience these emotions vary.

Anxiety disorder is yet another cause for emotional disturbance in individuals. Individuals suffering from anxiety disorder may experience irritability, increased tension, and physical symptoms of fear, such as increased heart rate or palpitation.

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Personality Disorders are yet another reason for emotional disturbance in individuals. People who have personality disorders usually have two more different personalities, and such individuals suffer from mood swings, can not control their anger, and are hypersensitive to criticism or rejection. Schizophrenia is yet another mental illness, and individuals with this disorder who have negative symptoms might show a lack of pleasure or become emotionally numb.

4. Stress

Individuals experiencing stress may appear to be more emotional or have more mood swings than usual. Stress can cause emotional disturbance in individuals. It depletes one’s coping skills and leaves them feeling overwhelmed, making it even difficult for them to deal with minor stresses and causes irritability.

Long periods of stress can lead to burnout which might cause mood and emotional shifts in a person. Stress, if prolonged, can turn into chronic stress, which is not good for any individual. People under stress experience emotions more intensely. For example, one might cry or break down on very small and trivial things and later think about why they were even crying in the first place.

5. Trauma

When an individual experiences an event that causes physical, psychological, and emotional harm, its response is trauma. This is the most common reason behind the emotional disturbance in any individual. Individuals who witness or undergo any traumatic experience take time to accept it, and in that period, they are emotionally disturbed and experience a lot of mood swings.

Woman Crying

If the individual cannot cope with the trauma over a long period of time and it starts to affect their day-to-day functioning, they may have developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. Here the individual experiences flashbacks of the traumatic event followed by indifference, apathy, irritability, sudden outbursts of anger, and an inability to express their feelings. This might also lead to a pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.

6. Physical Health Issues

Physical health and mental health are interdependent. If there are any physical health issues, it might affect the individual’s mood or emotions. Physical factors greatly influence causing an emotional disturbance because physical health problems can affect our daily functioning. People suffering from any pain usually tend to be moody and irritable.

When one’s physical needs are not met, that can also cause emotional disturbance in individuals; for example, when one is hungry, they might become irritable until they get food and their hunger is satiated; it is also lack of sleep that causes moodiness in individuals because we need proper sleep to feel healthy and refreshed.

We should remember that since the body and mind are not separate entities, any changes in an individual’s physical state may affect their mental state and emotions, especially when their energy level to deal with the stress or the demands of physical workload is low.

Woman in Gray Tank Top Showing Distress

7. Gaslighting

Gaslighting means to manipulate someone or psychologically and make someone doubt their sanity. Gaslighting can cause severe emotional disturbance in individuals. When we dismiss someone who is extremely emotional, we are devaluing their experience and, in a way, devaluing the severity of the emotion that they are feeling. When we dismiss an individual’s emotion of any kind, they start to question their emotions’ validity, which might emotionally disturb that individual.

The above-given reasons or causes are just a few of the general reasons that cause emotional disturbances in individuals. There might be many other reasons that might be unique to any particular individual. One should not invalidate because it is unique to them, and no one else experiences it.


If the characteristics given above are left unattended, they might affect the daily functioning of any individual and might take normalcy away from their lives. To avoid such a situation from arising, one might take counseling sessions, or if the characteristics of emotional disturbance are extreme, they might visit a psychiatrist or therapist.

At an individual level, one can deal with these disturbances by taking proper care of themselves, like eating a well-balanced diet, getting enough sleep, exercising, treating any physical injury. To manage their emotions, they can also start journaling, develop a self-care routine, try meditating, and focus on their breath to calm themselves. Any individual should never invalidate their emotions or feelings; one should always refrain from tagging their emotions as abnormal.

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Apart from external help that individuals should preferably take in such a situation and the care that they can do for themselves, the most important thing that one can and should get is the support from their families and friends. Families often find it hard to believe in emotional disturbance and are not aware of addressing it properly. If one’s near and dear ones are supportive and understanding, their journey towards betterment gets easier.

Any information found on the site does not constitute legal or medical advice. Should you face health issues, please visit your doctor to get yourself diagnosed. Icy Health offers expert opinions and advice for informational purposes only. This is not a substitute for professional medical advice.


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