7 Signs Someone Might Be Emotionally Unstable

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It's common for people to have shifts in emotions — after all, life is filled with ups and downs — but there's a difference between experiencing a wide spectrum of emotions and reacting to everything in some extreme ways. According to experts, there are some early signs of emotional instability that someone may display, and paying attention to how their behavior changes and how they manage their emotions is essential to understanding their mental wellbeing. Not everyone who experiences a wide range of emotions is emotionally unstable, but there are some key characteristics that indicate that someone doesn't have a hold on how they feel, and may need help.

"Emotional instability usually means some unpredictability in emotions and reactions to events," psychologist Ashley B. Hampton, PhD tells Bustle. "For example, an event happens, and one would expect a certain reaction but receives a completely different reaction." Emotional instability can be a result of a personality disorder such as Borderline Personality Disorder, but it can also occur with issues such as depression, anxiety, grief, or trauma.

When you know someone might be experiencing difficulties processing their emotions, it's easier to navigate your relationship with them. With this knowledge, you might even be able to attend to them in different ways to help them manage their emotions, or help them find the help they need. Here are seven signs to look out for if you think someone might be experiencing unstable emotions, according to experts.

1. They React In An Unexpected Way

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If someone reacts in a way that is counter to how many others react to the same circumstances, it could be a sign of emotional instability. "The biggest early warning sign is receiving a reaction that is not expected," says Hampton. An example of this may be someone laughing at an inappropriate time, Hampton says. Of course, this doesn't always mean someone is experiencing difficulties coping, but if you have suspicions, talk to them and see if they are in need of help.

2. Their Mood Changes Rapidly

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Shifting moods are common, but when they frequently happen at the snap of the finger, it may be a sign someone is struggling with emotional balance. "Think of this as a roller coaster of emotions," psychologist Sherry Cormier tells Bustle. "Almost without warning, the person may become agitated or sad, and sometimes for no apparent reason." If this is the case, and you notice it is recurring, try encouraging the person to speak with a loved one or seek help from a therapist.

3. They Have Trouble Calming Themselves Down

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If someone is experiencing tumultuous emotions, they may have difficulty self-soothing. "This means they lack the skills to calm themselves down," says Cormier. "They instead become overly reactive and hyper-aroused, often to very minor things." While this may be circumstantial, if you notice this is happening frequently in someone you love, therapy may be necessary to help them reach an equilibrium.

4. They Are Impulsive

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Someone who is emotionally unstable can often come off as impulsive or erratic. "This individual has poorer coping and problem-solving skills," says Cormier. "They often make decisions without forethought or behave erratically."

5. They Are Inconsistent

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Along with the inconsistencies in reactions, you'll also see inconsistencies in emotions and inconsistencies in thoughts. Someone might be unpredictable in how they react to certain situations. "These inconsistencies can be small or large and are often overlooked in the beginning," says Hampton. Once again, it may be necessary for this person to receive professional help to even out their emotions.

6. They Have Strained Relationships

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"Those that have exhibited emotional instability often have problems with relationships with others, including personal relationships and relationships at work," says Hampton. You might notice they have short friendships or conflicts with people in multiple areas in their life. This may not always be the case, but when gravitating from one emotion to the next, it can impact those closest to this person.

7. They Have Issues Containing Their Feelings

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Those who are having difficulty with emotional stability might have trouble keeping their emotions inside, and they might act out onto others. "This means that they have trouble managing their feelings and mood states and tend to 'discharge' them on those around them," says Cormier. This can be unpredictable, and often abrupt.

If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, all hope is not lost. Emotional instability could be the result of a personality disorder, or mental health issue, and seeking help from loved ones or a therapist is the best way to feeling like yourself again.