Emotional Reactivity

Hello my Zebras and Spoonies! Thanks for coming and hanging out with me today, I’m glad that you are here. Today I want to talk about emotional reactivity. Let’s start by talking about what it means to be emotionally reactive.

When someone is emotionally reactive, they find that they are responding more strongly to normal stimuli. So things that would normal annoy them make them angry. Things that make them a little sad will cause them to cry. In general, being emotionally reactive is a state where it is easier to provoke an emotional response, but that emotional response remains appropriate to the trigger. It is important to note that this is compared to a person’s baseline emotional response. This means it is more of a response then that person would experience.

So, what should you do if you find that you are emotionally reactive?

There are many things that can cause a person to become emotionally reactive. Most of the time people think of mental illness when someone is presenting this way, but there are causes that have nothing to do with psych. More often then not, stress is the cause. And having any chronic illness equates with stress. If you are not already seeing some one for your mental health, it can be helpful to have someone to talk to. I’d recommend finding a provider that is knowledgeable with chronic illnesses. Having chronic illness comes with many stressors and means that you will be experiencing the grieving process. These are things that a mental health provider can provide support with. They can also provide a safe place to talk about all the things that you are worried about, thinking about or just want to vent about in regards to your chronic illness. They are a great resource for helping us work through all the emotions that we have in response to the many complex situations that our chronic illnesses bring us.

Then there is the reality that many medications have side effects that can have an impact on our emotional status. Many medications are used to treat mental illness as an off label use because they have a significant impact on our mental status. So, it might be helpful to have a pharmacist review your medications for any that might be contributing to this as a side effect. It is important to remember that a side effect can happen at any time. Thus, even if you have been on a medication for years, it is possible that you could experience a new side effect from that medication. However, it is more likely that it would be caused by medications that are new or have been recently adjusted.

Assuming you have a uterus and ovaries, it might be worth being seen by a OB/GYN. There are numerous conditions of the uterus and ovaries that can cause hormones to shift which can cause emotional reactivity. It’s clear that estrogen is closely linked with women’s emotional well-being. Depression and anxiety affect women in their estrogen-producing years more often than men or postmenopausal women. Estrogen is also linked to mood disruptions that occur only in women — premenstrual syndrome, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and postpartum depression. Exactly how estrogen affects emotion is much less straightforward. Is it too much estrogen? Not enough? It turns out estrogen’s emotional effects are nearly as mysterious as moods themselves. But having new emotional reactivity could mean that there is a change in your estrogen levels and that is worth investigating.

In this same line of thought, birth control can have the same impact on our systems. Sometimes when our medical status changes, our response to our medications (including our birth control) also changes. If you have a history of depression you are at an increased risk of having your mood impacted by hormonal birth control. Other medications can also have an effect on the way that your birth control is working as well. Unfortunately, there is really little research on the ways that birth control impacts the body beyond how it impacts the reproductive capacity. There is research to suggest that birth control can have an impact on mood and memory, but there isn’t a large enough body of research to really understand that impact or to provide guidance for management.

Being emotionally reactive might not seem like a big deal and over the short term it isn’t likely to be. However, if it is something that lasts over a longer period it is likely to cause strain on relationships. Emotional reactivity can also make it more difficult to maintain employment. So, regardless of the cause, there can be adverse out comes when we are emotionally reactive. Because of this, it is a good idea to do our best to manage the reactivity until we can find the source it. There are things you can do to reduce your emotional reactivity.

The first thing is to do your best to get high quality sleep. When we are over tired we have a hard time regulating our emotions. Thus, being well rested will go a long way to helping to reduce the reactivity. If you are someone that has insomnia, parasomnia or other sleep problems such as apnea it is a good idea to go see a sleep specialist to ensure that it isn’t your sleep that’s causing the emotional reactivity in the first place. Having a sleep study done could be helpful if you haven’t had one done or if it has been a long time since one has been done.

In general, we function best when we are taking care of our selves. Thus, making sure that you are staying within your diet and engaging in exercise is going to help. Make sure that you are taking your regular medications on time and that your are staying within your treatment plan. If you are trying to reduce the amount of emotional reactivity, keeping all of your chronic illnesses in the best control as possible will help. Thus, avoid “cheating” on your health care plan.

Make sure that you are using your coping skills when these emotions come up. Also make sure that you are owning your emotional reactivity rather then blaming your emotional reactivity on others or events. It can go a long way to have conversations with those you are close to. Let them know that you have been feeling more emotionally reactive lately and that you are trying to manage it better. This way, when those moments come up you can simply state that you are feeling reactive and call a time out rather then letting your emotional state lead to poor interactions with your loved ones. Then go use those coping skills.

In summary, take care of your self as best as you can. Make sure that you are managing and reducing your stress. Get plenty of sleep. Eat well. Exercise. Use your coping skills. And be sure that you are talking to the people in your life. Those are the things that you can do to help with the emotional reactivity while you are trying to discover what’s causing it. Keep in mind that emotions are complex and you may never know why you are feeling more emotionally reactive right now.

Well, that’s about it for my rambling today. Thanks for coming and spending some time with me. If you like what you read, click on that like button. It really does help! Until we talk again, you take care of yourselves!

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