Emotion is a complex combination of what you perceive, how your body reacts, and what motivates you to act. All this produces in people a global psychological state that can be positive or negative, of little or great intensity and short or long duration, and that stimulates a gestural expression that can be identified by other people.
What are they for?
Emotions fulfill the function of adapting us to our environment, they are neither good nor bad, and they are signals and information about what surrounds us and about ourselves. They serve to inform us about what we need, our priority goals and values, preparing us, and prompting us to act. They also invite us to avoid pain and get closer to the positive. They also inform us about the emotional state of another, helping us to relate to others, in turn informing others of how we find ourselves and our intentions.
What are emotional problems, and how can we identify them?
There are many terms to portray emotional, behavioral or mental problems. At present, these are classified as “emotional disturbance.” According to the regulations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), emotional problems are defined as “an ailment that exhibits one or more of the following characteristics over a long time and to some degree, which adversely affects the child’s educational performance:
- An incompetence to learn, which cannot be described by sensory, intellectual or health factors
- An inability to form or maintain interpersonal relationships with peers/teachers/family/friends
- Inappropriate behavior or feelings, under normal circumstances
- A general state of discontent or depression
- A tendency to develop physical warning signs or fears linked with personal, work, or school problems.
Characteristics of emotional problems.
There are two signs or indicators that can warn us of the presence of an emotional problem: the presence of painful emotions (feelings of anxiety, depression, or chronic irritation) and the appearance of ongoing conflicts in social or family relationships.
- There is the first form of suffering to which people find explanation or meaning (e.g., sacrifice in extreme situations, a hunger strike, etc.) that are not usually classified as psychological disorders.
- The second form of ailment consists in the fact that who suffers them does not finish explaining it or making sense of it (generally, these are affective disorders of the depressive or anxious type).
- A third group, more problematic, are the cases where the person is suffering from the discomfort if you find meaning in your suffering. Still, those around him do not see it (generally, these are cases of severe mental disorders such as psychoses).
- And finally, the fourth group is characterized instead by making others suffer, regardless of the degree of subjective discomfort of that person (it is usually related to serious and antisocial personality disorders).
The group of people who do not find a sense of their discomfort is usually those who most request the help of psychiatry and psychology services, followed by those who still find meaning. Those around them do not validate it.
Among people who do not see a sense of their emotional distress or relational conflicts, the presence of one or more chronic emotional responses is usually typical: anxiety, depression, and anger.
How do emotions influence our health?
Emotions are psychophysiological reactions that we all experience daily, even though we are not always aware of them. They are universal, entirely independent of culture, and generate changes in affective experience, physiological activation, and expressive behavior. They arise in relevant situations that involve danger, threat, damage, loss, success, novelty, and prepare us to be able to give an adaptive response to that situation.
Throughout our evolution as a species, thanks to emotions, we have been able to respond quickly to those stimuli that threatened our physical or psychological well-being, guaranteeing our survival.
In addition to this primordial adaptive function, emotions fulfill a social and motivational role. Through the first, they facilitate social interaction, allowing the communication of affective states, and promoting prosocial behavior.
And on the other hand, emotion is in charge of energizing a motivated behavior, one characterized by having direction and intensity. An emotionally “charged” behavior is carried out more vigorously and will be executed more efficiently, adapting to each demand.
What are the basic emotional reactions?
Fear-anxiety, anger, sadness-depression, and disgust are basic emotional reactions characterized by an unpleasant or negative affective experience and high physiological activation. The first three are the most studied emotions concerning the health-disease process.
At first, emotions are considered adaptive and will depend on the evaluation that the person makes of the stimulus, that is, on the meaning that it gives to it, and on the coping response it generates. There are objectively disturbing emotional stimuli that may not leave sequela, and on the contrary, other apparently innocuous emotional stimuli can cause more or less significant damage. The difference between the two possibilities lies in the perception that each person has of these stimuli.
Depending on this perception, a maladaptive response may arise, that is, we remain indefinitely angry, sad, anxious, or terrified once the initial stimulus has disappeared; with the consequent overexertion, unsustainable in time, and an extra cost in the form of health, physical and mental disorder.
There are numerous descriptions of why a high state of negative emotionality can have consequences for health:
- When experiencing anger, sadness, anxiety, or depression in an intense way, behavioral changes tend to occur that cause us to abandon healthy habits such as a physical exercise, balanced diet, or social life and exchange them with others such as sedentary lifestyle or addictions (tobacco, alcohol) to counteract or eliminate these emotional experiences.
- Prolonged emotional reactions maintain intense levels of physiological activation that can deteriorate our health if they become chronic.
- The inauguration of the autonomic nervous system with increased heart rate, high blood pressure, increased muscle tension, central neurotransmission dysfunction, activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis with disturbance of circadian rhythms of cortisol, etc.
- This high physical activation may be associated with a certain degree of immunosuppression, which makes us more to the development of infectious or immunological diseases.
In short, there is a close relationship between emotions and health. The reactions to certain situations and feelings are different in each individual. There are people who, faced with an excess of emotional load, have physical problems (headaches or digestive disorders), cognitive (excessive worry, obsessions), or behavioral (addictions). Therefore, there is a different alarm symptom for each person.
What should we do to achieve emotional well-being?
To achieve Emotional Well-being, we need to find a balance in all aspects of our life: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. It is the aptitude to enjoy life and, at the same time, face the daily problems that arise, whether making decisions, dealing with and adapting to difficult situations, or talking about our needs and desires.
Life and circumstances change continuously. Therefore our character, thoughts, and feelings also fluctuate. Sometimes it is normal to feel upset: sad, worried, fearful, or restless. But these types of feelings become a problem when they start to get in the way of daily life for a long time.
Of all the emotions, it seems that optimism is the most relevant, since many studies associate it with greater protection against illness and with a longer life expectancy, and even optimistic people perceive better physical and mental health. So positively feed the mind to enjoy full of your emotional health. It will make us capable of controlling our emotions and coping with everyday stress, which is the root of achieving a healthy and happy life.