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What Causes Unable to Control Emotions?

Medically reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on April 20, 2015Written by Rachel Nall, RN, BSN

When people are unable to control their emotions, it means their responses are disruptive or inappropriate given the setting. Anger, sadness, anxiety, and fear are just some of the emotions a person may have. Being unable to control emotions can... Read More

What Does it Mean When You Are Unable to Control Your Emotions?

When people are unable to control their emotions, it means their responses are disruptive or inappropriate given the setting. Anger, sadness, anxiety, and fear are just some of the emotions a person may have.

Being unable to control emotions can be temporary. It could be caused by something like a drop in blood sugar. However, some people experience a constant inability to control their emotions because of a chronic condition. It’s important to know when to seek help because not being able to control your emotions can interfere with your daily life.

What Are the Symptoms of Being Unable to Control Emotions?

People control or regulate their emotions on a daily basis. They determine what emotions they have, when they have them, and how they experience them. Emotional control is a habit for some people. For others, emotional response is automatic.

Symptoms associated with being unable to control emotions include:

  • being overwhelmed by your feelings
  • feeling afraid to express your emotions
  • feeling angry, but not knowing why
  • feeling out of control
  • having difficulty understanding why you feel the way you do
  • using drugs or alcohol to hide or “numb” your emotions

What Are the Causes of Being Unable to Control Emotions?

The causes of being unable to control emotions can vary. Children often have trouble controlling their emotions. Children may not be able to control their emotions when they feel overwhelmed or distressed. They can have a temper tantrum or crying outburst.

Children typically begin to develop greater self-control as they age. There are some exceptions. This includes when a child has a medical condition, such as:

  • adjustment disorder
  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • autism
  • oppositional defiant disorder

Other conditions associated with being unable to control emotions include:

  • alcohol abuse or alcoholism
  • antisocial personality disorder
  • Asperger’s syndrome
  • bipolar disorder
  • delirium
  • diabetes
  • drug abuse
  • head injury
  • low blood sugar
  • postpartum depression
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • psychosis
  • schizophrenia

Many of these conditions require long-term treatments to help people better control their emotions.

When Do I Seek Medical Help for Being Unable to Control Emotions?

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience the following symptoms:

  • feeling like life is no longer worth living
  • feeling like you want to hurt yourself
  • hearing voices or seeing things others tell you are not there
  • losing consciousness or feeling as if you are going to faint

Make an appointment to see your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • experiencing emotions with no known cause or trigger
  • experiencing frequent emotional outbursts
  • feeling sad, angry, or depressed most days of the week
  • having difficulty expressing your emotions

Call your doctor if you or a loved one notices you’re experiencing personality or behavioral changes that last beyond a few days.

How Is Being Unable to Control Emotions Diagnosed?

Your doctor will begin the diagnostic process by taking a health history and reviewing your current symptoms. They may also review all the medications you’re currently taking. These include prescription medications, supplements, and herbs.

Your doctor may also recommend blood tests or imaging scans.

Because many causes associated with being unable to control emotions are related to psychological disorders, your doctor may refer you to a mental health professional. Many of these disorders do not have a test that can conclusively determine if you have a particular mental health condition.

How Is Being Unable to Control Emotions Treated?

Treatment for being unable to control emotions depends upon why you’re experiencing the symptoms.

For example, doctors correct low blood sugar with glucose tablets, juice, candy, or other sugary substances. Those with chronically low blood sugar may need to change their diets to eat more frequent meals.

Treatments for psychological disorders can include medications and psychotherapy. These conditions often require long-term interventions to help you control your emotions.

Medically reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on April 20, 2015Written by Rachel Nall, RN, BSN

12 possible conditions

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This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose. Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.

Medically reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on April 20, 2015Written by Rachel Nall, RN, BSN
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