For most people, life is not a pond of fresh, undisturbed water. It is common for its course to be more like a river, full of meanders and sharp stretches where the flow intensifies and breaks down, at an inconsistent and unpredictable rate.
Getting carried away by such a current implies overcoming the obstacles that will usually come, in order to continue to sail beyond the horizon. And it is that by taking the helm of our own existence, we inevitably accept to face the ups and downs inherent in its nature.
This circumstance is complex; and is closely linked to personal and social tortuosities as diverse as family life, studies, work, etc. Problems in any of them may be the reason what we call emotional distress.
In this article, we will specifically explore what this emotional discomfort is. Where it comes from and how it usually manifests, as well as the extent it has in the daily life of those who suffer from it. The last part will talk about its therapeutic approach.
What is emotional discomfort
Emotional discomfort is a large and complex concept, which has been widely used in clinical and research fields, but which it has often not been defined in a clear and operational way. Because of this, sometimes there is a certain “confusion” in trying to refer to it, and the lines that separate it from what becomes a psychological disorder are even diluted. And it is true that the vast majority of mental health problems are accompanied by some degree of emotional distress (mild, severe, etc.), but the isolated presence of the latter does not always imply psychopathology.
Thus, the first approach to this concept is to recognize that the subjective experience of emotional distress does not in any way mean that the individual is going through a mental disorder, but simply he emotionally represents everyday situations that bring him pain or worry. In this case, the affective response would not reach the intensity necessary to meet the diagnostic criteria required in the textbooks used (as would be the case with the DSM-5), although this is not an obstacle to life. with astonishment and sorrow.
Those who suffer from emotional distress explicitly use expressions such as “I feel bad”, “I am depressed” or “I am flattened” to describe their experience; which is usually the result of an isolated and recognizable event or the accumulation of several of them in a discrete period of time. In all cases, this indicates an alteration in the feeling of well-being compared to a previous moment, and in general the subject is perceived as deprived of the joy that he may once have felt in his own skin. Sometimes it is not possible to identify what was the trigger, so some disorientation is added.
When we dive into sensations beyond the emotional, we often refer to the existence of physical symptoms for which no explanatory organic root is found. The most notable are headaches (headaches), digestive disorders (such as diarrhea or constipation) and certain muscle conditions. All this deserves a physical exploration which rarely provides a result capable of affiliating them, and which very frequently precipitates the planning of symptomatic approaches which do not stop the “core” of what really motivates them (use of analgesics or anxiolytics. with muscle relaxant properties, for example).
These indefinite and diffuse physical symptoms can be accompanied by intimate nuances of enormous existential importance., Such as sadness, the shadow of an “inner void” that causes restlessness and a constant experience of nervousness or irritability. Over time, it is common for anxiety to worsen and for other problems to arise, such as insomnia or persistent fatigue. It is at this evolutionary stage of emotional distress where there is a greater risk of it transforming into a more structured and clinically relevant psychopathological picture (especially depression and anxiety).
This is such a widespread problem that it has been estimated (based on several studies) that 30% to 60% of people who see their primary care physician experience it. It is more common in women than in men (70% in the first case), considering that such a gap is due to different ways of dealing with emotions and the potential existence of different stressors between the two. groups (they are more “involved” in care tasks which add to their work responsibility, for example).
It is common for the problem not to be detected in time, So that it becomes established firmly or that it progresses to a complete disorder, in addition to motivating the hyperfrequency in the general practitioner or other specialists.
Why does emotional discomfort arise?
As we can see, living with such emotional discomfort leads to a serious erosion of the quality of life and all the dimensions that make up the reality of the human being: from the social to the individual, including the vital areas in which both participate (such as academics or work). The truth is, while it is not a disorder as such, the symptom we are concerned about also precipitates a contempt for self-image that impairs the normal development of personally meaningful projects.
Below, we go over some of the basic reasons why a person might be suffering from this condition. However, it should be noted that its potential causes are practically endless, Since they depend on the way in which the individual constructs his own world.
1. Academic issues
School problems generate emotional distress, especially in adolescenceFor this is the evolutionary period during which failures in this area can have the greatest impact on well-being. Difficulty in obtaining the expected results (grades), the belief that the available resources are insufficient to cope with the progressive demands of the education system or the doubts in choosing the program, are common causes of suffering at this stage of maturation. . The excessive burden of responsibility and periodic performance appraisal (peer reviews or exhibitions) can also cause it to explode.
2. Labor problems
The field of work has been, especially in recent years, a clear cause of emotional distress for millions of people around the world. From the barriers that young people have to overcome in order to access stable jobs, to the situation of endless unemployment in which countless people are plunged from the fifth decade of life.
too much It is common for circumstances such as insecurity, overwork or insufficient wages (Depending on the increase in the cost of living) can be erected as the reasons for such suffering.
3. Family problems
The presence of family problems of very different types, but especially the conflicts between the members of the group, causes a lot of emotional pain to the people involved.
These situations may include material or energy deficiencies, difficulties in accessing housing, psychological or organic disturbances in one of the people in the unit or discussions between the parties which do not find any point of agreement. from which to resolve. Finally, emotional distress is common in cases where the division of labor is unfair or imbalanced.
4. Couple problems
Relationship problems, in the event that common strategies to cope with adversity have not been consolidatedThis could be an unspoken cause of emotional distress. In this case, a myriad of variables are involved, which relate to the satisfaction of romantic expectations or disagreements over important aspects of coexistence.
Maintaining an unsatisfactory bond for fear of loneliness, or any other additional cause (not causing pain to someone you care about, for example), is one of the reasons why this situation most often emerges in you from a dyadic bond.
5. Excessive liability
Family, professional or personal overload situationsHas long been postulated (and still is today) as one of the factors underlying women’s increased risk of reporting emotional distress.
And it is true that the intimate perception that our responsibilities exceed our resources, or that the tasks which are “asked” of us come in frontal opposition to each other, in direct connection with the phenomenon. The indication is accentuated when the person, in addition, is obliged to withdraw from his leisure or leisure activities.
6. Social issues
Difficulties in establishing quality relationships with our peer group, or with the work team, are very often pointed out as very powerful triggers of the problem to be solved. Reluctance to seek help or ask for collaboration may also be the cause.
Anyway, today an inadequate social support network is known to be an extraordinary risk factor in terms of emotional distress, as well as unwanted loneliness (“imposed” by the circumstances). Experiences of rejection, uprooting or ostracism also generate emotional turmoil.
7. Health problems
Health problems, and more particularly serious / chronic illnesses, have emerged in recent years as the area of life in which emotional distress has been most often studied.
It is known that the diagnosis of a relevant pathology, the process of restoring health, the use of certain drugs (chemotherapy, for example) and the adaptations in daily roles, are a succession of personal challenges in which it comes s. ‘face. . In cases where this discomfort reaches the entity of a mental disorder, the involvement of a health psychologist is inevitable..
How to cure it?
All the situations that have been shown in the previous lines potentially generate significant psychological suffering. Although in the first few moments it does not reach the intensity necessary to be considered a psychological disorder, it is expected to progress to an image of anxiety or depression if an appropriate therapeutic approach does not occur. is not articulated. that’s why it becomes very important to seek help from a properly trained mental health professionalThis develops a correct diagnosis and its corresponding treatment.
Increasing knowledge about emotions and learning to regulate their way of life is a key objective of the intervention in this context. This translates into a greater ability to recognize, identify, discriminate, remedy, communicate and use each of them; so that the management of internal experiences is optimized. From there, the person acquires the ability to deepen their needs and desires, thus an essential first step in building a comfortable daily life.
In addition to this, it can be interesting to teach problem-solving procedures, as sometimes “bad” choices have served as a supporting element for the unfavorable situation one may experience. These strategies often affect the description of the problem, the generation of alternatives, the evaluation of all the courses of action and the commitment to the solution that was selected. This technique has come to demonstrate its effectiveness as a resource for the prevention of depression or anxiety in people in particularly vulnerable situations.
Finally, improving a person’s social skills (and especially assertiveness) can considerably reduce emotional distress. Through a program like this, it is possible to equip the individual with the appropriate communication skills, so that they can intervene successfully in any negotiation situation aimed at relieving themselves of their responsibilities or seeking an agreement with them. which to resolve a persistent conflict.
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- Moreno, A., Krikorian, A. and Gonzalez, C. (2015). Emotional discomfort, anxiety, and depression in Colombian cancer patients and their relationship to perceived competition. Advances in Latin American Psychology, 33, 517-529.