The 9 types of affection (and their characteristics)

Affection is defined as the subjective expression of mood, of emotions. We then understand that affection is variable and changes according to the emotions presented by the individual and the way in which they interpret them.

Thus, everyone expresses affection, even if it is manifested in a more or less appropriate way, more or less adjusted to the situation at hand. In this article, we will know the different types of affection that exist and how they express themselves through patterns of behavior.

    What is love?

    Affection is defined as the subjective expression of mood, i.e. it is how to express emotions. For this reason, affection can be positive related to a sign of affection for an object or a person, but also negative. There are also alterations in affection or inappropriate affection.

    In this way, affection allows us to observe and know the emotional state of a person. So we see how it’s a changing condition, we can express more than one emotional state throughout the day.

    Thus, we will also understand it as the response that individuals give to the different situations that happen to them, depending on the affection that generates them. Therefore, when we value whether the expression is appropriate or pathological we will take into account the circumstances and whether the subject’s behavior fits them.

    When evaluating or valuing affection, we need to look at: how it appears (whether or not there is a triggering stimulus, intensity, duration and whether there are variations in expression); the degree of adequacy (we see if the patient’s condition is in adequacy with the context or if the mode of expression is adapted to the message or communicating content); and the degree of proportionality (we take into account the relationship between the stimulus and the intensity of the reaction to this stimulus).

    We will also assess reactivity, or how the affective response is made, and affective irradiation, which is the subject’s ability to understand and infect their emotional state.

      The main types of affection

      As we have seen, there is both positive affect and negative affect, since the subject will not always feel or express positive emotions. Always, negative affect doesn’t have to be pathological or a problem; it is a way of expressing our state, and sometimes it is more functional to externalize it than to inhibit it, because the result of not making it explicit can be more harmful.

      The problem can arise when this negative effect persists over time and begins to affect the individual or their environment, causing discomfort. So let’s find out what kind of affection there is.

      1. Broad affection

      We understand it as a broad affection which is expressed by mentally healthy subjects. They are able to externalize and show how they appropriately and healthyly feel a wide variety of emotions, both positive (like joy or happiness) and negative (fear, anger…).

        2. Neutral Affection

        Neutral affection is what we observe when we receive a surprise. It is neither classified as positive nor negative, the subject is confused by the situation which he did not expect, being able to express himself in different ways that are both positive (and showing gratitude, such as hugging or kissing), and simply remaining still without reacting to the shock.

        3. Restricted Affection

        Restricted affection or coercion manifests in subjects with range and intensity of expression, limited affective externalization.

        These are individuals that we perceive as inexpressive, that is, it is difficult to know how they are feeling, what their emotional state is by contemplating their reactions. We observe this limited expression in the face of positive situations but also in the face of negative events.

        4. Flattened Affection

        Flattened affection is characterized by the absence or near absence of any form of emotional expression. We observe how the subjects with this type of affection do not exteriorize any state, do not react to any event, do not show any type of gesture, keep their face motionless, without expression, with a monotonous tone of voice.

          5. Deaf affection

          Dull affect is expressed by a sharp reduction in the intensity of the affect; in other words, it is similar to a restricted condition but more severe. We see how individuals who are in this state suffer from emotional anesthesia, they are inexpressive in the face of events that generate reactions in the general population.

          A mental disorder where this type of condition is observed is post-traumatic stress disorder, after the traumatic event the individual is indifferent, without expressing emotion to any stimulus.

          6. Inappropriate Affection

          As the name suggests, inappropriate affection it is defined as a discrepancy between the content, the message it communicates to us and the way it is done. Another way to call this type of affect is parathyroidism or emotional inadequacy, where we observe a lack of relation, of adequacy, between the affection manifested by the individual and the situation or the context in which it is located.

          For example, a person with an inappropriate affection may tell us about the recent death of their dog, expressing how badly they feel but with a smile on their face. They are subjects who can create distrust or disbelief towards us, because their bodily expression does not accompany or conform to their speech.

          7. Labile Affection

          Lable affect or affective lability is characterized by an ever-changing emotional state whether or not related to external stimuli. The subject shows sudden and sudden changes in affection, it seems that the individual forgets the current emotional state to become completely different.

          Related to lability is a phenomenon known as emotional or affective incontinence, characterized by a severe lack of control over the mode of expression of affection. Emotions arise impulsively, very quickly and with great intensity and without being able to control or regulate them.

          This way, labile subjects can be happy when talking about the weekend and instantly angry when the subject is changed. As we have already said, the change does not have to be linked to an external stimulus, this ease of affective variation is observed in different situations and in the face of different events.

          8. Emotional rigidity

          Affective rigidity is defined as the impossibility of varying the emotional state. The subject is able to express what he feels, but he cannot really feel it. Thus, we will observe an impossibility to modulate emotions independently of external changes or events. Knowing the definition, we see that it shows a certain relationship with dullness and with affective flattening, varying the severity.

          For example, the subject with affective rigidity will speak of wanting to be happy, but his feeling and his expression will be anger and cannot vary them despite the modification of the context.

          9. Emotional ambivalence

          Ambivalence or ambition consists in exhibiting or having positive and negative feelings toward the same stimulus, whether it is an object, person, or event. As we see, this condition is not only shown in the clinical population, with pathology, but we can also identify it in the population without effects.

          For example, we may like a horror movie, but at the same time we may be afraid or distressed. Or we can love a person, but also show envy.

            Relationship of affection with psychopathologies

            After knowing better the different types of affections that exist, there are some that we can observe more frequently in subjects with a specific type of pathology.

            Dullness and affective flattening can be recognized in schizophrenic patientsespecially when negative symptoms predominate.

            In turn, inappropriate affection may be shown in subjects with defective schizophrenia and in persons with organ-brain syndromeswho often find it difficult to express their emotions.

            Affect lability is common in patients with pseudobulbar diseasewho have difficulty in inhibiting emotional expression or in people with dementia or subjects with degenerative impairment.

            Affective rigidity can develop in people in a state of mania, that is to say in a state of euphoria of pathological joy; or depressed individuals, who unlike the previous ones will not be able to change their state of apathy and bad mood, show pathological sadness or patients with organic-brain pathology, also expressing the same state of mind with difficulty in changing .

            Finally, ambivalence can be observed, as we have already said, in a population without pathology, although it is also frequent in subjects with a personality disorder such as borderline personality disorder.

            Bibliographic references

            • Balladares, S. and Saiz, M. (2015) Feeling and Affection. Science and psychology.
            • Santos, JL, Hernangómez, L. and Taravillo, B. (2018) CEDE PIR Preparation Manual. Psychopathology. CEDE: 5ª Edition.
            • Yildiz, I. (2008) Theories on affects and symptoms. Perspective of evolutionary and multidisciplinary psychology. Psychoanalysis.

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