Emotional crisis (mental crisis) is a natural element of life and can be described as “temporary, periodic disturbance of mental balance caused by a threat associated with the meaning of life, important values, in confrontation with important life problems. It is characterized by a state of emotional tension, largely anxious“(Kubacka-Jasiecka, 2010, p. 26).
The emotional crisis causes changes in many areas of functioning that affect each other, i.e. in the cognitive, emotional, behavioral and biophysical sphere. The state of crisis is intuitively associated with the concepts of stress, conflict, difficult and critical situation, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, frustration, loss or mourning. The severity and increase of such feelings and thoughts can cause real suffering that is difficult to deal with.
No one can be sure that the emotional crisis will never affect him.
Symptoms of Emotional Crisis
Emotional crisis, like shifting sands, can pull in without any warning signal – suddenly and unexpectedly. It can also absorb you during a desert crossing after any subsequent step. This metaphor aptly illustrates the two course of the crisis:
During emotional crisis, there is a relatively sudden and unexpected lose of balance. The current patterns of behavior break down, which carries a subjective feeling of mental discomfort. Situations that release stress and crisis are associated with a threat to one’s own identity – this is crucial for personal values and a sense of meaning in life.
Emotional crisis and its consequences
A sense of balance and a sense of security are dynamic constructs. Any events or changes in the environment or life can cause a lack of comfort and emotional upset. In this situation, naturally, anxiety, tension or depression may appear. A crisis occurs when a person is unable to stop or reverse the course of events, and each attempt ends with deepening imbalance and increasing tension, anxiety, suffering, discomfort and chaos.
It is worth knowing what the symptoms of the emotional crisis are and how to recognize it. There are four interdependent spheres in which it manifests itself:
- collapse of the natural ability to solve problems and make decisions
- distorted perception of events
- loss of understanding of unambiguous relationships between events
- disorganization of the sense of own identity
2. Emotional: increased anxiety (including fear of losing control, lack of focus), numerous fears, emotional shock, overwhelming sense of helplessness and hopelessness, feeling of loss, emptiness, guilt and harm, anger, shame, embarrassment
- difficulties in performing everyday life functions
- difficulty in controlling emotions and controlling one’s life
- isolation or fear of loneliness or an increase in dependence on the environment
- impulsive and ill-considered actions (e.g. destructive)
- behaviors incompatible with feelings felt
4. Biophysiological: detuning and disintegration of physiological processes, somatic complaints.
However, it should be remembered that the crisis is a unique state for each person. This means that everyone can experience, feel and interpret the course of events individually in their own way.
Understanding the emotional crisis
The crisis is a temporary breakdown that can be resolved in different directions. That is why it is important to take care of yourself and have the courage to use the support of a psychologist. People in crisis are perfectly normal and intellectually fit people. Stress and anxiety may hinder efficient cognitive functioning, but there is no mental failure or mental illness in this case.
Despite the weakness and disorganization, people affected by the crisis usually want and are able to help themselves. The condition for restoring mental balance is the interpretation of the crisis as an immediate necessity to reformulate your own life, values, or sense of meaning in life.
A threat but maybe a chance
Emotional crisis can be both a threat and an opportunity. It depends on the subjective interpretation and response to the situation.
Undoubtedly, the crisis is a turning point that requires immediate resolution and choosing a direction. It can be described as experiencing an event or situation as unbearably difficult, exhausting and violating the mechanisms of coping with difficulties. If a person in crisis does not receive support, it can cause serious disorders (James and Gilliland, 2004. p. 26).
Considering the above, it is worth highlighting why the crisis is a threat:
- serious decompensation can occur, which is revealed e.g. by aggression directed at oneself or at others
- there may be some kind of withdrawal due to an unbearable situation
- being disorganized can generate resignation and even suicidal thoughts
- dealing with the crisis only apparently can cause its chronicity
- the emotional crisis can lead to addiction
- impairs functioning in basic roles and relationships
- the emotional crisis may hinder personal development
At the same time, emotional crisis is a situation that gives you the chance to change, reformulate or reevaluate certain matters. If we dare and give it a chance.
It is said that the emotional crisis can last from several days to six months. So how to deal with it? Sometimes time is not enough to heal the wounds. A crisis is a situation that requires intervention and psychological help. In a way, experienced suffering tends to break down internal barriers and includes a tendency to seek support. Let’s be open to such possibilities.
Author: Anna Ciucias
- Kubacka-Jasiecka, D. (2010). Interwencja kryzysowa. Pomoc w kryzysach psychologicznych. Warszawa: Wydawnictwa Akademickie i Profesjonalne.
- McKay, M., Fanning, P., Lev, A., Skeen, M. (2019). Relacje na huśtawce. Sopot: GWP.
- James, R., Gilliland, B. (2004). Strategie interwencji kryzysowej. Warszawa: PARPA.