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10 Signs of Emotional Illness

Disturbed People photoDisturbed People photoPhotos by Betsssssy, Key Foster, Most of the time people don’t know that they are emotionally unhealthy. As Freud first discovered, there are a multitude of ways that people keep things unconscious. Some form of behavior that they have done for years, or that everybody in their group is doing, seems normal. It is human to see the flaws in others, but not those in yourself. But what you don’t know can hurt you.

For example, a man refuses to go to a doctor when he feels a slight pain in his side. He keeps putting it off for years and tells himself it’s nothing. Finally the pain becomes intense and he finally goes to a doctor and finds he has a cancerous tumor that has spread to an extent that it can no longer be cured. Below are seven signs you have an emotional disorder.

1. You’re always worrying about something. You worry all day long and all night long. You have trouble sleeping because of the worrying. You are unable to be contented with your life, unable to function adequately at work, at school or at home. It is like you have an addiction to worrying and can’t stop. Worrying is completely unproductive and is bad for your health. Solving problems is productive.

2. You’re always regretting something. If you’re prone to being weighed down with regrets then you suffer from depression. If you are constantly brooding about what people have done to you in the past, now only in the immediate past but going all the way back to childhood, or if you dwell on what you should have said or done about this or that, you are causing your insides to churn and doing damage to your body. Rehearsing for how you will handle situations in the future.

3. You’re always angry about something. You are constantly thinking about how somebody has done you wrong and how you’re going to get revenge. Revenge is the main theme of your cognitive life. Almost every week someone does or says something that enrages you and then you spend days thinking of multiple versions of how you will make the offender regret what he has done. Chronic anger raises blood pressure, interferes with blood flow, riles stomach acid and leads to all kinds of physical problems. Self-reflection about why these things keep happening to you are the healthier way to go.

4. You only see things from your own point of view. You think you’re right, and you have absolutely no doubts about it. At the same time, you disrespect and sometimes demonize and persecute anyone who doesn’t have your point of view. You may be part of a group that shares the same perspective so the members reinforce your point of view. In Nazi Germany almost all of Germany had the same point of view, that Jews were demons who were destroying Germany. What you had in Germany was a mass emotional disorder. Ego-centric behavior can be an individual or a group thing.

5. You have no empathy for others. If you are unempathic you won’t be able to put yourself into another person’s shoes, which will create problems in your relationships. Your son develops problems and acts out anger at school, but you don’t even try to understand what he’s going through, much less what you may have contributed to his problems. Instead you blame him and yell at him. Empathic people say, “There but for the grace of God go I.” Unempathic people say, “How could someone behave that way?”

6. You’re unable to set your boundaries. You are a pleaser. In your childhood you were trained to take care of other people’s feelings but not your own. So you let people walk all over you. Your spouse bullies you; your boss demands that you be at his disposal day and night; even your children despise you. You’re afraid if you tell your boss, “Sorry, I can’t work late tonight,” he’ll be angry at you. You spare your boss’s feelings but internalize your own, which leads to all kinds of health problems. Learning to set boundaries is hard, but it will reinstate your healthy balance.

7. Your feelings are easily hurt. You are continually feeling hurt by things people say and do. In addition, you are never sure that your feelings should have been hurt or whether you are over-reacting. Probably you were raised in a family environment that created this attitude. As a rule, if you feel hurt, you should respect your feelings. Sometimes you become more hurt than you need to because of the past freight you bring to each situation. Professional help you learn how to distinguish and react appropriately.

8. You judge and punish those with “outrageous” views. You are easily offended if you perceive someone as having politically or religiously outrageous views–that is, view that are diametrically opposed to yours. You are completely unable to have a respectful disagreement with those who disagree with you. Instead, you have disrespectful, and often abusive disagreements. You are convinced people who disagree with you and your group are demons, miscreants, or downright crazy.

9. You’re drifting through life, unable to make decisions. There are many who procrastinate their way through their lives. They are afraid to make one decision out of a fear that they’ll regret not making the other decision. What this boils down to is not having confidence in one’s judgment, a predicament unwittingly instilled by an overly protective family. You will need help to rectify this situation.

10. You continually find reasons you won’t succeed. “I’ll never be able to do that,” is a frequent thought that runs through your head. This attitude causes you to fail at many if not most of the things you try to do. A good therapist, particularly a cognitive-behavioral therapist, will help you with this.

10 Signs of Emotional Illness

Gerald Schoenewolf, Ph.D.

Gerald Schoenewolf, Ph.D. is a licensed psychoanalyst in New York and has been practicing for over 37 years. He works with adults, couples, families, adolescents, and children. He has graduated from three psychotherapy institutes and received a Certificate in Psychoanalysis from the Washington Square Institute in 1981. He has been an Adjunct Assistant Professor of psychology at the Borough of Manhattan Community College since 2002 and has authored thirteen books on psychotherapy and psychoanalysis as well as four novels and a book of poems and drawings. More recently he wrote 20 screenplays (winning four first-place awards at festivals) and produced and directed two feature films.

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APA Reference
Schoenewolf, G. (2016). 10 Signs of Emotional Illness. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 24, 2019, from


Last updated: 24 Jan 2016
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