Random, Unexplainable Emotions

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

For the past two years or so I have noticed my emotions are altered randomly, either for some insignificant reason, or no reason at all. My emotions tend to cycle in order from being generaly content, to a lathargic, unmotivated, depressive “my future is hopeless no matter how hard a try” way of thinking. It takes a toll on my current relationship. My boyfriend and I have been dating for a bit over two years, and he says I haven’t always acted this way. It’s hard for me to take note of my own emotions, because I feel that they are norma, and logical. I often become upset about something random my boyfriend says or does (or doesn’t do, in some cases). At the time, I feel like I’m being completely rational. But in the morning, or about a day later, I realize how ridiculous I was acting. Unusually, I can’t even remember why I was upset in the first place. This just happened today, and here I am about 12 hours later, and I can’t remember why I was upset with him. It’s very stressful for my boyfriend, and it’s upsetting for me as well because he really shouldn’t have to deal with this kind of stress, and I feel my random crying and melancholy emotions are really unnecessary.

Also, my mother recently told me that not only was she diagnosed with GAD (general anxiety disorder) and taking meds, but her mom also has panic disorder. This is what really concerned me, because I learned that those kinds of things give me a higher chance of forming similar mental issues. I’m not claiming that I have a mental illness, but I think it’s safe to say that I should be aware of my genetic predispositions.

I’ve recently visited a doctor for a checkup and refill of my meds (asthma and allergy). I was intending on talking to him about my concerns, but I decided last-minute that I was fine, and I’m just making a big deal about nothing. I kind of chickened out, because I couldn’t remember what exactly my concerns were. Another strange behavior I just remembered is that I tear up whenever someone talks to me seriously. My professor was talking to me about an assignment I was having trouble on, and I guess because I was grateful that he cared about my wellbeing enough to talk about it with me outside of class, I started to tear up, which was extrememly embarrassing. I wasn’t sad, nor was I so grateful to him that tearing up would be acceptable. I do the same thing with my parents, and boyfriend. It’s quite frustrating, especially with someone I don’t know.

Also, recently I experienced a week of random sexual arrousal. There was no reason for it, and I’ve never experienced it that severe before. I couldn’t concentrate in any of my classes, or on anything else for that matter. It just yesterday receded enough for me to get something academic done.

In a nutshell, if all of that was confusing, I am concerned about my random, often irrelevant emotions. It’s taking a toll on my relationship, as well as my motivation for getting things done. When depressed, I feel that my future is hopeless, but I’ve never been depressed enough to wish for death. When I’m in my happy mood, usually after I’m done menstruating, I’m just generally happy. Not hyper, just happy. Although I take alot of things jokingly, I still don’t have enough energy to run around. I just want to know if I am normal, or if I really do have a reason for concern. I take the sanity test, and it showed concern about mania and bipolar disorder. Anyway, apologies if this was a bit much. Thanks.

A. It is possible that the emotions you are describing are random but generally there is a reason behind our feelings. The reason may not always be evident or easy to identify. That can be a challenge. If you keep track of your thoughts and feelings you may discover a pattern or trend. For example, you might notice that you begin to experience unexplainable emotions a few days prior to your menstrual cycle. It’s not unusual for women to experience “random” emotions right before their menstrual cycle begins. This is called premenstrual syndrome (PMS). A characteristic of PMS is mood swings. That might explain why once your menstrual cycle ends you feel happier. Think of PMS as a time when emotions are exaggerated. Many women describe feeling overly emotional at least a few days a month. Some women experience PMS more strongly than others. For women who have extreme PMS they are sometimes diagnosed with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). This condition is associated with severe depression and irritability before a menstrual cycle begins.

The fact is that women have an extra challenge when it comes to dealing with their emotions and the reason is often the result of hormonal changes related to menstruation. Men do not have this challenge. They do not experience the same type of hormonal changes. Once you recognize this biological fact, you may be better able to manage the unruly emotions when they occur. Generally speaking, we cannot control our emotions but we can control our reaction to them.

How can you better manage your emotions? One way is to use logic. Emotions and logic are like oil and water. They don’t naturally mix unless you force them to. Using logic to manage emotions is not always easy and it does take practice, but it can be done. When you feel an emotion that seems random, try to analyze it. Examine it and try to understand its origin. If there is no logical reason behind it, recognize that it may be related to hormonal changes and let it go.

Also recognize that being tired can cause emotional instability. This is true for everyone, not just women. If you feel irritable for “no reason” recognize that it may be the tiredness that is causing you to feel a certain way. Acknowledge this and try not to let it rule the way you feel. The idea is to get into the habit of analyzing your emotions, trying to determine their origin, deciding whether they are legitimate and not letting them control your mood.

On the other hand, the emotions you have described may not be the result of PMS. There may be another explanation. It’s possible that you may be experiencing depression or anxiety, although much of what you’ve described is not characteristic of an anxiety disorder. It’s more characteristic of PMS. This is especially true when you described having random sexual arousal. It’s common to have an increase in libido near or during your menstrual cycle. Again, this is often related to hormonal changes. One theory is that because there’s an increase in blood flow and lubrication during the menstrual cycle this heightens sexual arousal.

As I mentioned before it might be helpful if you began a journal to document your thoughts and feelings. You may find that your emotions are in fact not random and occur right before or during your menstrual cycle. The likely explanation therefore would be PMS. If your random emotions continue to be a concern for you, you may want to speak to your doctor about your symptoms. He or she may be able to prescribe a medication that could help you during these times. If the symptoms are severe enough some women choose to take birth control as a way to manage their mood. Some also take an antidepressant. I would not recommend either of these for you specifically because I have so few details about your problem, but meeting with a doctor to further explore your situation may be helpful. Thank you for your question.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 18 Oct 2009

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2009). Random, Unexplainable Emotions. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/10/18/random-unexplainable-emotions/