Mental Illness And Acting on Emotion

April 9, 2012 Natalie Jeanne Champagne

I wrote a blog a couple of weeks ago-- "Mental Illness--Acting on Impulse!"--but this post is different. I am not focusing on impulsive behavior such as overspending, abusing drugs and alcohol and self-medicating moods. I want to talk about acting on emotions.

Connecting Emotion to Mental Illness

First, let's pull out the thesaurus (yes, again!) to apply some definitions to the word:

>Affect or Lack of

>Emotional Charge


>Manic state or condition (that is an entirely different post!)


Alright, enough of that. Side-Note: The thesaurus is the most used online purchase (out of impulse?) I have acquired.

Connected to mental illness, a feeling of unrest is common, particularly in a state of depression and mania. I would like to add to add the word, the feeling--agitation--to mental illness and emotion.

Unfortunately, I have thrown and had to repurchase quite a few phones in my lifetime. It's a family joke now: "Oh, I can't reach her, perhaps she threw the phone!" I do not find it as funny as they do, but each to their own.

A change in "Affect"--in the context of mental illness-- this meaning a change in mood is also common. Moods and emotion can define mental illness and navigating them is crucial to recovery.

My Experience With Acting on Emotion

I am writing this post for a reason. I am writing this post because I recently did something, acting purely on emotion, that I regret and I am extremely embarrassed about. I will save you the details because further humiliation will not make me feel any better, but I can offer an outline of sorts.

Picture this: I am lying in bed. It is the middle of the day. It's sunny out and I kick the cat out of the room because he keeps trying to look out the window and the light assaults my eyes. Like a dagger.

I am not, according to the Mecca known as my psychiatrist, clinically depressed. Instead, I do not know how to regulate all the changes in my life: work, stress, the end of a relationship, a tearful farewell to my very best friend--nicotine! And a bunch of other crap I won't go into.

Long story short: I have made a professional commitment. I am lucky to have been offered this opportunity. So, what do I do?

I e-mail this person (whilst in bed!) and tell her, in a rather curt and truly inappropriate way, that I am cancelling. Just like that. And I sent it away. And I felt and feel like a bloody idiot. And I should. I acted on emotion. I applied that emotion to something positive, something that has nothing to do with how I was feeling.

If nothing else, I pride myself on being professional, I always have. If this person reads this blog-- let me extend my apologies.

That is an example of acting purely on emotion.

Thinking Before Acting

Everyone, not just those of us with a mental illness, acts on emotion or impulsivity. That's normal. But when you have a mental illness and your moods shift more than you would like you just need to stop. What do I mean by this?

If I would have closed my eyes for a minute, took a few deep breaths, I would have understood that my action would have negative implications.

It seems obvious: Think before acting! But try it on for size. Clearly, I need to.

Recovering from mental illness involves many things but, as I have learned, controlling emotion is an important part.

APA Reference
Jeanne, N. (2012, April 9). Mental Illness And Acting on Emotion, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 22 from

Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne

April, 18 2012 at 5:50 pm

My Mom who is bipolar acts on emotion all the time with dire consequences. She insists however that that is just the way she is and can't change. She refuses to see a therapist to try & learn new ways of coping. Is this the bipolar talking or just a selfish person?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
April, 20 2012 at 6:31 am

H, Gina:
It is hard for me to tell you for sure why she is acting this way---we are all different. I suspect it is a combination of both. Make sure you take care of yourself first. Your health matters.
Thank you for the comment!

April, 10 2012 at 6:47 pm

I've found that emotion at times is what drives an impulsive act,at least for me the two seem to be intertwined tightly. I quit a job with two days notice after having a co-worker say something very negative about my performance. Taking a deep breath and thinking about what to do would probably have been a good thing, but quitting got rid of a lot of stress I couldn't see was there at the time. I do worry that quitting on impulse will become a habit as I've done this before as well.

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