17 Clear-Cut Signs of an Emotionally Unstable Person

People who are emotionally unstable struggle to understand and get a hold of their emotions. This pushes them to resort to random bursts of anger and irritability, reactive moods, and a struggle to empathize with others. Though it’s hard, understanding what they’re going through is key to helping them find the support and assistance they need to overcome their current struggles.

They Have Random Bursts of Anger and Irritability

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A person who has random, uncontrollable bursts of anger and irritability can be diagnosed as either having borderline personality disorder (BPD) or emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD). These people live their lives with anxiety and self-destructive behavioral patterns and, therefore, find it hard to manage any uncomfortable situation. Additionally, when someone with BPD is laden with anger, it can lead to rumination. This later causes a vicious emotional cycle, worsening the patient’s anger.

They Often Experience Reactive Moods

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When someone is emotionally unstable, they’re more prone to experiencing reactive moods. Unlike the mood changes one experiences with BPD that last for days, emotionally unstable people who have reactive moods only go through them for hours. These reactive moods are usually triggered by external factors related to anxiety, anger, depression, or polarized thinking.

Their Moods Can Shift in an Instant

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Everyone, especially women fueled by hormones, can go through mood swings. However, there’s an intense kind of mood shifting or mood swing happening when someone is emotionally unstable. Most of the time, it’s completely unpredictable and unmanageable. Verywell Mind explains, “Emotional instability is a catch-all term sometimes used to refer to unpredictable reactions and extreme emotions.”

They Exhibit Erratic Behavior and Are Usually Unpredictable

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Because emotionally unstable people have rapid mood changes, they are often unpredictable. The people they’re with never know when their mood will shift or if it will shift to something good or bad. It’ll feel like you’re walking on eggshells—as if you can never feel relaxed or comfortable around them because conflict and turmoil are always around the corner.

They Are Usually Caught up in Some Sort of Impulsivity

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Displaying erratic behavior and having unpredictable mood swings are all things that define an emotionally unstable person. These things make it challenging for the said person to manage their emotions effectively, eventually leading to possible impulsivity. The National Institute of Mental Health notes, “The loss of emotional control can increase impulsivity, affect how a person feels about themselves, and negatively impact their relationships with others.”

They Find It Hard to Regroup and Calm Themselves Down

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Being emotionally unstable means going through severely intense emotions that are hard to control. When this happens, someone typically finds it hard to calm themselves down. This is because emotionally unstable people don’t have the skills or the right mindset to step back, take a deep breath, and regulate their emotions. Instead, their emotions always seem like they’re constantly climbing up a ladder and making things worse.

They Have a History of Strained, Unstable Relationships

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In relationships—romantic or platonic—a lot of emotions are involved. So, when someone is emotionally unstable, it follows that they find it hard to maintain meaningful, genuine relationships with others. People they’re involved with can get drained emotionally, too, as it’s hard and taxing to deal with someone who’s emotionally unstable.

Their Behavior and Personality Fluctuate and Are Inconsistent

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Aside from being inconsistent in the way they react or respond, people who are emotionally unstable are also inconsistent in terms of their behavior, personality, and ways of thinking. For example, they may overspend one night and be extremely frugal the next day. Another example is that they may respond with excessive anger to a minor inconvenience one day, then act like everything is fine if they experience something similar on another day.

They Can Be Too Intense at Times

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Because of their inability to manage their emotions, emotionally unstable people can come across as too intense. Additionally, with their bursts of anger and irritability, approaching them can be pretty intimidating. Charlie Health shares, “Emotional instability can cause intense and unpredictable mood swings, making it challenging for a person to manage their emotions effectively.”

They Are Paranoid and Always Suspicious of Other People

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People who have unstable emotions don’t have control over what they feel and when they feel certain emotions. Unfortunately, they are more likely to be fearful, uncertain, and worried about what others might think of them. This leads to them being paranoid and suspicious of others, especially if they’ve been betrayed or hurt in the past.

They Struggle to Empathize With Others

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Emotional instability prevents people from putting themselves in others’ shoes. Look at it this way: an emotionally unstable person already finds it hard to understand or regulate their own emotions, so how much harder would it be to be empathetic toward others outside of themselves? Additionally, BioMed Central says, “It has been demonstrated that individuals who can regulate their emotions are more likely to experience empathy and also to act in morally desirable ways with others.”

They Are Always Trying to Be Better Than Others or Trying to One-up Others

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Emotionally unstable people aren’t great at empathizing. So, when someone shares a problem with them, they try to turn the conversation toward them to show the other they’re in a better or worse place than them. For example, if you tell your emotionally unstable friend that your stomach hurts, they’d reply that they have this and that to make you feel like your problem is minuscule compared to theirs. It’s their way of empathizing, though it doesn’t necessarily work.

They Never Face Their Problems Head-on

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Facing one’s problems can become overwhelming. If someone has trouble regulating their emotions, they may feel as if their problems will consume them if they face them head-on. However, when you run away from your problems, you only get a temporary sense of comfort. You need to face everything head-on to truly move forward and leave your anxiety behind!

They Struggle to Commit to Their Promises and Are Unreliable

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When someone struggles to regulate their emotions, there’s a high chance that they struggle to keep their promises, too. This is because people who are emotionally unstable have constantly changing moods, making it hard for them to follow through with original promises. As one’s mood changes, so do their feelings toward something they said. Because of this, emotionally unstable people are notorious for breaking promises, canceling plans, and being unable to make final, concrete decisions.

They Are Unable to See Other People’s Perspectives

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People who struggle to regulate their feelings have overwhelming emotions that prevent them from understanding how someone else might be feeling. This goes hand in hand with their inability to empathize and put themselves in others’ shoes. As a result, they struggle to connect with others or view situations from different angles or points of view.

They Are Always Surrounded by Drama

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Surrounding oneself with never-ending drama is one of the main consequences of being unable to regulate one’s emotions. Emotionally unstable people feel a lot of emotions in one go. And, since they’re not in touch with their feelings, all these emotions can get chaotic in their heads, leading to drama. This will then be detrimental not only to their relationship with themselves but also their relationships with others.

They Fear Being Criticized or Rejected

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Rejection and criticism are things feared by emotionally unstable people mainly because they already often doubt their own value and worth. This amplifies their fear of being judged negatively. Additionally, they may become more susceptible to rejection sensitive dysphoria, which occurs when someone has an extreme or overwhelming emotional sensitivity to criticism and rejection.

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Author: Karen Danao


Karen is a writer and also a marketing and advertising professional. Beyond the keyboard and the screen, she is someone who’s out to enjoy every bit that life has to offer!

Poetry, philosophy, history, and movies are all topics she loves writing about! However, her true passion is in traveling, photography, and finding common ground to which everyone from different cultures can relate.