Mood vs Emotion

The words mood and emotion are sometimes used interchangeably but mean different things.

Emotions are short term feelings which last around 6 seconds, but can seem to last longer if they keep being triggered. Emotions are often reactions to circumstances or thoughts. So you might be walking alone and get lost, this may prompt the emotion fear. While moods tend to be more generalised (for example positive, negative or mixed), there are many specific emotions. Some say we have 5 main emotions, others say 10 or more. This depends on the person you ask. In Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) 10 emotions are listed: Anger, Disgust, Envy, Fear, Happiness, Jealousy, Love, Sadness, Shame and Guilt. Different people will experience each emotion differently. One person may cry when they get angry others may clench their fists and go red in the face. We are all individuals and this may make working out someone else’s emotions difficult. We are not mind readers so it is best to just ask what is causing them to feel this way and how we can help.

Moods, like I said before, are more general feelings and are caused by a mix of factors including our environment, our brain chemistry, our physical health and our mental state. Unlike emotions, moods stay longer, lasting anything from minutes, to days, to even months. We may feel emotions on top of moods. For example we may have a low mood but feel the emotion happiness at times, likewise we can have a high mood but still have fleeting feelings of sadness. Often, however, our emotions match or are similar to the mood we are in. So we are more likely to feel fear instead of excitement in a low mood. This may be because we interpret our circumstances partly based on the mood we are in. E.g a good mood is sometimes called having ‘rose tinted glasses’ as we see everything in a positive light.

The intensity of the moods or emotions we feel differ from person to person. We may be more susceptible to intense emotions or moods due to not looking after our physical or mental health fully. Having a mental illness may also cause us to have more extreme emotions or moods. With bipolar disorder, people have more intense (elevated, low or mixed) moods which last longer than most people, often weeks to months. Different to this is borderline personality disorder which is also called emotionally unstable personality disorder. One key symptom of borderline personality disorder is having intense emotions which affect their lives greatly and change often. Anxiety Disorders are linked closely to the emotion fear and people often experience constant or extreme feelings of worry or dread.

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