What is an Emotional Disability?

Mental and emotional health struggles come in a variety of forms and severity levels. Some struggle with severe personality or eating disorders while other experience mild seasonal affective depression or sporadic (mild) anxiety. While each of these mental health issues have legitimate concerns, emotional disabilities and well-being should not be brushed under the rug either.

An emotional disability is when someone is impaired from feeling or showing typical forms of emotion. This is usually classified when a disorder prohibits the individual from an appropriate emotional response. This includes bipolar disorder, OCD, certain eating disorders and other disorders.

In this article, we’ll discuss the most common types of emotional disabilities, tips on how to cope with them, what it means to “get emotional”, and more.

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What are the different types of emotional disabilities?

Someone is classified as having an emotional disability due to a mental disorder they are struggling with. This usually becomes the case when an individual is so troubled by their mental state that they become emotionally disabled.

This does not mean that they are unable to feel or express themselves. Instead, this means that their stable sense of emotion is disabled due to their current lack of well-being.

Here are a few types of mental states/disorders that cause an individual to become emotionally disabled.

  • Dissociation – As we discussed in article, “What Mental Illnesses cause Dissociation?” dissociation occurs as a result of other trauma and/or mental illness. The same is true for an emotional disability. When someone becomes dissociated, their typical emotional function will be disabled. They may or may not be aware of this depending on the dissociative type and severity.
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – OCD is often one of the most anxiety intensive of the personality disorders. For this reason, becoming emotionally disabled is typically seen. The individual may temporarily lose the ability to have an appropriate emotional response due to the obsessions and compulsions they are experiencing.
  • Eating Disorders – Eating disorders are typically rooted in some form of self-hatred. Regardless of the underlying reason, having an eating disorder will cause someone to be emotionally disabled at times. This is because their whole world is revolving around a “fact” that is not true. Negative thought patterns and an unhealthy lifestyle will cause them to lack a healthy emotion response in many situations.
  • Psychotic Disorder – Any mental health condition where psychosis occurs will feature someone who is emotionally disabled. When someone is experiencing an episode of psychosis, they will be out of touch with reality. Often they will fabricate a false reality and incorrect emotional responses will naturally come from that.

Anxiety, depression and/or any other mental health issue (on any level) can cause an emotional disability.

It will most likely be very difficult at first, but practicing self-awareness and being willing to understand one’s mental illness will have amazing effects.

Speaking to a professional counselor in “talk therapy” will be extremely beneficial as well. They’ll be able to help you get to the root of your illness, break harmful patterns (that you might not even be aware of!) and achieve a healthy state of mind much faster.

mental vs emotional health

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Coping on a Daily Basis

Aside from talking to a therapist, there are other things you can do on a daily basis that can supplement your efforts.

A healthy mental and emotional state starts with a healthy body. When you’re struggling mentally, exercise might be the last thing you feel like doing.

I’ve never understood this because as instinctually self-preserving creatures, you’d think we’d crave movement more during times of mental/emotional crisis but it’s usually the opposite.

Fortunately, moving your body rewards us with endorphins and makes other positive changes in our minds to promote the desire to exercise again.

It’s the initial first few times of forcing yourself that are the most difficult. Exercising for mental health doesn’t mean you have to sign up for a gym membership and go every morning at 5a.m. (unless that’s your jam).

Any movement of your body will be good for you however, consistency is key. If you’re new to the workout scene, start by going for a 10 minute walk every day.

Stretch as often as you can throughout the day and maybe start doing some in home workouts just to get that blood pumping!

Group classes can be fun too! Who said working out has to be all weights and treadmills!? Take a Zumba or Salsa class instead – just get that body moving!

Anyway, here is a brief list of some daily things you can implement to support your mental and emotional health journey.

Eliminate Anxiety

There are several things you can practice to confront your anxiety including breathing exercises, grounding yourself and personal programs. Many have seen success from this program with Panic Away which focuses on eliminating patterns that cause anxiety.


(My all time favorite way to check in with myself!)

Change the Narrative

What do you think about yourself and your life? Is it positive or negative? Why do you think that? Then change it to something amazing

Practice gratitude

It’s easy to become self centered and forget all the blessings you have. I’m not a supporter of comparing yourself to others, but recognizing what you have that others do not can help keep things in perspective!

Eat Well

Moderation is key so have a “cheat day” or a couple “cheat meals” throughout the week. If you stress yourself out over your diet and never enjoy what you eat, you’re defeating part of the purpose!


Drink LOTS of water

What does it mean to get Emotional?

The term “getting emotional” has a bad rap. When I think of this term, I picture an inpatient partner scolding his /her other half while in some sort of argument or fight.

While situations like this are usually caused by lack of good communication or a heightened sense of frustration, getting emotional shouldn’t be a taboo thing.

Getting emotional is what happens what a conversation is escalated and an abrupt emotional outburst takes place.

This is typically referred to when someone starts crying or yelling out of response to how a conversation is going.

Also, the underlying frustration behind the topic and the true/false narratives behind what that individual is making the conversation topic/argument mean.

“Getting emotional” is a natural response caused by unresolved issues, anxiety, fear or painful experiences that someone is referring to in their head.

How can You Help Your Friend/Family Member

If you have a loved one who is experiencing emotional (or mental) struggles, offering comfort, support and being willing to listen to them is a great place to start.

Depending on the individual, they may or may not be open to discussing their struggles in detail. However, simply providing a safe space for them to express what’s going on will help them start to confront their pain and find healing.

Suggesting therapy should always be mentioned as well. It’s so important to get the help someone needs in order to work through emotional issues and lay it to rest for good.

Depending on the individual, they may want the support of a loved one as they start therapy. Offering to go with them is an option of support you could do as well.

Encouraging a healthy lifestyle is helpful too. Make it fun by offering to meet up for long walks or a fun exercise class once a week or so.


Hi, I'm Marissa! I'm passionate about mental and emotional health and want to share what I've learned over the years with others! I've seen first hand how mental health struggles can cause serious issues within relationships, work life, daily productivity, self-worth and more! I truly believe that we owe it to ourselves to bring more awareness to these life changing topics. Start your mental/emotional health journey by learning more today!

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