There are a plethora of various human emotions that most of us will likely experience on a daily basis. These include joy, love, happiness, sorrow, anger, heartache, anxiety, as well as many others. As many of us know, these emotions are controlled and regulated within the human brain, the powerhouse of the CNS (central nervous system). Most people experience normalcy in the chemical reactions of the brain and are able to feel and cope with these emotions in a healthy way. Some individuals who may be suffering with a mental disorder, however, may have more difficulty with processing and coping with these emotions or they may feel a certain emotion with abnormal frequency or intensity.
One should not take the word, abnormal, as a negative connotation, however. This simply means that someone’s cognitive function is not in line with the majority of individuals, but there is still a large number of individuals who experience abnormal brain function and may need outside help to better experience, process, and manage these emotions. For example, many individuals suffer with depression today (almost 7% of the United States population or over 15 million individuals). This can cause an individual to feel sad and hopeless on a regular basis, leading them to act in ways they normally would not. This is not considered normal cognition and/or behavior. Inversely, other mental disorders like BPD (bipolar personality disorder) can cause an individual to experience waves of emotions like extreme happiness and higher levels of excitability than those who have a normal or healthy functioning brain followed by waves of depression like symptoms.
These are just two of many mental disorders listed in the DSM, (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) the holy grail for Psychiatrists who diagnose and treat various mental disorders.
What kind of scientific processes lie behind the human experience of feelings and emotions? There is a great deal of intricate neurological activity that lies behind each and every emotion we experience and, both, genetics and environmental experiences lead to shaping how different individuals experience and process the wide range of emotions we all experience. Psychologists will define emotions more involved as a combination of feelings, cognitions, and behaviors. Evolutionary psychologists will explain that these emotions have a very special and specific evolutionary purpose in that they help to formed learned behaviors that are then passed down genetically to aid in adaptability in any given species that has a nervous system capable of emotion. Inversely, abnormal reactions to emotions can hinder the adaptability of organisms, including human beings. One common example of this genetic component of emotions that you have likely heard of is the “fight or flight” response that is found in most species that contain a central nervous system. One other great example are the feelings of love and/or lust that aid in the reproduction of the human species (as well as other species). Basically, our emotions serve to evaluate an environmental stimulus and create an appropriate emotional response that will aid in adaptability or proper responses for self and/or species survival and preservation. More specifically, these emotions are regulated and controlled by various neurons and neurotransmitters in the brain. Some of these chemical neurotransmitters include, but are not limited to, dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. Dopamine effects pleasure and reward processes in the brain. Serotonin greatly affects memory and learning. And norepinephrine has to do with the controlling of stress and anxiety that you will very likely experience on a day to day basis, especially as an adult in this busy and stressful world in which we live. These neurotransmitters lie within the limbic system of the brain, which is made up of various regions that regulate the wide variety of emotions that we experience as human beings. If you are experiencing any emotional responses that you may find to be abnormal, please do not hesitate to seek the help of a mental health professional. We all have the right and duty to live a happy and healthy life, and this includes a healthy mental state as well as physical state.