Mental Health: Where's The Line Between Normal, Abnormal Emotion?

First Posted: Jun 25, 2015 01:41 PM EDT

We all have our overly emotional days, but when is an emotional response considered unacceptable, or perhaps, a medical concern linked to depression, anxiety or other mental health issues?

In light of the 5th revision of the influential Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM- 5), where an individual can now be diagnosed as undergoing a "major depressive episode" after showing depressive symptoms for over two weeks of bereavement, new research published in a special section of the SAGE journal Emotion Review argues that we should take a different approach on diagnosis and how we define "normal" emotion--using it to inform clinical practice.

Diagnosing depression can be difficult and somewhat subjective when the continuum between what emotional state is normal and what is abnormal is not entirely agreed upon.

"Psychiatrists and clinical psychologists are often called upon to reliably distinguish between normal and abnormal emotions. Increasingly this is done with the help of diagnostic category systems developed by professional associations and health organizations like the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM). In consequence, the definition of abnormal emotionality proposed by these classification systems has an extraordinary impact on the diagnosis and treatment of what is perceived as emotional disorders or disturbances."

In order to better combat the problem, researchers believe that extensive training is needed between fundamental emotion research and the training of practitioners in the area of emotional disorders. The research specifically addresses the importance of understanding what triggers such responses and what might be responsible for emotional malfunctions.

"It seems reasonable to assume that better understanding of the specific psychobiological mechanisms underlying emotional disorders can potentially lead to new treatments. The contributions in this special section demonstrate the important role that interdisciplinary emotion research could play in the understanding and treatment of emotional disorders and prepare the ground for future collaboration," the study concluded.

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