When someone likes you, it feels amazing. But just because they like you doesn’t mean that they’re ready for a committed relationship. This doesn’t make them terrible people, it just means that they could be dealing with other issues like Borderline Personality Disorder, trauma, depression, or anxiety. Whatever the cause, right now these people need to be focusing on themselves – not a relationship. Here’s what to look for if you think your partner or someone you know might be emotionally unstable:
- Physical wellness: Someone who doesn’t consistently manage a medical condition could be emotionally unstable, according to Alice Boyes, Ph.D. Psychotherapist Heather Hans says that neglecting your overall physical health and/or relying heavily on substances could be signs of emotional instability.
- Dependability: Dr. Boyes says that the emotionally unstable often have trouble showing up to things that they committed too, whereas stable people are more likely to keep their promises. They will tend to run away from their problems instead of addressing them properly, maybe because they “experienced trauma that they haven’t yet learned to manage the psychological sequelae of.”
- Money: If someone regularly skips out on paying people back or racks up considerable debt, they may be emotionally unstable. Dr. Boyes says that unstable people will usually try to get out of paying when they can. This is just one of the ways in which they tend to avoid their problems.
- Family: Though you shouldn’t often judge someone else based on their family, someone who has a dramatic family, may not have had “loving, reliable caregivers,” according to Dr. Boynes. This means they may not have had the chance to develop skills for emotional stability. “If they allow themselves to be disrespected, or in uninspiring relationships, then some part of them feels unworthy and inadequate,” says Hans. There is also a genetic element to temperament, so they might have inherited their instability.
- History: Dr. Boynes says that if a person’s past relationships have ended in restraining orders, arrests, or other dramatic fashions, it could be a sign that they have experienced a trauma that they have not yet dealt with. “Those that have exhibited emotional instability often have problems with relationships with others, including personal relationships and relationships at work,” says psychologist Dr. Ashley B. Hampton, PhD.
- Empathy: If you express a comment that would typically elicit some type of supportive response, and the person starts talking about themselves, this lack of empathy could be a sign of emotional instability. Trying to one-up you, making entitled statements, or failing to see other points of view could also be signs according to Boynes.
- Insecure: People with emotional instability are often very fearful of criticism and rejection, according to Dr. Boynes. They also struggle to admit when they’re wrong. Instead, they tend to “lie, make excuses, minimize a situation, or always blame other people or circumstances.”
- Intense: According to Dr. Boynes, people with emotional instability may be someone who is “too self-disclosing too soon, or who tends to rush into things they get overexcited about. Often people who idealize others are prone to flipping later when something bursts that bubble.” Psychologist Dr. Sherry Cormier, Ph.D., says they may have trouble calming down; “They instead become overly reactive and hyper-aroused, often to very minor things.”
- Unpredictable: “They often make decisions without forethought or behave erratically,” says Cormier, leading to impulsive behavior. They also tend to be inconsistent. “These inconsistencies can be small or large and are often overlooked in the beginning,” says Hampton, “The biggest early warning sign is receiving a reaction that is not expected.” If someone reacts to an event in an inappropriate or completely unexpected way, that could be a sign of emotional instability.
If someone you know does suffer from emotional instability, it is not for us to judge them. “It just means they need to focus on their mental, physical, and spiritual health before they can contribute to a loving relationship,” says Hans. Boynes warns that we “shouldn’t view any of the factors I’ve mentioned in isolation,” as there could be other explanations. What these people most likely need is professional help, so it’s best to just try to support them during this period of personal growth.
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