getting started

Written By: DiveThru Team

Reviewed By: Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW


Feeling Out of Control: A Guide to Your Emotions

PUBLISHED Dec 23rd, 2020 & UPDATED ON Jan 26th, 2023

Do you ever feel like you can’t control your emotions? One minute you’re fine, and then the next you’re not. Your day is going by as usual but all of a sudden, you just start bawling your eyes out for no apparent reason. Maybe you’re having a conversation with your partner and you snap at them out of the blue, even though you weren’t arguing. You’re not sure why you’re acting like this. It’s just that your mood is all over the place! Whether you’re sad, mad, anxious, scared or just totally overwhelmed right now, feeling out of control can be a really confusing feeling to navigate. You might be experiencing so many highs and lows that you feel like a ride at Disney World (not the fun kind – the kind you wish would just end already)!

It’s not just you. We can all feel a little out of control sometimes with our emotions. Tbh, it can get kinda intense and scary. That’s because we typically like things to be predictable. When we know what’s gonna happen, we feel safe. Obviously safe = good. So when our emotions feel out of control and we don’t know what we’re gonna do next, that can make us feel scared and really impact our wellbeing. But that’s why we’re here! To help guide you through this chaotic feeling you’re going through right now.

A Deeper Look at Feeling Out of Control

What does it mean to feel out of control? Dictionary.com defines out of control as: “out of hand; no longer under management, direction, or regulation; unmanageable or unruly.” Sooo yeah, when our emotions are out of control, it means we have a hard time managing them and keeping them under control.

But what causes us to feel this way? What might trigger our emotions to feel so unmanageable and all over the damn place?! It turns out, there can be lots of reasons your emotions might feel out of control. Here are a few that you might find relatable:

Intense emotions

Sadness, anger, fear, stress or grief that have built up over time can become really intense and overwhelming. When we don’t acknowledge these feelings and hold them inside for too long, they can eventually affect our wellbeing and how we behave.

Restlessness or boredom

Yep, feeling restless and bored can make us feel out of control. If we feel stuck or like something is missing from our lives, it might make us act out in ways that are out of character for us.

Lack of energy

Not just lack of energy, but also feeling burnt out can cloud our decision-making skills. And feeling drained can make us feel like we don’t have control over much, including our emotions.

Like we said, it can be scary when we feel out of control. In the heat of the moment, we might say or do things that we really don’t mean. You could be arguing with your mom and tell her that you hate her, even though that’s not true. In an extreme case, maybe you’re driving and feel such intense road rage that it clouds your judgement and you end up in a collision. Feeling out of control can put ourselves and other people at risk if we don’t learn healthy ways to cope.

When we feel out of control, this surge of emotions can lead to something called an emotional outburst including temper tantrums, tirades, shouting during arguments, physical fights or abuse, breaking things or damaging other people’s things. If you ever feel that you are risking your safety or someone else’s safety due to feeling out of control, professional help is highly recommended. 

How Feeling Out of Control Shows Up Mentally

Feeling out of control can put our mental wellbeing through… a lot. On top of the emotional outburst you might experience when your emotions are in chaos, here’s a few other signs:

– Worrying

– Trying to control other people or situations

– Feeling on edge

– Isolating yourself from others

– Obsessing over the same thing over and over

– Avoiding things

– Feeling overwhelmed

– Lack of motivation or energy

– Having a hard time concentrating or focusing

– Irritability

Conditions like bipolar disorder, postpartum depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and antisocial personality disorder have also been linked to feeling out of control. If you feel like you’re having a really hard time controlling your emotions, it’s best to seek professional help.

How Feeling Out of Control Shows Up Physically

When you feel out of control, your body can show some less than ideal symptoms. Here’s a few you might notice if you feel like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster:

– Crying

– Fatigue

– Difficulty sleeping

– Headaches

– Muscle tension

– Change in appetite

– Gastrointestinal issues (stomach pain, acid reflux, etc.)

Health issues like diabetes, low blood sugar, alcohol use disorder and head injuries can cause problems with controlling emotions.

How to Cope with Feeling Out of Control

Okay, you’re feeling out of control. So now what do you do about it?! We have some coping strategies for you, don’t worry. They’re simple and better yet, they really help! So go ahead and give ‘em a try.

1. 5-4-3-2-1 grounding exercise

Engage all five senses and mindfully notice five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Go in any order that makes sense for you and your current situation – no pressure!

2. Run your hands under water, splash your face with water or hold an ice cube

This method might sound weird, but we swear it works. Try to mindfully note the temperature of the water and the sensation of the water on your skin. The sensation helps by slowing your heart rate, lowering your cortisol levels (stress hormone), and releasing endorphins (happy hormone). Simple, yet effective!

3. Reach out to your support team

Your loved ones are there for a reason! When you need to talk through how you’re feeling, lean on the people you trust. Sometimes just having someone to listen to us and validate how we’re feeling makes all the difference.

4. Move your body

Gettin’ physical can be great for your mental wellness. Go for a walk, stretch, ride a bike, dance, you name it. Exercise releases endorphins and improves your mood. Plus, it actually boosts your energy and improves focus. It does alllll the things.

5. Progressive muscle relaxation

This is a helpful technique for reducing stress that involves tensing a group of muscles as you breathe in, and then relaxing them while you breathe out. Repeat as needed.

Well, there you have it! We hope this helps you when you’re feeling out of control, because no one should have to do this alone. Even when it seems impossible, you can and will get through this!

Read More: Online Therapy 101, How to Get the Most Value From Your Therapy Appointments,